Pros and cons of high Lake Michigan water level

Lake Michigan, Grand Haven
Lake Michigan at Grand Haven on Aug. 22, 2017.


GRAND HAVEN, Mich. (WOOD) — Lake Michigan and surrounding bodies of water are seeing high water levels, sending water crashing over piers and onto land.

Work on the Grand Haven pier had to stop because of it.

“The water levels being up three and a half, four feet from where they were three years ago, contractors are having trouble getting the work done. Even a boater’s wake can cause them difficulty,” said Tom O’Bryan, the area engineer for the Lake Michigan Area Office of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The water levels are above average, but not breaking any records.

“We are running about a plus-three gauge. What does that mean to most people? Not a whole lot, but we are probably up about a foot from this same time last year,” O’Bryan said.

That’s both good and bad, depending on how you look at it.

“Very good for bringing in commodities, for the construction business,” O’Bryan said.

When the water levels are higher, vessels can bring in more goods and that helps keep prices down.

And leisure boaters “are able to launch easily enough, not worrying about running into ground anywhere,” O’Bryan said.

But there are also some docks that are underwater.

The biggest downside is erosion at beaches. The breaking away of sand is creating less space to play.

Another negative is the increased danger created for people wanting to watch the waves.

“The waves are going to over top those structures much easier, therefore knocking you down or washing you into the big lake faster and easier than they have in the past dozen or so years,” O’Bryan said.

The Army Corps of Engineers says lake levels peaked in July and are now trending downward. Water levels will most likely drop a foot by December or January.