Traverse City Record-Eagle
---- — MARQUETTE, Mich. (AP) — Officials in the Upper Peninsula's Marquette County want state environmental experts to help them figure out why water levels in some inland lakes are dropping.
The county board has asked its planning commission to gather information about the problem to present to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, the Mining Journal of Marquette reported Saturday.
Levels are down significantly in several places, according to board chair Gerald Corkin.
"Martin Lake is probably the big one that started it, but we've had concerns brought up about the Sands Plains, had letters from people about lakes south of Ishpeming, including Chabenau Lake, Little Perch Lake, Big Perch Lake and people questioning whether activities at the Empire Mine have had anything to do with the aquifers," said Corkin.
Some residents have complained that the pumping of water from two wells at the long-closed K.I. Sawyer Air Force base may be to blame for the low water levels on Martin Lake.
They want the wells capped and last year began asking the county board for help.
Despite a board-ordered decrease in pumping from the wells, Martin Lake's water level has dropped as much as 6½ inches in one month, said Karl Malashanko, who owns property at the lake.
County officials say they aren't sure whether natural factors also are affecting the water levels, according to the Mining Journal.
Groundwater levels in some areas north of the base also are decreasing, said David Kallio, a former supervisor of Sands Township.
"Since 1980, the groundwater has dropped in Sands Township between nine and 17 feet, depending on what location in the township you're talking about," Kallio said. "Now, this has been going on since 1980 like slow water torture, with the groundwater continuing to drop and drop and drop."
Marquette County's investigation will extend beyond water level drops in Martin Lake and groundwater concerns in Sands Plains.
"I don't think there's anybody that knows all the answers, but one thing that raises questions in my mind is during the last six, seven, 10 years, certain lakes have pretty well maintained their normal levels, while others, there was severe drops in them," said Corkin. "I think it needs to be investigated and all the information looked at and hear from the experts in the field as to what their answers are to these different problems."