Water Levels Fall in Great Lakes, Taking a Toll on Shipping

Aboard the Dorothy Ann, in Lake Erie near Fairport Harbor, Ohio — As Capt. Jeremy R. Mock steered this 711-foot combination of tug and barge toward a harbor berth, a screen of red numbers indicated the decreasing depth of water under the vessel: 6 feet, 3.6 feet, 2 feet.

Suddenly the numbers gave way to a line of red dashes: — — — — .

It was a signal that there was not enough water to measure.

Drought and other factors have created historically low water marks for the Great Lakes, putting the $34 billion Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway shipping industry in peril, a situation that could send ominous ripples throughout the economy.

Water levels in the Great Lakes have been below their long-term averages during the past 14 years, and this winter the water in Lakes Michigan and Huron, the hardest-hit lakes, dropped to record lows, according to the Army Corps of Engineers. Keith Kompoltowicz, the chief of watershed hydrology with the corps’s Detroit district, said that in January “the monthly mean was the lowest ever recorded, going back to 1918.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/11/us/great-lakes-shipping-suffers-as-water-levels-fall.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20130611&_r=0

 

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