Open High Waters

Two news organizations ran stories this week connected to the high water levels being experienced by Lake Superior and the other Great Lakes. Some, including the Big Lake, have reached all-time highs. For MPR News, Dan Kraker reports on whether high water levels are the new norm for the Great Lakes. On Lake Superior, high waters mean, on the positive side, the ability for freighters to load more and, on the negative side, erosion damage that is amplified during storms. Mike LeBeau, construction project manager for the city of Duluth, tells Dan that three storms within two years have left nearly $30 million in damage in the city. The storms came in October 2017 and 2018 and in April 2018. For Wisconsin Public Radio, Danielle Kaeding reports that many local property owners blame the International Joint Commission, which regulates the outflow through gates at the St. Mary’s River, for maintaining high waters on Lake Superior. But Keith Kompoltowicz, chief of watershed hydrology with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, tells Danielle that those outflows don’t control the water levels. “It’s a matter of scale, to be quite honest. Lake Superior is extremely large and the variability in the rainfall, runoff and evaporation that falls on Lake Superior is much greater than the ability to increase or decrease outflow.” We all know Lake Superior can kick up waves that are awe-inspiring and occasionally awful in their power. This sunnier photo shows high waves at Split Rock Lighthouse, part of a portfolio of storm shots by Paul Sundberg. 

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