Low water shortens Great Lakes boating season

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Lower water in the Great Lakes has many recreational boaters, charter fishing operations and shipping companies worried about long-term revenue.

Unusual heat this summer boosted water traffic around the basin, but it also caused water levels to continue to drop, forcing many boaters to quit the season as much as five weeks earlier than expected, according to the Great Lakes Echo.

“This is not good for us,” John Killius, owner of Lake Ontario’s Henchen Marina in Henderson Harbor, told the publication. “The fall of water levels shortens our season, and boaters have already started taking the boats out of the water.”

The owner blamed a 15 percent hit on the low water and is concerned that water levels will remain low and deter boaters from renting slips next summer.

In August, the water level on Lake Ontario was about 243 feet above sea level, 9 inches lower than last year, according to the Army Corps of Engineers. Lake Michigan is down by 23 inches, reaching 577 feet above sea level, 5 inches above the historic low recorded in 1964.

Jim Clark, general manager of the Chicago Yacht Club, told the Great Lakes Echo that low water makes it difficult to reach certain parts of the lakes. Some of his tour boats and big sailing boats already have stopped operating. Every year, Clark’s company organizes the sailboat race from Chicago to Mackinac Island, which includes 350 boats. This year, low water kept them from docking many boats on the island.

Lake Erie fell 13 inches from last year and is estimated to be about 569 feet above sea level, according to the Army Corps report.

Erieau Marina is a deep-water marina able to accommodate about 300 boats as much as 140 feet long. Global Montreal reports that water in the rivers and lakes surrounding Montreal are at their lowest in more than a decade, causing safety hazards for boaters and destabilizing the coastal ecosystem.

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