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Great Lakes Region Lighthouse

Will the Great Lakes Region Serve as an Oasis for a Parched America?

From time to time, we see a story about drought conditions in the Western United States. Unfortunately, this map can see how much the Southwestern United States is currently under severe drought conditions.

The United Nations warns that about 1.8 billion people will be living under extreme drought and water stress conditions in a few short years. In 2017 Cape Town, South Africa, narrowly avoided “Day Zero” when it was feared the municipal water supply would be shut off.

The Value of Great Lakes Water Levels

Recognizing the Great Lakes’ economic importance, water level history has been continuously tracked since 1918. During his study of Lake Huron in 1856, the famed Union Army General George Meade devised the water level process and measurements. Residents on Saginaw Bay’s southern shore report that current water levels are similar to those recorded in 1973 and 1986.

Over the next few years, it appears that Great Lakes water levels will continue to exceed or linger near record levels. High water levels can cause beach erosion, the loss of marshland habitat for hatching wildfowl, and disruption to port and marina services and dock levels. Many marinas have reported underwater docks. Due to the extreme unpredictability of water levels, several harbors and marinas in Michigan have had to transition to floating docks. So far, no state governor has declared a Great Lakes Water Level Emergency.

Communities Sought the State Of Emergency in 2020

Great Lakes water levels reached new record highs in 2020 as early as February. An estimated $30 million in damage has occurred at Michigan State Parks due to beach erosion and road washouts. At the U.P.’s Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, Lake Superior threatens to wash out County Road 107. This would cut off access to the famous Lake of the Clouds and the park’s largest campground.

Across the Saginaw Bay in Tawas, the City Council passed a resolution calling for Michigan’s shoreline declared as a disaster area. In November 2019, Iosco County Emergency Management asked for more than 48,000 sandbags from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to deal with coastal flooding from Lake Huron.

Lake Michigan Shore Towns and Legislators Wanted A State Of Emergency

In December 2019, water levels at the West Michigan town of Elk Rapids had prompted the community to ask Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan legislator to declare Great Lakes shorelines a disaster area because of elevated water levels. Other towns have also requested, including Petoskey, Pentwater, and Rogers City.

The record high water levels prompted twelve West Michigan legislators to ask Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to declare a state of emergency for the Lake Michigan shoreline. The Lake Michigan shore has been particularly hit with erosion and damage due to its western exposure to prevailing westerly winds.

A letter asking for a Great Lakes, Water Level Emergency was sent by Bradley Slagh (Zeeland), House Speaker Lee Chatfield (Levering), Triston Cole (Mancelona), Beth Griffin (Mattawan), Jim Lilly (Park Township), Jack O’Malley, (Lake Ann), Greg VanWoerkom, (Norton Shores), Pauline Wendzel, (Watervliet), Mary Whiteford, (Allegan), Brad Paquette, Niles, and Scott VanSingel, (Grant) and Terry Sabo (Muskegon).

Can Great Lakes Water Be Taken Away?

A recent story by Fox News talk radio station KLIX in Idaho suggested they start “borrowing the Great Lakes.” They would do this by pumping Lake Michigan to Idaho to relieve them of drought conditions. The story goes on to say,”

“Millions of thirsty western voters will have a lot of pull on policy. As the region grows, so does its power in the United States House of Representatives. By its design, the Senate is already favorable to western concerns. So Lake Michigan may be coming to Idaho.” Idaho Drought Could be Solved by Borrowing the Great Lakes – KLIX 1310

This is not the first story nor the last about siphoning off our region’s lakes. However, it’s the first time I’ve seen a threat made to take the water based on the political power of the western states. A chilling thought. 

Great Lakes Water Is A Vital Resource And Needs To Stay Here.

Shared with Canada and traversing more than 750 miles from west to east, these immense inland freshwater seas provide water for consumption, transportation, power, and recreation. The Great lake’s basin hosts 84% of North America’s freshwater. About 21% of the world’s supply of surface freshwater. 10 % of the U.S. population, 30 million people, and more than 30% of the Canadian population depend on the Great Lakes for drinking water. 

Water is key to manufacturing. It takes a Detroit automaker about 39,000 gallons of water to make the average passenger car. An Ohio tire maker takes around 518 gallons to make a single tire.

Those who have studied this issue are pretty aware that that’s darn near impossible to suck any significant water from the Great Lakes. Economically such a project would be in the 100’s of billions. Furthermore, the Great Lakes Compact, where the United States and Canada are signatories, prevents water removal from the Great Lakes watershed. From time to time, the idea resurfaces. 

The Great Lakes are not wholly protected. Foreign companies such as Nestle pumps 400 gallons a minute out of the aquifers in the region. Then sell it back to us in plastic water bottles. 

Is it the Great Lakes Water or Its Boring Weather

Cleveland.com made an intriguing and entirely accurate observation. “The probability of severe climate hazards and natural disasters in many parts of the United States contrasts sharply with Greater Cleveland and the remainder of the Great Lakes, where storms, drought, earthquakes, and the like are of little concern.”

Matt Barkett, a public relations consultant with the Cleveland business Dix & Eaton, invented the term “climatically boring” for the Cleveland area in the 1990s while teaching at Cleveland State University. He mentioned that computer companies were providing I.T. operations for insurance companies in New York. They sought to reduce the possibility of weather-related disruptions.

“Businesses are focusing more on the value of being in a benign climate environment and how that can affect their bottom line,” said Mark Henning, a research associate at Cleveland State University’s Energy Policy Center.

The Great Lakes, as a trending climate sanctuary, are beginning to come on the economic radar. National publications are taking notice, including the influential Site Selection magazine, which lauded the area’s abundant water resources in an article almost sure read by the very people guiding enterprises to one location or another.

Could The Great Lakes Be An Oasis For Water Refugees?

It is highly feasible that the entire Great Lakes Region may soon become a water-stressed American oasis. Assume, on the other hand, that climate change causes widespread drought in the United States. According to one catastrophic drought projection, the western states may be in this scenario for hundreds of years. In that situation, you could anticipate a mass exodus of people and businesses seeking our valuable water.

There needs to be thought and plans drawn up by municipalities and the Great Lakes region. The anticipated influx of those seeking water and weather relief in a future water-thirsty nation.

Sources of Great Lakes Region Material

  • Idaho Drought Could be Solved by Borrowing the Great Lakes. https://newsradio1310.com/idaho-drought-could-be-solved-by-borrowing-the-great-lakes/
  • Idaho Drought Could be Solved by Borrowing the Great Lakes. https://newsradio1310.com/idaho-drought-could-be-solved-by-borrowing-the-great-lake
  • Seminar On Water Quality Management Trade-offs (point …. https://nepis.epa.gov/Exe/ZyPURL.cgi?Dockey=200073G4.TXT
  • Without hurricanes, wildfires and water shortages, is the …. https://www.msn.com/en-us/weather/topstories/without-hurricanes-wildfires-and-water-shortages-is-the-climate-cleveland-e2-80-99s-new-selling-point/ar-AAOkq2R


About Paul Austin

Paul makes his summer home on a Lake Huron beach. He spends his early morning hours studying history and writing. He has published over 600 articles in various print and online media. Paul contributes to Thumbwind Publications.

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