Based on the latest information from US and Canadian Hydrographic Services, Maitland Conservation is warning landowners along the shoreline that the water level of Lake Huron is expected to continue rising in 2020.
For the past several months the level of Lake Huron has been very close to the 1986 monthly record highs. Typically the lake experiences a seasonal decline in September and October. Unfortunately this year levels have increased slightly during this period due to high rainfall amounts along the Michigan side of the Lake Michigan – Lake Huron watershed.
In October two storms with strong northwest winds caused damage and erosion along the shoreline in Maitland Conservation’s area of jurisdiction. Conservation Authority staff report that bluff areas will continue to be vulnerable to storm event erosion until ice forms along the shoreline.
Stephen Jackson, Flood and Erosion Safety Services Coordinator with Maitland Conservation, is encouraging property owners with structures close to the water to prepare for the possibility of flooding and freezing spray.
“We anticipate that there will be a heightened risk of flooding and ice-related issues over the next couple of months,” Jackson said. “Freezing spray problems will be similar to those experienced back in 1986.”
Looking ahead to 2020, forecasts are showing that the lake level in February and March is expected to be approximately 30 cm (12 inches) higher than during the same period in 2019.
Fluctuating lake levels is a natural process. The Lake Huron water level is determined by precipitation, evaporation and outflow from Lake Superior. The amount of rain and snow that falls in the Lake Huron and Lake Superior watersheds impacts water levels; however, the role of evaporation is sometimes overlooked. Ice cover in the winter reduces the amount of evaporation that occurs. As a result, successive years with high ice cover contributes to higher lake levels.
“It’s unfortunate that it looks like we’ll be going into the spring of 2020 with the water level significantly higher than it was this year,” said Jackson. “The clay bluffs in our area are susceptible to erosion and the pounding of waves at the base of the bluffs increases the risk of significant bluff failure.
It is very difficult to predict exactly when and where bluff failure will occur. There is often a time delay between erosion at the bottom of the bluff and subsequent failure at the top of the bluff. With the water level being so high, Maitland Conservation is reminding residents to stay well back from breaking waves and from top-of-bluff areas. If landowners see bluff slumping or cracks forming on their property, they are asked to contact Maitland Conservation at 519-357-0890.