Lake Michigan Water Levels Continue to Rise: We Must Prepare

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The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ new June forecast paints a chilling picture of super-high water levels in Lake Michigan and Lake Huron, peaking in July and August even higher than the May forecast. Higher water levels than any time since the disastrous “Great Flood of 1986.” And look out – especially if the high water is whipped up by gusty winds and waves. This is both a climate change story and an economic one as the flooding attacks our homes, businesses and the places where we live, work and play. We need to mitigate climate change, which Midwest scientists conclude is exacerbating extreme weather events including more intense rainstorms. 

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What should we do now?

Better protect people, public health and communities! Flooding is coming, and that reality is understandably lost in the overwhelming COVID-19 public health crisis.

Map the site-specific flooding risks and threats.  We need to focus on risks such as industrial and storage facilities with hazardous and toxic materials along the shoreline as water levels rise. Check out ELPC’s map assessing these risks.

Develop solutions for the shoreline’s built environment by modernizing land use and zoning laws as well as environmental engineering approaches to adapt to the new mostly higher water level realities. Let’s assess ways of using natural systems (e.g., wetlands restoration) and policy changes to help adapt.This rethinking will require land-use planning, zoning, science, environmental engineering, hydrology and creativity. ELPC is working with partners and public officials who bring other solution tools to the table. We’re going to need to put all the tools to work.

Howard A. Learner is an experienced public interest litigation attorney serving as the President and Executive Director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center – the Midwest’s premier environmental legal advocacy and eco-business innovation organization, and among the nation’s leaders.  Mr. Learner is responsible for the overall strategic leadership, policy direction and financial platform of ELPC’s successful work promoting clean energy development solutions to climate change problems, advancing transportation innovations and improvements, including development of regional high-speed rail solutions, and preserving the Midwest’s valued natural resources and heritage. He serves on the board of the Council of the Great Lakes Region.

Republished with permission of the Environmental Law & Policy Center. Original publication June 9, 2020: