After reaching record high levels this summer, Lake St. Clair water levels aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, according to the latest report from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

After reaching record high levels this summer, Lake St. Clair water levels aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, according to the latest report from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

File photo by Julie Snyder


Lake levels expected to remain high through fall

By: Kristyne E. Demske | C&G Newspapers | Published August 28, 2019

MACOMB/WAYNE COUNTIES — High lake water levels aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, according to the latest report from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

According to an update from the Army Corps, Lake Superior, Lake Erie and Lake St. Clair all reached the highest levels ever recorded by the organization, dating back to 1918, this summer.

Keith Kompoltowicz, chief of watershed hydrology at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Detroit District, said that although all of the lakes have begun their seasonal decline, extremely high lake levels persist throughout the Great Lakes.

“We urge lakeshore residents and visitors to be prepared for these events,” he said of fall storms.

Emergency Manager Pat Kuhne said that the Army Corps has been approved to provide technical assistance for all lakeshore communities. He said that all sandbags, berms and other temporary measures put in place to keep the lake offshore should be kept in place until 2020.
“While it’s not as beautiful to see as the lake ... one of the things we believe is, it’s going to take a bit (of time) to come down,” he said.

If a resident needs assistance, Kuhne said they should first apply to their municipality for help. If further assistance is needed, the local government would contact the county and the state before a request reaches the Army Corps.

The Army Corps can take advanced measures to help a community facing a large threat.

“Just like with all of our programs, the coordination with the local (government) is required to both scope it out and go through the steps of getting the state of Michigan to consider a step like that,” Kuhne said. “The benefit to protecting has to outweigh what it costs to build it.”

Kompoltowicz said that the Army Corps’ latest forecast goes out to January 2020.

“It’s very difficult to put any sort of for-sure statements on what we can expect next spring,” he said. “For Lake St. Clair, that forecast keeps levels above where they were last year, inclusive of every month. Even though the lake is declining, the lake remains very high compared to average.”

The forecast window is only six months, he said, because “lake levels primarily are driven by Mother Nature and the amount of rain and precipitation and snow that falls, the amount of runoff from the surrounding land, and evaporation.”

The area has experienced wetter than average weather for the past six or seven years, Kompoltowicz said.

“That has really been the starting point of this repetitive cycle of rising levels from one year to the next,” he explained. “(The year) 2019 had a very healthy snowpack ... on top of very wet soils from the fall of 2018 (which) got the lake levels rising quickly in the spring.”

Regulatory Project Manager Katie Otanez said that, while normally permit applications begin to taper off at the end of summer, there is still a higher number of applications being submitted by residents trying to shore up their coastline.

“The process doesn’t change based on the current conditions. We understand that many property owners are in somewhat urgent circumstances,” she said.

Otanez recommended that property owners make sure that their projects can fit into general permit categories that are faster to process because they follow a standard set of provisions. “We’re doing our best to respond very rapidly. We’re happy to assist anybody.”