Lake Superior water levels nearing monthly record highs

Shoreline erosion and coastal damages likely. Water will also make its way down through the other Great Lakes, too.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Monthly forecasts for Great Lakes levels in February 2018 have just been released by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Many people are keeping a close eye on current lake levels and future predictions, particularly for Lake Superior. The preliminary data just in for January 2018, show Lake Superior just set the second highest monthly record level, a mere 2 inches below its all-time record for the monthly average January (record set in 1986). The recently released forecast also indicates a high probability Lake Superior could be within 2 inches of its all-time record high levels for every one of the next six months. Put simply, there is a lot of water in Lake Superior and all of that water will eventually make its way through the other Great Lakes.

100 years of data

Also, 2018 marks the centennial year of accurate lake level measurements from the series of binational gaging stations. The measurements for Lake Superior are taken in Duluth, Minn.; Marquette, Mich.; Pt. Iroquois, Mich.; Thunder Bay and Michipicoten, Ontario. There are now 100 years of coordinated data ­—this geographically dispersed gaging network accounts for seiches and provides excellent information – and thus 100 January monthly averages.

Isn’t Lake Superior’s water level controlled? 

The International Lake Superior Board of Control has a Regulation Plan 2012 and is responsible for regulating the outflow and control works in the St. Mary’s River. This Board has been in place since 1914 and has compensating works which allow for some limited variation. This plan must meet multiple objectives including hydropower; municipal and industrial water supply, navigation through the locks, and maintaining a minimum flow for protection of fish habitat in the St. Mary’s River. The January 2018 control board update states:

In consideration of the continuing high water levels in the upper Great Lakes, the International Lake Superior Board of Control, under authority granted to it by the International Joint Commission (IJC), will continue to release outflows of up to 2,510 cubic metres per second (m3/s) through the winter months. This flow is 100 m3/s more than the normal winter maximum prescribed by Regulation Plan 2012. Actual outflows may vary depending on hydrologic and ice conditions, as well as maintenance activities at the hydropower plants on the St. Mary’s River, all of which have been directed to flow at their maximum available capacity.” 

Additionally, the Board noted:''

“The high levels coupled with strong winds and waves have resulted in shoreline erosion and coastal damages across the upper Great Lakes system. As lake ice begins to form this may provide a level of protection to some areas of the shoreline, but additional shoreline erosion and coastal damages may occur this winter should active weather continue.”

System snow in Lake Superior impacts the spring seasonal rise as the snow turns into liquid water. We’re still in the thick of winter so time will tell if the 2018 seasonal rises are low, average, or high. Regardless of how much changes over the next few months, notable shoreline erosion and coastal damages can be expected on Lake Superior shores. (View above image)

Tools to help visualize changes

One tool for shoreline owners and other interests is the Great Lakes Shoreview risk assessment tool (http://www.greatlakesshoreviewer.org/#/great-lakes). This tool, funded by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Office of the Great Lakes, is a web-based mapping tool that shows photos from the Lake Superior shoreline, some nearshore LIDAR data, and some risk rankings.

One other tool to note is the NOAA Lake Levels Viewer tool. Similarly, this web-based mapping tool allows users to artificially fluctuate levels up or down and see impacts on the shore. The tool is found on NOAA’s Digital Coast website at https://coast.noaa.gov/llv/. Select the lake you are interested in, zoom to your geographic area, and use the legend bar to vary the lake levels. You will see impacts on the screen.

It has been a bit of a coastal dynamics wild ride, just 5 years ago all-time record-low lake levels were noted in some of the Great Lakes; now we’re dealing with almost all time highs. Keep your seat belts buckled!

Contact Mark Breederland, Michigan State University Extension Sea Grant if you want more information on living with the ever-changing dynamic coastlines of the Great Lakes.

Clean Marina Classroom Live: Harrison Township

Event Date: 3/27/2018

When: March 27, 2018
Where: Thomas Welsh Activity Center, Lake St. Clair Metropark, 31300 Metro Parkway, Harrison Township, MI 48045
Workshop Host: Joe Hall and Sue Knapp

The Clean Marina Classroom is going on the road! In spring 2018, the Michigan Clean Marina Program will offer several in-person workshops. Michigan Sea Grant staff and Clean Marina certification specialists will cover important lessons from the online classroom tied to mandatory and recommended best practices for becoming a Clean Marina. Pledged marinas, as well as marinas due for re-certification in 2018, are invited to attend.

