Economy
3:07 pm
Wed February 13, 2013

NewsHour on how low lake levels lead to economic problems

Lakes Michigan and Huron reached their lowest level ever recorded recently, and the other Great Lakes are down as well.

The Michigan Legislature and Gov. Snyder are calling for emergency dredging money to keep harbors open this summer.

Elizabeth Brackett of WTTW Chicago recently traveled to Leland, Suttons Bay, and Ludington, Michigan for her report that aired on PBS NewsHour.Here's her report on how low lake levels can lead to economic problems in shoreline towns.

In Brackett's report, Andrew Gronewold of the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory explained the low levels this way.

When the water temperatures increase, which they are right now, especially through the summertime; then, in the fall, when we have the cool air masses coming over the lakes, we have increased evaporation, and that evaporation rate has been exaggerated, particularly this year.

We're also in a year where there's been extremely low precipitation, so over the last year very little rain was coming in to the system, both in the form of snow melting in the springtime and then also direct rainfall onto the lakes themselves.

Brackett also reported on a controversy Rebecca Williams and Peter Payette talked about last week, the lack of funding for harbor dredging.

Chuck May of the Great Lakes Small Harbors Coalition said the federal government needs to do more.

Again, from Brackett's report:

The federal government actually owns these harbors, these channels. And they actually have a tax called a harbor maintenance tax that they put in place the beginning of 1985 to take care of these harbors. So far, in the past 15 years, they have collected $8 billion dollars that they have not spent on harbors.

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