High water levels are impacting areas across the state

Michigan’s water levels are already at their highest point in more than two decades and if levels rise an additional 12 inches or more this spring, as models predict, spring 2020 levels could break 120-year historic records.

Across the state, high water levels have already caused millions of dollars in damage to private property and public infrastructure, including roads and Michigan State Parks. Michigan’s agricultural industry has been hit particularly hard, but the state’s farmers aren’t alone, other industries may soon feel the pressure of rising waters.

“High water levels affect every corner of the state, from Great Lakes shorelines to inland lakes to rivers and canals,” said Liesl Clark, director of the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE).

Unfortunately, it appears that exceptionally high water levels may be the reality for the foreseeable future. According to John Allis, chief of the Great Lakes Hydraulics and Hydrology Office, Detroit District, “It is likely that water levels on lakes Michigan and Huron will set new monthly mean record high levels over the next six months. This sets the stage for coastal impacts and damages in 2020 similar to, or worse than, what was experienced last year.”

On Monday, February 10, 2020, federal, state, and local officials met in Lansing at the Michigan High Water Coordinating Summit to collaborate closely and share resources in responding to public health and safety challenges created by the state’s near-record high water levels. *For a full list of summit participants, visit michiganoilandgas.org/blog.

The summit’s participants reviewed the latest National Weather Service (NWS) forecasts and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) water level predictions; discussed ongoing and potential impacts from flooding, erosion, and high water tables; and inventoried government authorities and resources available for incidence response. In addition, they established the Michigan High Water Action Team.

The multi-agency consortium will collaborate to:

  • Identify available assets that can be marshaled in response to high water incidents.
  • Coordinate communications across agencies and levels of government to ensure residents receive information in a timely, accurate, and consistent fashion.

The goal of the High Water Action Team will be to assess where these threats are greatest and what kinds of resources might be available that could be channeled to offset damages.

Additionally, EGLE announced that the state will be scheduling town hall meetings around Michigan this spring to inform residents about the impacts of high water levels and the state government’s response. Details on these events should be available in the coming weeks and will be posted on michiganoilandgas.org/blog.

Click "Read More" for Helpful Resources for Shoreline Property Owners.

So what resources are already available for concerned residents?

EGLE has a full webpage dedicated to providing the public and local officials with information and helpful tools. Visit Michigan.gov/HighWater for more information or visit michiganoilandgas.org/blog for helpful fact sheets on everything from water level predictions to recommendations for protecting your property.

High Water Level Information for the Great Lakes, EGLE fact sheet

Current and forecast Great Lakes water levels, US Army Corps of Engineers

Living on the Coast: Protecting Investments in Shore Property on the Great Lakes

Great Lakes Shorelines Information for Permit Applicants

Great Lakes Shoreline Protection Contractors List 

Frequently Asked Questions about Shore Protection during Great Lake High Waters

Contact the Environmental Assistance Center (EAC) at 800-662-9278 or [email protected], if you have questions or need assistance. The EAC is staffed from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.  Tell the operator that you are calling about shoreline erosion and you will be transferred to a field staff person.  After hours, please leave a message and someone will get back to you the next business day.

Webinar: Great Lakes High Water and Erosion

 Learn more about EGLE’s response to Great Lakes shoreline erosion, the basic rules and processes for obtaining permits for shoreline protection projects, efforts EGLE is taking to expedite permits, and how local officials and shoreline residents can communicate and partner most effectively with EGLE

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