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Several Great Lakes water levels set record highs in June 2019

Lake Michigan.jpg
Lake Michigan did not reach a new record monthly average level for the month of June. (WWMT/Randi Burns)

Lake Superior, Lake St. Clair, Lake Erie and Lake Ontario all set record-high water levels in June, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The record levels in June are between three and four inches higher than the previous records for the month, which were set in 1986.

Each lake was broken down to measures including the June 2019 record:

Lake Superior

Lake Superior's average water level of 603.15 feet was three inches above its record high in June 1986. The lake was also three inches above the May average level. When looking back a year ago and comparing water levels, the lake is 11 inches higher than June 2018. Lake Superior is 15 inches above its long term average level. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said the latest six-month water level forecast is projecting the lake to reach its seasonal peak in July. It's predicted to meet or surpass its record high level monthly average levels for July and August before falling below the record highs in September. Lake Superior is projected to be zero to eight inches above last year's lake level.

Lake St. Clair

Lake St. Clair continued its spring season rise to a level of 577.4 feet. This monthly average level surpassed its previous record high level set back in June 1986 by three inches. It is the highest monthly average water level recorded for the lake in a record period (1918-2018). The lake was also 11 inches higher than last year's level and 32 inches above its long-term average level. Lake St. Clair is expected to exceed its record high July level and match its record high level in August. September through December, the lake level is forecasted to fall one to 11 inches below the record high levels for those months. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said Lake St. Clair is projected to be four to 11 inches above last year's.

Lake Ontario

Lake Ontario increased more than any other lake from May to June. It's average level climbed to 249.05 feet in June, eight inches higher than it's May level. The lake's June monthly average level was four inches above its highest monthly level in its record period, dating back to 1918. The lake was also 27 inches above last year's level and 33 inches above its long term average level. Lake Ontario received 21% above average precipitation along with above average runoff, which led to its eighth highest June net basin supply on record. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said the lake is expected to start its seasonal water level decline in July, however, it is predicted to surpass its record high July level, set in 2017, by four inches. The latest six-month forecast indicated the monthly average levels will be four to 16 inches below record highs from August to December. Lake Ontario is forecasted to be four to 28 inches above last year’s levels.

Lake Erie

From May to June 2019, Lake Erie rose four inches to a level of 574.61 feet. The monthly average level broke the record high June level and is the highest recorded monthly level average for the lake since records began in 1918. The lake's monthly average level was 10 inches above its level a year ago and 31 inches above its long term average. The lake received 24% above average precipitation and above average runoff, leading to water supplies in the basin being the seventh highest for June since 1900. Lake Erie is expected to start its seasonal water level decline in July, but its monthly average water level is forecasted to exceed record high levels for July, August and September before falling in October. Over the next six months, levels are predicted to be 23 to 31 inches above long term average levels. Monthly average water levels are projected to be two to 12 inches above last year's levels through October, matching last year's level in November, and falling an inch below in December.

Lake Michigan-Huron

Lake Michigan-Huron is in the middle of its spring season rise, rising six inches from May to June to a monthly average level of 581.76 feet. This level was less than an inch below the lake's record high June level. Despite not setting a new record, Lake Michigan-Huron was 13 inches above its level a year ago and 30 inches above its long term average level. The lake received significantly above average water supplies in June, the result of 13% above average precipitation and above average runoff. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said the lake is forecasted to peak in July and reach its highest level since September 1986, but not meet its July record high level. The lake is expected to be one to 11 inches below record high levels over the next five months. Lake Michigan-Huron water levels are predicted to be 10 to 16 inches above last year's water levels.

The Great Lakes shoreline is an actively eroding coast. Erosion is the whittling away of the shoreline by moving sand and soil from one area to another by way of waves, water levels, rain, wind, groundwater, frost and people.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the repeated formation and breakup of near-shore ice ridges each winter along much of the Michigan shoreline results in significant transport and removal of beach sand, which becomes entrapped in floating fragments of ice. The sediment is transported by the ice along the shore as well as offshore into the deep lake. The process is one way Mother Nature removes sand from the shoreline.

Shoreline erosion raises many concerns, from sedimentation to undermining the structures of homes, roads and bridges. Grand Haven is expected to seek a state of emergency after flooding threatened infrastructure on Harbor Island.

High lake levels also cause beaches to disappear. South Beach in South Haven lost a bit of the beach due to the high lake levels.

With increased water levels in the lakes, ecosystems are also threatened. Pools formed behind several piping plover nests along a beach at the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, creating a dangerous situation for one of the Great Lakes region's most endangered species.