For the Classroom Live workshop to be effective, participants must take the following steps before the workshop:

    • Register for the workshop (dates and locations below).
    • Sign the Clean Marina pledge form (new and re-certifying marinas) and pay the required pledge fee (new marinas only).
    • Log in to the online classroom and complete the marina self-assessment (also called the certification checklist).
    • Bring your self-assessment, a notebook (paper and pencil or laptop) and your calendar to the workshop.

In return, each marina will leave with:

  • Clean Marina Classroom certificate
  • Scheduled certification site visit date
  • Prize for completing the workshop evaluation and survey

Other Locations

Petoskey

When: March 14, 2018
Where: City of Petoskey Winer Sports Park, 1100 Winter Park Lane Petoskey, MI 49770
Workshop Host: Kendall Klingelsmith, City of Petoskey Marina

Clean Marina Classroom Live: Petoskey

Event Date: 3/14/2018

When: March 14, 2018
Where: City of Petoskey Winer Sports Park, 1100 Winter Park Lane Petoskey, MI 49770
Workshop Host: Kendall Klingelsmith, City of Petoskey Marina

The Clean Marina Classroom is going on the road! In spring 2018, the Michigan Clean Marina Program will offer several in-person workshops. Michigan Sea Grant staff and Clean Marina certification specialists will cover important lessons from the online classroom tied to mandatory and recommended best practices for becoming a Clean Marina. Pledged marinas, as well as marinas due for re-certification in 2018, are invited to attend.

For the Classroom Live workshop to be effective, participants must take the following steps before the workshop:

    • Register for the workshop (dates and locations below).
    • Sign the Clean Marina pledge form (new and re-certifying marinas) and pay the required pledge fee (new marinas only).
    • Log in to the online classroom and complete the marina self-assessment (also called the certification checklist).
    • Bring your self-assessment, a notebook (paper and pencil or laptop) and your calendar to the workshop.

In return, each marina will leave with:

  • Clean Marina Classroom certificate
  • Scheduled certification site visit date
  • Prize for completing the workshop evaluation and survey

Other Locations

Harrison Township

When: March 27, 2018
Where: Thomas Welsh Activity Center, Lake St. Clair Metropark, 31300 Metro Parkway, Harrison Township, MI 48045
Workshop Host: Joe Hall and Sue Knapp

Great Lakes Fisheries Heritage Consortium Conference

Event Date: 10/12/2017
End Date: 10/13/2017

New Canadian law will change rules for American boaters and anglers

Kayak event on the Detroit River

Kayak event on the Detroit River

Reporting to Canadian Customs no longer necessary under certain conditions.

Things are about to get easier for American boaters and anglers who venture into Canadian waters thanks to a new border enforcement law stemming from a bill drafted by Canadian Sen. Bob Runciman and recently signed by Governor General David Johnston. The House version was authored by House of Commons member Gordon Brown.

Bill S-233 received Royal Assent on June 19, 2017, meaning that American boaters and anglers will no longer be required to report to Canadian Customs as long as they do not leave their vessel, land, anchor, moor, or make contact with another conveyance in Canadian waters. However, the new law does require that boaters and anglers report to Canadian Customs if requested to do so by Customs agents. The change also means Canadians who venture into United States waters also do not have to contact Canadian Customs unless they leave their vessel, land, anchor, moor, or make contact with another conveyance in U.S. waters.

Prior to passage of the new law, American boaters and anglers were required to call Canadian Customs at (888) 226-7277 to check-in with their passport number, boat registration and express their intentions for entering Canadian waters and how long they anticipated being there.

“The reporting requirements were overly rigid, they were out of step with those facing Canadians who enter U.S. waters and they were hurting the economy of tourism-dependent border regions. And they didn’t do anything to enhance border security,” said Sen. Bob Runciman when asked why the rule change was important.

Although the new law makes it easier to boat and fish in Canadian waters, remember that valid fishing licenses are always required when fishing in U.S. and Canadian waters.

Additional information about Bill S-233 can be found on Sen. Runciman’s web­­site. The Royal Assent can be found on the Parliament of Canada website.

Clean Marina programs extend stewardship of the Great Lakes environment

Marina on Lake Superior

Michigan Sea Grant, as coordinator of the Great Lakes Clean Marina Network, has been active in supporting environmental sensitivity in the recreational boating industry. It recently provided two grants to support Great Lakes Clean Marina programs. It also produced and distributed informational signs to all of the Clean Marina programs in the region on best practices for environmental stewardship while boating. The network also developed a list of discounts certified Clean Marinas are eligible to receive, including a 10 percent underwriting credit on general liability insurance. With an average $15,000 policy, this credit results in a savings of $1,500 per year.

