— TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. – Lake Michigan water levels are 11 inches lower than last year, and if drought conditions continue the lake could set a record low mark.
“You don’t notice it so much in the big lake, but you notice it in the harbors and toward the docks,” said commercial fisherman Joel Petersen, who fishes out of Leland and Muskegon.
Last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture declared Michigan a natural disaster area due to heat and drought.
"Typically water levels drop in the fall and winter and go up in the spring, but we didn’t see much of a rise this spring,” said Craig Stow, a researcher at the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Lab in Ann Arbor.
“It’s always a balance between evaporation and precipitation, and when the water is warm, you get a lot of evaporation.”
Mark Breederland, an extension educator for the Michigan Sea Grant, said Lake Michigan is 23 inches below the long-term average.
“Most people say plus or minus a foot from the long-term average is the sweet spot,” Breeder¬land said. “Well, we are outside the sweet spot zone.”
Lakes Michigan and Huron are in the midst of a decade-long stretch of below-average water levels, said Keith Kompoltowicz, chief of watershed hydrology at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Detroit District.
The Corps’ forecast range for water levels in Lake Michigan has the lake on track to possibly break the all-time record low set in 1964.
Details for this story were provided by The Record-Eagle in Traverse City, Mich.