High lake levels predicted through summer

Local beach closure reported due to erosion, water level

The stairway to beach access at Orchard Beach State Park remains closed for the season, unless otherwise stated. High water levels in Lake Michigan caused erosion and eliminated the beach area. (Ashlyn Korienek/News Advocate)

The stairway to beach access at Orchard Beach State Park remains closed for the season, unless otherwise stated. High water levels in Lake Michigan caused erosion and eliminated the beach area. (Ashlyn Korienek/News Advocate)

MANISTEE — As summer weather makes its way to the area, people are headed to the Great Lakes to enjoy a variety of recreational activities. However, high water levels are impacting many areas around the Lake Michigan coast.

Currently, all of the Great Lakes are above their long-term average May water levels, and the United States Army Corps of Engineers is predicting an increase throughout the summer.

Lauren Fry, with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Office of Great Lakes Hydraulics and Hydrology, said water levels for the Lake Michigan-Huron basin are above its May long-term average, and continues to climb.

Each lake, except for Lake Ontario, will see higher levels than in 2017, with water levels taking on a typical decline in either August or September heading into the fall and winter months.

“In general we are looking at a rise up through July and then a decline — that’s a fairly typical seasonal cycle for Lake Michigan-Huron,” she said. “The seasonal rise is not particularly out of the ordinary, but we are already at an above higher than average water level.”

The lake has faced high water levels for the past three years. However, erosion has caused damage to many coastal structures, with steps and docks submerged in water and even some beaches decreasing in size.

In Manistee Township, Orchard Beach State Park recently blocked off the end portion of the stairway to its beach, as water levels are submerging the steps and sand. The beach is no longer visible.

Orchard Beach State Park officials say, at this time, its beach will be closed for the season, unless conditions change and allow for safe access.

“Last year, the water levels were high and right to the bottom of the steps,” said an official with the park. “We’ve had the water recede and leave about 6 feet of beach; in the last 10 years, we’ve had 30 feet of beach area and none at all. It’s hard to predict. At this point in time, I don’t think we are going to open it back up (for the season).”

The area has been subject to erosion, which could impact the structural integrity of the staircase that winds down to an area where the beach typically rests on Lake Michigan.

Although the beach is currently closed, the park still remains open to the public and continues to have a surge of campers. Visitors are able to climb down the stairs a flight to view Lake Michigan, peering over Fifth Avenue Beach and the pier.

“Unless we get a hot summer that dries everything up, it’ll be blocked off. People can still go down a ways and see the lake and lighthouse, if they want to,” said an official with the park.

Other areas in Manistee, such as Magoon Creek, the Riverwalk and even First Street Beach have seen at least minor impacts from shoreline erosion and high water levels, within recent years. Last year, the Department of Public Works reported an increase in beach grass and debris washing up on Manistee beaches, as a result of erosion.

“We are well above average, and still within the range of variability,” said Fry. “Unless we get an extremely wet summer coming up, our forecast would indicate we will be above last months average up until the end of the three month period (ending in August).”

According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers weekly Great Lakes water level update, Lake Michigan-Huron is 19 inches above its long-term May average level, and forecasted to rise by up to three inches within 30 days.

“In terms of difference from long term average, for the whole forecast period we are looking at about 16 inches of long-term average on Lake Michigan-Huron, compared to last year,” said Fry. “For May and June we are showing three inches above last year, and then it transitions to below (average) or close to by October.”

Right now, Lake Michigan-Huron sits 13 inches below its record high monthly average for May, which was recorded in 1986. All predictions, Fry said, are subject to change.

This means, future impacts of high water levels on coastal regions remain unknown, while levels are currently predicted to fall later in the year.

“Water levels can vary a good deal on a day-to-day basis,” said Fry, “and water levels can also vary from one location to another across the lake on an hourly or daily basis, as a result of meteorological conditions.”

 

avatar

Posted by Ashlyn Korienek

Ashlyn is the cops & courts and city reporter for the Manistee News Advocate. You can reach her at (231) 398-3109 or akorienek@pioneergroup.com

Leave a Reply