Lake Michigan

Lake Michigan waves crash onshore at a beach in Frankfort, Michigan. Lakes Michigan and Huron were almost three feet above the June water level average.
Dan Wanschura / Interlochen Public Radio

Water levels in the Great Lakes continue to remain high. 

Every month this year, Lakes Michigan and Huron have surpassed record-high water levels set in the 1980’s. In June, those lakes were nearly three feet above average. 

Peter Payette

Grand Traverse County residents are having a hard time coping with the Great Lakes’ near record high lake levels.

“We’re seeing unprecedented storms and high, high levels in the lakes and groundwater, and the combination is just causing a lot of issues unfortunately,” said Arthur Krueger, director of municipal utilities for Grand Traverse County.

One of these issues is regular flooding in basements of local homes and businesses. Some desperate residents have turned to illegal solutions.

"Sunset Station" in Arcadia Township has been devestated by high waters from Lake Michigan pounding its shoreline.
Dan Wanschura / Interlochen Public Radio

Water levels in the Great Lakes are really high right now. Lakes Michigan, Huron and Erie are all breaking records and creating all sorts of problems for communities on their shores.

Piles of debris sit on shore near the Point Betsie Lighthouse in Frankfort.
Dan Wanschura / Interlochen Public Radio

As if shoreline erosion wasn’t enough, communities and property owners on Lake Michigan are now dealing with another problem due to record high water levels — trash. Up and down the lake, large amounts of it are washing up on shore.

Employees for Anthony's Outdoor Services build a 400' long seawall in Manistee. Anthony Ganss, the owner, says they've been busy all winter constructing seawalls.
Dan Wanschura / Interlochen Public Radio

Update 3/25/20, 3:30pm: Due to the coronavirus pandemic, on Monday, March 23, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced temporary requirements “to suspend activities that are not necessary to sustain or protect life” through April 13, 2020. Under that order, limited forms of construction are still permissible, including projects necessary “to maintain and improve the safety, sanitation, and essential operations of residences.” A spokesman for the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy says whether or not that includes shoreline construction “is dependent on the purpose and necessity of the shoreline work, and is case-specific.” He says contractors, their legal counsel and homeowners need to make that determination and if they are still unsure, contact the Governor’s office for more clarity.

 

At a time when many Michigan companies are slowing down due to the coronavirus pandemic, business is booming for contractors working along Lake Michigan’s shoreline.

 

They’re fighting a different crisis — trying to save people’s homes from extremely high water levels. But with so much demand, there’s little to stop unqualified contractors from jumping in on the action.


Max Johnston / Interlochen Public Radio

Ice cover on Lake Michigan is happening less and less, and that’s why Grand Traverse Bay hasn’t frozen this year. 

Jed Jaworski

Large waves and Lake Michigan’s record high water level are breaking down the barrier that protects the historic Point Betsie Lighthouse in Frankfort.

Key parts of the structure are fractured and falling apart.

Dan Wanschura / Interlochen Public Radio

 

Lake Michigan’s water level is expected to reach a new record high for January, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The lake hasn’t been this high since 1986.

10 most viewed stories in 2019 from IPR News

Dec 31, 2019
Interlochen Public Radio

IPR’s news team reported on hundreds of stories across the region in 2019, and the top 10 stories viewed are listed below:

 

Jerry Fetty / Star Line Mackinac Island Ferry

A road collapses into the water in Oceana County. A riverwalk disappears into the Manistee river channel. Lakeshore sidewalks buckle in Ludington.

Ron Wilson's summer cottage is dangerously close to falling into Lake Michigan. Wilson wants to lower water levels on Lake Michigan by letting more water out of the Chicago River, and reversing the flow of Long Lac and the Ogoki River in Ontario, Canada.
Dan Wanschura

On a cold and windy afternoon in Manistee, Ron Wilson trudged through snow to check on his shuttered cottage.

 

Not much changed since he was last there — which is good — because just a few feet of land separate the beach house from Lake Michigan.

“We once had a deck out here,” says Wilson, pointing behind the house. “But the storms in mid-October just took out all the beach in front of us.” 


Gary Langley, FAA certified sUAS pilot / Interlochen Public Radio

Lakeshore property owners fighting erosion due to high water levels are getting some help from the state. The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy is expediting the permitting process for sandbag use. 


