Lake Superior hits normal water level for first time in 9 years
Lake Superior hit its normal level in February for the first time in nine years, according to the International Lake Superior Board of Control.
The big lake dropped just 0.4 inches in February, a month it usually declines about two inches, bringing the lake level in line with its long-term average for March 1.
Lake Superior now sits 13 inches above the level of March 1, 2013, and appears to be continuing an upward trend that started about one year ago. The lake has now pulled far away from its lowest points, when it hit monthly record lows in August and September 2007.
The last time the lake's water level was at or above normal was April 2005, said Cynthia Jarema of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Detroit District.
"It's taken a long time, but it's back up to normal, and that's noteworthy," Jarema told the News Tribune on Friday.
Water supply to Lake Superior was up in February, including snow, rain and river runoff.
Meanwhile, the level of Lakes Huron and Michigan dropped 0.4 inches in February, a month when it usually stays the same. Those lakes remain about 13 inches below their long-term normal level, but 13 inches above their March 1, 2013 level.
The level of the lakes is important for shipping interests as lower water levels can force Great Lakes freighters to lighten their loads, requiring more trips and higher costs to haul cargo such as taconite and coal. The water levels were so low a few years ago that they affected even recreational boating on some Great Lakes, with anglers and boaters unable to get into docks or landings.
The Great Lakes usually rise from April to September, and then fall through the winter when water is locked up in snow and ice. The lake levels are affected by rain and snow, evaporation and other factors such as how much water is released for hydroelectric power.
Experts have speculated that this year's substantial ice cover will help reduce evaporation, while heavy snow will add to the rising lakes come spring.