Published January 1, 2008 | January 2008 issue
Lake Superior is very near record lows, close to the level recorded back in 1926. Low water means that freighters and other ships have to carry less cargo or risk grounding, which means lost revenue for every trip. Marinas are reporting that boats are coming in contact more regularly with rocky bottoms. A popular ferry out of Grand Portage had to be idled because it could no longer get safely into Hat Point Marina.
Hydrologists blame weather-related events—lack of precipitation and increased evaporation, mostly—for the low levels, which are being felt throughout the Great Lakes. Others aren't so sure. For example, a group of Canadian property owners funded an engineering study that suggests a 1960s dredging project by the Army Corps of Engineers in the St. Clair River—the outflow source for lakes Michigan and Huron—is responsible for low levels in those two lakes, and ultimately Lake Superior, which is connected via the St. Marys River.
—Ronald A. Wirtz