Rick Eglinton, the Star
Those Southwesterners salivating at the thought of Great Lakes water being pumped their way may be too late to the trough; the water level is down over three feet. According to the Catherine Porter in the Star, "Docks that stretch more than 100 metres now lead to land. Boats have been abandoned in boathouses 300 metres from water. Tanker owners complain they can no longer get their ships to ports. Wetlands have turned to meadows."
No-one is certain why; the Georgian Bay Association thinks it is dredging by the US Army Corps of Engineers in the St. Clair River but a recent study by the International Joint Commission downplays that.Catherine Porter writes:
Others say it is a natural cycle :"We've had three decades of really wet conditions, so a lot of development has taken place and people got accustomed to the high water levels," says David Fay, manager of Environment Canada's Great Lakes-St. Lawrence regulation office in Cornwall.
Then there are changes in rain patterns; The lower Great Lakes, including Erie and Ontario, have benefited from tropical storms that have run north and dumped water on them.
"But, (the storms) don't make it as far north or west to reach the upper lakes," says Cynthia Sellinger, a hydrologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Great Lakes Environmental Research Lab in Michigan.
Another theory points to the glaciers which, during the Ice Age, carved out the Great Lakes, pushing down land beneath their bottoms. Since then, most lakes have been gradually "rebounding" at different rates.
And then there's global warming, which the International Panel of Climate Change says will lower the levels of all the Great Lakes with less consistent precipitation and greater evaporation in winter. The worst-case scenario calls for a 1.2-metre drop in the average level of lakes Huron and Michigan, says Fay. ::The Star