Declining Lake Levels Boost Beaches, Bum Boaters

By Alexandria Fisher
|  Saturday, May 25, 2013  |  Updated 3:50 PM CDT
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Beachgoers are getting a sandy surprise while boaters are being booted from marinas as severe weather continues to throw a wrench in water levels.

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Beachgoers are getting a sandy surprise while boaters are being booted from marinas as severe weather continues to throw a wrench in water levels.

Memorial Day weekend typically marks the start of boating and beach season, but unusually low temperatures were matched by lower-than-normal water levels to make the start of the season anything but ideal, according to a report by the Chicago Tribune.

Chicago's beaches opened Saturday and though they were faced with temps dipping into the low 60s, receding water levels may have given beachgoers a boost.

Harbors along Lake Michigan are still parched from last year’s droughts and though recent flooding rehydrated them some it also pushed sand near the water’s edge, which posed dangerous conditions for receding water, the Tribune reported.

Water levels in Lake Michigan have been below average for 14 years straight, along with levels in Lake Huron.

Numbers show that Lake Michigan is still 7 to 10 inches above the record lows that struck in January, but remains more than 20 inches below the long-term average, according to the Army Corps of Engineers. The organization also states that any period of dry conditions during the next few months could send those numbers plummeting back down to record lows.

The combination of sand and receding water has given beach-lovers more space for fun in the sun but boaters are being forced to move their boats to docks with more depth and commercial boating is taking a hit.

Waukegan Harbor is currently closed to commercial navigation and limited passage could cause shipping costs to increase, according to the Army Corps of Engineers.

But what boaters are losing in water, sun-bathers are gaining in sand.

Beaches in Wilmette have expanded by roughly 5 feet over the last several years, the Tribune reported, and nearby beaches in Winnetka and Evanston have also grown.
 

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