Lake Superior's High Water Level Threatens Shoreline

Amy Adamle
October 11, 2017 07:10 PM

Just ten years ago, experts were concerned about how low the water was in Lake Superior, but in September, the lake was about 603 feet above sea level, the highest point it's reached since 1997.  That means the lake is over a foot higher than the average for this time of year and it's causing concern for experts and the City of Duluth.  


Lake Superior's water levels are constantly fluctuating, but it's large amounts of rainfall that have caused it to be higher than normal. 

"Anybody who lives here knows we've had a fairly wet summer, especially the month of August," Dan Miller the Science and Operations Officer at the National Weather Service, said.  "It was like our 6th or 7th wettest on record since 1870."

The high water levels could mean damage in a number of  different ways.

"Any time we have on-shore winds and waves, that leads to beach erosion and other sorts of problems where you can damage harbors, where you can damage ship canals, and any of the marine type of infrastructure that's out there," Miller said.  

It could impact property owners on Park Point as well.

"Our issue is with extra ground water getting into the sanitary sewer system," Chief Engineer of Utilities for the City of Duluth, said.  "There's also a concern with erosion on both sides peoples yards have gotten a lot smaller."

The City of Duluth said it is illegal to have a sump pump connected to the sanitary sewer system and they are investigating the issues on Park Point. 

Although it's cause for concern, changes like this are normal.

"The atmosphere does go through these cycles where we go through wetter periods or dryer periods and regardless of what happens with climate change, there's always going to be that natural variability from year to year," Miller said.  

Robert Sterner, the Director of the Large Lakes Observatory, said they are monitoring other affects it may have on the lake, like sediment movement.  He said he was surprised the lake level rose this high. 

"The lake has come up surprisingly fast," Sterner said.  "Whether we can count on it staying high in the future is very uncertain."

They said they'll continue to watch the levels of the water.


Amy Adamle

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