Traverse City Record-Eagle

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January 7, 2010

Great Lakes water levels on the upswing

GREILICKVILLE -- Great Lakes water levels are on the rise, rebounding from a lengthy low-water cycle that dry-docked boat slips and exposed weedy lake bottoms.

The wetter trend is expected to continue in the near-term, exciting waterfront dwellers like Chuck and Virginia Siffert, who live on M-22 along West Grand Traverse Bay in Leelanau County.

They've watched the water line creep up the shore during the last year. Waves now crest small rocks just past their stretch of sandy beach.

"We're happy to see that it's coming up. It seems every few years it comes up," Chuck Siffert said.

"Won't it be nice? Everybody is waiting for that to happen," Virginia Siffert said.

Scientists say water levels in Lakes Michigan and Huron -- hydrologically the same horseshoe-shaped lake -- are on the upswing after hitting the decade's lowest level in 2007. Since then, significant snow accumulation and rain turned the tide and the lakes began to reclaim exposed bottomland.

"It's improved and looked nicer over the summer," Virginia Siffert said.

Property values for lakeside homes should rise with water levels, she said, because "people look for water being closer to them on the beach."

Lakes Michigan and Huron are approaching long-term average levels after mostly decreasing -- save for an upward spike in the mid-1990s -- since the century's record high in the mid- to late-1980s, experts said.

"If we see a very wet weather pattern through the rest of the winter and into spring, we could see levels at long-term averages by spring. The past two years, the rise in lake levels has been something else," said Keith Kompoltowicz, a meteorologist with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Detroit, where lake levels are closely monitored for navigation and public interest purposes.

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