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Rising Great Lakes water levels fuel worries about damage to shoreline structures

satellite map of Michigan, the Great Lakes
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

Rising Great Lakes water levels are causing damage to some structures on Michigan shorelines. The Holland Sentinel reports a section of seawall at Kollen Park in Holland sustained damage during a storm.

Keith Kompoltowicz, chief of watershed hydrology at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Detroit, said lake levels are expected to topple record highs thissummer.

“For the month of May, a new record high for the month was set and additional record highs for the months of June, July, August and September are expected,” he said.

Federal officials say they're hearing concerns from lakeside businesses, cities and towns.


“It suffices to say that we built infrastructure that really can't withstand some of these major events that are rolling through at these really severe and high frequency occurrences,” said Heather Stirratt, the Great Lakes lead for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.


She says we can expect continued shoreline erosion, flooding and accelerated damage caused by storms.


Drew Gronewold is a hydrologist at the University of Michigan.

"Over the past two decades, water levels on the Great Lakes have gone through an unprecedented period of persistent below-average conditions, a record-setting rate of water level rise and, now, a series of record-setting high levels," Gronewold said. "These changes are a response to unusual combinations of extreme lake evaporation, persistent increases in the magnitude and intensity of precipitation events, and intermittent outbursts of cold Arctic air."

Stirratt said her office is working with state and local partners to teach people how to use green infrastructure to protect shoreline structures.


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