Report forecasts record-low water levels for Great Lakes

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The Lake Michigan/Huron system is at great risk of seeing an all-time-low water level in the next six months, according to statistical projections that will be released today by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

After a winter with little snow followed by a spring with little rain, each of the Great Lakes endured a 2012 boating season challenged by low water, according to the Detroit News. The water loss shortened the recreational boating season for many and forced the shipping industry to reduce the amount of tonnage its vessels can carry.

The numbers that Army Corps officials will release today in their six-month forecast aren't going to reverse the trend. Lake Michigan/Huron will hover within an inch — above or below — of the system's all-time low of 576.4 feet above sea level, set in 1964. Lake Superior will come within 5 to 8 inches of the 600.7-foot historic low that was set in 1925.

The lower lakes — Erie, St. Clair and Ontario — will likely stay safely above their all-time lows, but will still measure far below their historical averages. Numbers from the Corps will be analyzed alongside projections from Environment Canada, and a final report also will be issued today.

Corps officials stressed last week that they believe the recent years of declining water levels are attributable to natural causes, not man-made dredging or waterway engineering, according to the Detroit News.

Harrison Township's Richard Rittenhouse, 63, has sailed on Lake St. Clair since his family moved to the area when he was 6 years old. Two weeks ago he experienced a first — running aground atop a sandbar more than a mile offshore from Lake St. Clair Metropark.

"I spent two hours trying to move it and then I ran out of gas," Rittenhouse told the paper. At that point he called for towing help. During the ride to a marina to take the boat out of the water the towing company told him he wasn't alone.

"They told me they'd towed the sheriff's department something like six times this fall," he said. "Said they'd towed a [Michigan Department of Natural Resources] boat and a Coast Guard boat as well."

Boating troubles have had a trickle-down effect on sales.

Pontoons are more prevalent because of their ability to operate in shallower waters.

Click here for the full report.

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