Snow, ice cover will boost Great Lakes levels

MACATAWA, Mich. (WZZM) -- A new report shows that water levels on Lake Michigan are getting a major boost from near-record snow fall and ice coverage this winter. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is forecasting water levels this summer to be about a foot higher than last year.

WZZM 13 is looking at why that means local boaters could be traveling more often and longer distances.

At times, it's been difficult to move around this winter, but the added snow will make for smoother boating this summer, says Wade Eldean.

"A lot more water underneath your boat, customers won't be scraping the bottom," says Eldean, President of Eldean Shipyard.

WZZM 13 met Eldean last summer, after Lake Michigan water levels hit a record low. His marina, Eldean Shipyard, was even forced to lower the docks for customers.

"A lot of people with physical disabilities made it even more difficult," Eldean told WZZM 13 last summer.

Now, he's prepared to raise the docks, because of the near record snow fall and ice coverage on Lake Michigan.

"It's a good problem to have," says Eldean.

The snow on Lake Michigan amounts to between 4 and 8 inches of water, according to a new report from U.S Army Corps of Engineers. Experts are forecasting lake levels to rise up to 14 inches between March and August, from last year. More than 92% ice cover on Lake Michigan is expected to slow evaporation.

Eldean Shipyard says higher water levels also may mean that boaters are less afraid to travel longer distances, like they were last year, because of the possibility of running into shallow areas.

Boater, Rubin Schmidt, had that happen last summer.

"We actually hit bottom going into Pentwater because the dredging ships didn't show up until two weeks after we were there," Schmidt told WZZM 13 last summer.

"The more water you put under the boat, the more people can enjoy without having to worry about 'Am I going to run aground'," says Eldean.

The Eldean Shipyard is also expecting to save thousands of dollars on dredging costs.

"We shouldn't have to do it this year," says Eldean.

Experts say a wet spring and summer could mean even higher lake levels than predicted.

The busy season for boaters kicks off on Memorial Day.The U.S. Army Corps of engineers says although lake levels are predicted to significantly rise from last year, they are still expected to be about a foot lower than the long-term average.


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