Clean Marina programs work to reduce pollution to coastal waters by encouraging environmentally friendly marina and boating practices. The Great Lakes Clean Marina Network is a forum for these programs to share resources, information, and best management practices. Funding for the grants and signs was made possible by the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI).

“These projects and signs help Clean Marina programs in their efforts to protect the waters and coastlines that boaters enjoy,” notes Jim Diana, Michigan Sea Grant director. “We are pleased that insurance providers see the value of this program in helping marinas be safer and cleaner.”

Two $5,000 awards were provided to Clean Marina programs in the Great Lakes Region. The Wisconsin Clean Marina Program will expand program participation and certifications by increasing in-person technical assistance and improving program promotion, outreach, and training. The Ohio Clean Marina Program will create a model illustrating Clean Marina best management practices (BMPs) and how an “ideal” clean marina may function and appear. They will also work with agency experts to develop voluntary BMPs not already included in the certification criteria to address additional marina needs and goals.

All funded projects will report to the Great Lakes Clean Marina Network to share best practices and lessons learned.

To learn more about the Great Lakes Clean Marina Network and view a list of discounts available to certified Clean Marinas, visit glcleanmarina.org.

Contacts:
Catherine Riseng, Research Program Manager, (734) 936-3622, criseng@umich.edu
Rhett Register, Communications Program Leader, (734) 647-0767, rregist@umich.edu

Sustainable Small Harbors Webinar

Event Date: 5/8/2017

Michigan Sea Grant to host webinar about Sustainable Small Harbors project findings and next steps

On May 8 at 2–3:30 p.m. EDT, Michigan Sea Grant will host a webinar titled, “The Sustainable Small Harbors Project: Helping coastal communities re-imagine their waterfront.”

This webinar will provide an overview of the Sustainable Small Harbors project, an initiative to boost the long-term well-being of Michigan’s coastal communities. All people involved in coastal communities, both in and outside of Michigan, are invited to participate.

The Sustainable Small Harbors project arose in 2014 when many of Michigan’s small coastal communities were struggling to cope with fluctuating water levels, declining populations, and economic instability. The project research team (consisting of Lawrence Technological University, Environmental Consulting & Technology, Inc., Veritas Economic Consulting, LLC, and David Larkin Knight, LLC) has assessed barriers preventing small harbor communities from becoming socially, economically, and environmentally sustainable.

Members of the project research team along with personnel from Michigan Sea Grant and Michigan State University Extension facilitated in-depth visioning workshops in six coastal communities to help community members identify potential growth areas for their waterfronts. By May 2017, the team will publish a guidebook to help other coastal communities analyze their own waterfront assets and develop strategies to bolster their long-term economic, social, and environmental stability.

“This effort empowers communities to overcome the burdens of their historic legacies,” says Jon Allan, director of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s Office of the Great Lakes. “The process engaged community members in constructive conversations to create a shared vision.”

The 90-minute webinar will provide an overview of the project’s history, major findings and outcomes, and future directions. Representatives from the cities of New Baltimore and Ontonagon will speak about their experiences with the project. The webinar will conclude with an open question-and-answer session.

Registration is required to participate in this webinar, scheduled for May 8, 2017, at 2–3:30 p.m. EDT. Please register at: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/8474664373942398467

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email with details about joining the webinar. Learn more about the project at: www.sustainablesmallharbors.org

Contact: Rhett Register, Michigan Sea Grant; (734) 647-0767, rregist@umich.edu 

Request for Proposals: Great Lakes Clean Marina Network

Event Date: 4/17/2017

Michigan Sea Grant, as co-coordinator of the Great Lakes Clean Marina Network, is soliciting proposals for projects supporting Great Lakes Clean Marina Programs in 2017. Michigan Sea Grant anticipates awarding two grants with $5,000 as the maximum annual funding allowance per grant. The projects will run for up to one year, to be completed by April 30, 2018.

This request for proposals is open to all eight Great Lakes states of the Great Lakes Clean Marina Network (IL, IN, MI, MN, NY, OH, PA, WI). The network’s mission is to ensure that quality of life, economic prosperity, and environmental quality are achieved in the Great Lakes region by increasing participation in Clean Marina efforts.

This request for proposals focuses on two categories: 1) projects to expand the territory for Clean Marina certification within the Great Lakes Basin, or 2) projects that evaluate and/or support Clean Marina Program sustainability.

