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Low Water Levels Threaten Great Lakes Shipping
Low water levels in the Great Lakes has hampered shipping and will continue to cause problems when the new season opens in the spring, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said in a recent report.
“Every foot of lost depth requires a 1,000-footer to load 3,200 tons less,” the Corps said. “At 1.5 feet below datum, they [shippers] are losing 8-10 percent of their carrying capacity.”
The Corps’ January report showed water levels for Lake Michigan and Lake Huron at record lows. The Corps’ forecast for February and March indicates more all-time lows. Meanwhile, Lake Superior has not reached record lows, but the water level is still nine inches below normal.
Water levels are expected to drop further before the opening of the navigation season, resulting in continued hardships for vessels transiting the lakes. Vessels will continue to be unable to carry normal loads. Groundings will be much more likely and some harbors may close, the Corps said.
The Great Lakes operate as a system with interdependent ports, so navigation limitations in the upper lakes will cause problems throughout the system.