Water level of Great Lakes is falling

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Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Environment Canada is reporting that the water levels of Lake Erie, Lake Huron, Lake Superior and Lake Michigan have dropped and that Lake Erie could lose two feet or 15% or more of its water level by the year 2050.

"We should pay attention to what they're telling us. That's not to say they're perfect, and there's always room for uncertainty, but . . . it's the best information we have at this point," said director of the Great Lakes Center at Buffalo State College, Joe Atkinson.

Reports also state that if any of the lakes lose a few feet of water the event could be an "economic disaster."

"That would just be an economic disaster. Water levels are what make or break this industry," said spokesman for the Lake Carriers Association, Glen Nekvasil. He also added that if a drop in water levels of a few feet in any of the great lakes, could render the shipping "inviable."

Researchers at Buffalo State College are not convinced that a major problem is looming.

"It's really just too early to make a decision," he said. "Water levels have fluctuated a lot in the last [few] hundreds of years, so it's hard to put that to global warming," said researcher with the Great Lakes Center at Buffalo State College, John J. Freidhoff.

Some officials admit that the loss of water levels in the lakes are not in the "top ten" problems that the Great Lakes face.

"The water being lost through climate change is not in our top 10. We have other fish to fry, so to speak," said Lake Erie specialist at the Envirnmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Great Lakes National Program Office located in Chicago, Illinois, Dan O'Riordan.

Lake Michigan and Lake Huron are at least 45 cm. below their yearly average and Lake Superior is only 20 cm below its average, but Lake Erie and Lake Ontario have made a recovery from their averages.

Residents in Michigan are complaining about foul smells, dead fish, muck and garbage that litter the shorelines of Lake St. Clair which is also 7 inches below its level this year when measured in mid-summer.

"It's not just down a little -- it's down a lot," said Macomb County resident, Jim Doran who resides in the township of Harrison.

"It's not a pretty sight, and it smells," added Doran.

Shipping companies are reporting that at least 200-500 tons of cargo will not be able to be shipped in the lakes if the levels continue to drop. Freighters will lose the ability to ship at least 270 tons of cargo for every one inch of water that is lost.

"We're down 200 to 500 tons per trip, compared to last year," said Nekvasil.

Sources

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