Waves crash over the Frankfort Pier as Ella Skrocki heads out into a raucous Lake Michigan.
Beth Price / Beth Price Photography

Gale force winds fueled huge waves on the northern Great Lakes Tuesday with some on Lake Michigan topping out at 13 feet. For some residents in Michigan, the fall storm season is the time to hunker down — but for others it’s the perfect time to jump in the lake.


Robert Haase / Flickr

Gale warnings on the northern Great Lakes are in effect until late tonight, according to the National Weather Service.

Strong winds from the southeast will cause gusts that may exceed 40 miles per hour on the northern coast of Lake Michigan.

Most of Lake Superior is also under gale force winds advisory. 

The National Weather Service expects waves up to 19 feet.

They say there is an increased threat of lakeshore flooding in coastal areas throughout the weekend.

 

Jim Sorbie / Flickr

 

People who have homes on the sandy, eroding shores of Lake Michigan don’t have a lot of protections when it comes to insurance coverage. 

Regular homeowners insurance does not cover flooding or any land movement, including erosion of the land beneath a structure.

Banks that give loans to lakefront homes require flood insurance, which could possibly provide some erosion coverage.

The Association of State Floodplain Managers Alan Lulloff says erosion that happens after a storm could be covered.

Gary Langley, an FAA certified sUAS pilot / Interlochen Public Radio

 

Fishtown officials are looking to move three shanties — historic buildings — from their original location in an effort to repair foundations rotted by high water levels this summer. 

The shanties will be placed roughly 10 to 15 feet back from their current location. They will be encased in weatherproof material to protect the structures from Michigan’s harsh winter weather.

The price tag to move them and replace the foundations is about $1 million, says Amanda Holmes, executive director of Fishtown Preservation. 

Gary Langley / Interlochen Public Radio

This week on Points North, how rising water levels and shoreline erosion are threatening homeowners on the coast of Lake Michigan.

Plus, how businesses in Fishtown are already falling into the water.

Property owners along the Lake Michigan shoreline are worried about the rapid erosion caused by high water levels on the lake.
Gary Langley, FAA certified sUAS pilot / Interlochen Public Radio

As Lake Michigan water levels remain at a near record high, more and more shoreline is being eaten away everyday. Large trees are sliding down steep banks into the water, wooden staircases are being torn out and property owners are panicking. As the fall storm season approaches, some worry their homes will be next.


Wikimedia Commons

Environmentalists are calling for Arcadia Bluffs Golf Club to remove golf balls from Lake Michigan. Arcadia Bluffs is a popular course north of Manistee.

KATE GARDINER / FLICKR - HTTP://BIT.LY/1RFRZRK

Michigan lawmakers visited Illinois on Monday to learn more about the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plan to stop Asian Carp from reaching Lake Michigan.

Dan Wanschura / Interlochen Public Radio

This week on Points North, the water is so high in Michigan this summer that shorelines are disappearing, docks are underwater and rivers are overflowing. Plus hear how high water is affecting public access to beaches and research on avian botulism. 

 


Dan Wanschura / Interlochen Public Radio

Michigan has complicated laws when it comes to private beaches and public access, and the rules for inland lakes are different from the Great Lakes.

Wikimedia Commons

This week on Points North, we look at animals and the threats they face. Great Lakes piping plovers were on the verge of extinction in the 1980s, but recently they’ve been making a comeback. Still, their slow recovery is hindered by absent-minded beach walkers, high water levels and racoons.

 


Taylor Wizner / Interlochen Public Radio

Half a century ago, hundreds of pairs of piping plovers lived in the Great Lakes. But by the 1980s, they were on the verge of extinction and only a dozen pairs remained.

Over time, wildlife biologists have helped increase the population. But it’s still well below a stable number and each year there’s a new threat.

 

Piping plovers are small, stout white-gray birds. In the spring, they can be found nesting on the shores of the Great Lakes. Once a fixture on the lakes, the birds are now on the federal Endangered Species List.

 

Today on Stateside, we talk with vaccine-hesitant parents as measles cases spread. Plus, learn how your old photos can help researchers track changes to Lake Michigan's dunes.

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