See: Funding Opportunities

Quiet Water Symposium

Event Date: 3/4/2017

quiet_water_symposium_arena_exhibits_2015

Mark your calendar and make plans to attend the 22nd Annual Quiet Water Symposium, which promotes non-motorized outdoor recreation.  Visit our Michigan Sea Grant booth and try your luck at winning a prize!

Last year’s Symposium featured over 200 exhibits, speakers and demonstrations. This year will feature presentations by noted travel writers, Jim DuFresne, Kevin Callan, Hap Wilson and the dean of outdoor writers, Cliff Jacobson.

Campers, hikers, cyclists, sailors, anglers, and of course paddle sport enthusiasts will all find something interesting at the symposium.

We hope to see you there!

When: Saturday, March 4, 2017
Where: Michigan State University Pavilion, 4301 Farm Lane, East Lansing, MI
Time: 9:00 AM to 5:30 PM
Cost: Adults $10.00, Students with I/D $5.00, under 12 free.

www.quietwatersociety.org

Detroit museum highlights importance of maritime history in Michigan

Among collections are biographies of more than 20,000 ships that have sailed on Great Lakes.

An anchor from the Edmund Fitzgerald sits on the museum lawn.

An anchor from the Edmund Fitzgerald sits on the museum lawn. Photo: Steve Stewart | Michigan Sea Grant

This is the first in a series of articles focusing on Great Lakes maritime heritage. Maritime heritage, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), “preserves and protects valuable historical, cultural, and archaeological resources within our coastal, marine, and Great Lakes environments.”  The National Park Service has an active Maritime Heritage Program that “works to advance awareness and understanding of the role of maritime affairs in the history of the United States.” As the Great Lakes State, Michigan is richly blessed with maritime heritage resources, and this series will explore many of them.

In 1949, the J. T. Wing, a Great Lakes lumber schooner at the end of its sailing life – and the last commercial sailing ship on the Great Lake – was donated to the City of Detroit Historical Commission for use as a museum ship. The Wing was landlocked on Belle Isle and became a popular attraction.

When the Wing was declared unsafe for visitors in 1956, the Dossin family provided a gift that resulted in construction of the Dossin Great Lakes Museum on the same site. The museum officially opened on July 24, 1960.

The Dossin was an instant hit, attracting over 100,000 visitors in its first 5 months. In addition to a gallery of model ships and a submarine periscope, the museum installed the Gold Cup hydroplane race boat Miss Pepsi, the incredible Gothic Room from the overnight passenger steamer City of Detroit III, and the Deroy Lecture Hall. A group of supporters formed the Great Lakes Maritime Institute and began publishing Telescope magazine as well as sponsoring activities and educational events at the museum.

In 1975, the dramatic sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald in Lake Superior focused worldwide attention on the Great Lakes. A major part of the story involved the steamer William Clay Ford which headed out into the storm in an attempt to find the doomed Fitzgerald.

When the Ford was decommissioned in the 1990s, the Dossin acquired the pilot house of the ship and attached it to the river-facing side of the museum. Today it is possible to stand in the pilot house, turn the ship’s wheel and experience what it’s like to be on a Great Lakes freighter.The Dossin museum building seen from outside.

In 2006, the Dossin museum came under the auspices of the Detroit Historical Society and a new era commenced. The museum’s vast collection includes biographical information on more than 20,000 ships that have sailed the lakes, 100,000 photographs and videos, thousands of shipbuilders’ blueprints and hundreds of maritime paintings and artifacts encompassing more than 300 years of Great Lakes history. The maritime holdings gathered at the Dossin are recognized worldwide for their value to researchers.

Events that the Dossin hosts in co-sponsorship with the Great Lakes Maritime Institute include the annual Lost Mariners Remembrance in November, the Fair Winds Fall Dinner, the Holiday Marine Mart and the Dossin Invitation high school rowing regatta in the spring.

The Dossin Great Lakes Museum is, thanks to the success of the Detroit Historical Society’s Fast Forward fundraising campaign, open Wednesdays through Sundays and admission is free.

Another way to learn about our maritime heritage resources is by coming aboard for some of the Summer Discovery Cruises offered on both Lake St. Clair and Lake Erie each year. Sponsored by Michigan State University Extension, Michigan Sea Grant, and the Huron-Clinton Metroparks, Summer Discovery Cruises are a fun way to learn about our many historical, cultural, and natural Great Lakes resources.