Lake Michigan water levels rising: dilemma or not? - FOX 32 News Chicago

Lake Michigan water levels rising: dilemma or not?

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Heavy storms Monday night created a lot of headaches, and also dumped a lot of water into Lake Michigan.

Two years ago, FOX 32 News showed you the recently discovered shipwreck of the Aurora, an old Lake Michigan steamer. It was visible only because water levels were at record lows. Now, the tide has turned, so to speak. It's underwater again, as the lake's water level has risen a foot over the past year.

Paris Baker of Premium Luxury Rentals rents out Jet-Ski’s at Hayes Beach, and he's noticed the difference.

“From the looks of things, it actually looks a little higher. Last year it wasn't as high as it is now,” said Baker.

Shedd Aquarium Senior Research Biologist Philip Willink said that there's no need for immediate concern about the rising water.

“Right now, we're about at the long term average for Lake Michigan. If it rises too much higher, then we could run into flooding problems, but we're not seeing those right now,” said Willink.

The increases this year have erased, for now, the near panic of recent years over falling lake levels.

“The primary benefactors from the higher lake levels are boaters, because when the water levels are low, it can be difficult to get in and out of harbors if the waters too shallow,” Willink added.

Willink said that you and I benefit too, because shipping vessels on the great lakes can carry heavier loads, making fewer trips and lowering prices for consumers. Willink also said it's a silver lining from the past winter.

You might not want to remember, but the bitter cold last winter at one point had 92 percent of the Great Lakes covered with ice. That led to less evaporation and higher lake levels.

“What happens is the lake sort of acts as a blanket, and traps all the water in the lake,” Willink said.

A wet spring, and heavy winter snows, also raised lake levels. So, what's ahead?

Researcher Olga Lyandres of the Alliance for the Great Lakes said that it's difficult to say, but fluctuations are a sign of a healthy ecosystem.

“The most recent models suggest that it could either rise or fall, compared to the long term average,” said Lyandres.

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