Orchard LakeJuly 26, 2012
High temperatures dry up local lakes, rivers
By Eric Czarnik
C & G Staff Writer
ORCHARD LAKE — Low lake levels can be a deep problem to plumb, and that is especially true when you’re the sailing director of the Orchard Lake Country Club.
Mark Fries said he has been doing his job at the country club for 22 years, but has never seen Orchard Lake so shallow. Due to the lake’s condition, he said, the club has had to move its moorings farther out into the water.
“With our larger 19-foot sailboats, we have to stay totally clear of what we call the sandbar of what surrounds Apple Island,” he added. “Usually in a normal summer, it’s close to four feet of water (in that area). Now it’s 2 ½ feet.”
Michigan’s water experts agree that a combination of hot summer temperatures and low precipitation have evaporated bodies of water and have created drought conditions in parts of the country.
In a statement, Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner John McCulloch said his office is tasked with keeping the water levels of 54 of Oakland County’s 1,400 lakes normal. But he warned boat owners to be careful when going on the water.
“I know lakefront property owners and boat owners get angry and frustrated when low lake levels affect their use and enjoyment of the water,” he said. “But, unfortunately, we are at the mercy of the weather. If we don’t get significant rainfall and adequate runoff from snow melt, low lake levels will continue to be a problem we have to deal with.”
Elizabeth Riggs, deputy director of the Huron River Watershed Council, said her organization has heard from waterfront residents who inquired about ways to get more water around their docks and boats.
She said the U.S. Geological Survey measures gages throughout Michigan that report water conditions. The USGS website revealed on July 25 that while the Rouge River gage in Birmingham showed that river on the lower end of normal, the Clinton River’s gage in Auburn Hills put that river far below normal.
“We see that most of the gages on the Huron River are in the lowest percentile,” she said. “For the years that data has been collected, the current water levels are some of the lowest that have ever been recorded.”
Riggs said lower water levels affect more than humans. She said they could create lower levels of dissolved oxygen and higher water temperatures, which can stress fish and other aquatic wildlife.
At Orchard Lake, Fries said, the heat wave’s toll on water levels has not hurt demand for boating, as temperatures have hovered in the mid-90s.
“People would rather be on the lake than out playing tennis or golf,” he said. “Everybody migrates down here.”
Although Fries suspects global warming as a possible reason for the temperatures, he is trying to stay optimistic.
“You hope that things go in cycles,” he said. “It just seems like we’re at the dry end of the cycle, and I hope it changes.”
To learn more about the Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner’s Office, visit www.oak gov.com/water. To see the river levels on the U.S. Geological Survey’s website, visit www.usgs.gov. The Orchard Lake Country Club can be reached by calling (248) 682-0100 or visiting www.orchardlakecountryclub.com.
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