Door County Residents Weigh in on Water Levels

Contrary to the beliefs of the lake levels “taking care of themselves” here’s something to think about. I called into the radio station when Gary Bies was on and asked if it was a fact that certain cities were taking huge amounts of Lake Michigan water, upwards of three million gallons daily. He mentioned there were many that did and even Green Bay had a pipeline into the bay. I just don’t see how Mother Nature can possibly keep up or overcome with the demand on the water usage of large cities. Seems at this point, as the water level continues to drop so does the use of Door County beaches, pleasure boating, fishing, etc., and eventually affecting tourism. Washington Island is of great concern at this point.  

Rich Geeve, Sturgeon Bay


We live on the Green Bay shore 11 miles north of Sturgeon Bay.  Starting with a cottage, here, and now our retirement home, we have experienced changing water levels for more than 30 years.  We are cruising boaters who are familiar with Green Bay, Lake Michigan and beyond.  I have an appreciation for our moisture levels over the years as well as the role of evaporation.  For several years I have followed the deliberations concerned with the St. Clair River dredging, subsequent erosion and estimated effects on water levels.  

The St. Lawrence Seaway opened in 1959 to deep draft shipping.  “Messing with Mother Nature” brought a flourishing, global economy to the Midwest and, along with it, serious problems with invasive marine creatures and vegetation.  We turn to ecological science to mitigate the damage to our waters.  St. Clair River dredging for deep draft shipping, 1958-62 and subsequent erosion, has been acknowledged to have reduced lake levels by 17 to 24 or more inches.  Less noticeable during the wet years of the 80s and early 90s, today’s record low levels restrict deep draft shipping, harm the recreational boating economy and cause ecological havoc with shoreline wetlands.  The St. Clair River accounts for the greatest outflow from Lakes Michigan and Huron.  We need an accurate, objective measure of that annual outflow and its effects.  Then, we should be prepared to mess with Mother Nature once again to restore and protect the greatest inland, fresh water resource in the world.  

John C. Hermann, Sturgeon Bay


It’s time for our towns, villages, city, county and state governments to officially address the lowest water levels on Lakes Michigan and Huron in recordable history. The Cheneaux Watershed Council in Michigan and the Sierra Club Canada have challenged the findings of the 2009 Upper Great Lakes Study funded by the International Joint Commission (IJC) that determined the dredging of the St. Clair River, Lake St. Clair and the Detroit River was not the cause of the declining levels of Lakes Michigan and Huron.

More complete and recent climatological and engineering studies as well as the long-term levels clearly indicate declining levels are a continuing phenomenon. The Sierra Club Ontario Great Lakes Section’s 28-page report goes into considerable graph and statistical detail as well as a St. Clar Sills concept for slowing the outflow in a controlled manner. The Baird Associates (an engineering firm) International Upper Great Lakes Study, Public Comment provides quite complete conceptual information that challenges the 2009 IJC report.

Up to date and more complete information plus input from all of us and our governments should encourage the IJC to immediately commence a review of all records and studies and in addition evaluate all engineering studies designed to slow the flow of water out of Lakes Michigan and Huron.

The sheer costs of dredging all channels and harbors is staggering and maybe not as practical compared to gradually bringing levels back to average normal levels. The economic loss of business and private waterfront locations is completely staggering – almost beyond comprehension.

If the tiny country of Panama can engineer, fund and build the new second Panama Canal in 12 to 15 years, our Canadian and U.S. governments and their engineering arms can easily engineer, fund, and install functional controlling devices on the St. Claire and Detroit Rivers that could have lake levels rising on Lakes Michigan and Huron within the next three years. The saving of dredging costs alone should justify the capital expense. Beyond that, just think of the return in value of the shorelines of both Lakes Michigan and Huron in both the U.S. and Canada.

Obviously it will take the concerted effort of all citizens surrounding these two lakes ­– as well as a major concerted effort of the local, county, state and provincial governments to get this project approved, funded and constructed. The time to start this effort is NOW.

Frank Forkert, Ellison Bay


It’s an ugly picture! Door County tourism faces an up-hill battle as record low water challenges marina operators, owners of private docks and recreational boaters.

The root cause for low water levels include the controversial dredging of the St. Clair river in 1960, the present drought, climate changes, the out-flow over Niagara Falls and cities bordering the Great Lakes taking millions of gallons per day from the lakes.

The “possible fixes” are complex and controversial, however doing nothing is not an option for the well-being of the Door County economy which strongly depends on water related recreation. We urge the International Joint Commission, state and federal political leaders and our local agencies to work together to address and resolve our Great Lakes water level problems.

For more information contact us at, [email protected].

Carl Podlasek, Chairman of the Save our Shoreline Committee for the Moonlight Bay Property Owners Association.


A dictionary definition for our island home is “a piece of land surrounded by water.” 

More precipitation – and support from the State of Wisconsin to deepen the Detroit Harbor channel – are essential for continued ferry operations and sustained commerce – island life as we know it.

Lake level reductions seemed to accelerate in the early fall of 2012.  Our only recourse was to dredge, to avoid closing down winter ferry service – an action with unthinkable ramifications. 

Thanks to the help of marine contractors, we now operate from the Potato Dock, located outside the Detroit Harbor entrance.  This shift allowed us to land our winter ferry and transport regular highway traffic.

But our situation is still in emergency status. The Potato Dock is a less-than-optimum location, due to limited maneuvering, exposure to the south, a single loading ramp, and a long and narrow vehicle approach connecting shore and the ferry landing.  For winter’s two daily round trips, it saves the day and it works.  In summer, with 25 or more daily round trips, and multiple ferries in use at once,  services will be restricted if water levels remain low.

Dick Purinton, Washington Island