DOOR COUNTY — Low lake levels took center stage in Door County Thursday night, July 12th — the same day a severe drought declaration was made for several Wisconsin counties. The International Joint Commission, comprised of U.S. and Canadian representatives met in Fish Creek to create a plan to combat the issue across the Great Lakes Region.
The low water levels on Lake Michigan have not gone unnoticed.
“You drive around 42 up through Ephraim, and that’s where it’s really noticeable — how low the lake levels are. We love to boat. We love to used the lake, and we want to make sure our boat can still get in the water,” Fish Creek resident Patsy Reichert said.
Reichert said she attended Thursdays meeting looking for answers. Experts say water levels in Lake Michigan and Lake Huron are about a foot below average.
“It’s not unusual to be a foot below average, but what is unusual is how long it’s been below average, which has been about a decade,” John Nevin with International Joint Commission Public Affairs said.
“One important reason is that we’re seeing a lot of evaporation than we have in the past, and the big part of that is ice cover. We’re not getting as much ice cover,” Bernard Beckhoff with the International Joint Commission said.
The International Joint Commission has developed a plan to balance and maintain water levels across the Great Lakes. The commission regulates the flow of water out of Lake Superior.
Based on a multi-million dollar, five-year study, officials say the plan better manages that flow into the other Great Lakes. The IJC also says the plan helps to prepare for future extremes and climate change.
They say fully restoring the levels is not feasible.
“It balances the levels in Huron, Michigan and Lake Superior. It makes a more natural flow down the Saint Mary’s and to make sure we have higher levels when we higher levels, for the extreme lows in the future, and let water out more like Mother Nature would do if we still had a natural system,” Nevin said.
The commission will be taking input from the public through August. Members hope to have a recommendation put together by the end of the year.