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GLIN==> Lake Level Headed for Above Average Summer: Press Release

Title: Lake Level Headed for Above Average Summer: Press Release
News from New York Sea Grant

Contact: Chuck O'Neill, Coastal Resources Specialist, New York Sea Grant, 585-395-2638, cro4@cornell.edu

Lake Level Headed for Above Average Summer in 2003;
New York Sea Grant Looks at Historic Averages

Brockport, NY; 06-17-03 ‹ Above average precipitation in the Great Lakes Basin since early March, particularly on the lower Great Lakes, has caused the level of Lake Ontario to rise more than thirty-two inches since March 15th, about nineteen inches more than the "normal" seasonal rise for that time of year. Rain in the Great Lakes Basin was about 31 percent above average for May 2003 while in the Lake Erie and Lake Ontario basins it was more than 60 percent above average, says Coastal Resources Specialist Chuck O'Neill of New York Sea Grant.

"Much depends on the weather, but it now looks as though by mid-June the water level on Lake Ontario will be about five inches above the lake's long-term average for that date," says O'Neill, comparing the forecasted level to data which averages Lake Ontario water levels from 1918-2002.

According to O'Neill, Lake Ontario's water level moves through roughly a two foot range from a "normal" mid-winter low of around 244.5 feet above sea level on New Year's Day to a seasonal high of around 246.12 feet in mid-June. Between 1860 and 1960 (when lake level regulation began), water levels have fluctuated through a six-foot range between 242 and 248 feet above sea level.

Since the start of regulation both high and low levels have been somewhat attenuated (that is, peaks have been trimmed off while valleys have been filled in), the net result being that the average annual lake level range has been skewed slightly higher than the pre-1960 range, says O'Neill.

Since mid-March 2003, the lake has gone from being some fourteen and a half inches below average for that time of year to almost five inches above average for that time of year on June 11th.

O'Neill says lakeshore homeowners prefer water levels to be a bit below average because lower water levels result in less destructive storm waves pounding the beaches in front of their homes and cottages and lower levels mean larger beach areas to absorb storm energy erosive effects.

On the other hand, "higher summer water levels are preferred by electric power interests, as such levels serve as a buffer against drought periods and the higher summer demand for energy to run air conditioners," O'Neill says.

"For owners of large recreational boats, and for operators of Great Lakes marinas, low waters can result in boats having difficulty navigating channels between the lake and marinas and even some problems berthing deep keeled boats in shallow marina basins," OšNeill says.

A recent study by the Recreational Boating and Tourism Technical Work Group of the International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Study Board indicates that marina operators dredge basins and channels during low water periods to be sure depths will handle the boats frequenting their marinas.

"Predicting water levels can be difficult because so much depends on the weather, but it now looks as though Lake Ontario  is headed for a summer peak four to six inches above an "average" seasonal high level. Fall 2003 lake levels are more difficult to predict this early, but will most likely remain several inches above the lake's long-term average level," O'Neill says.

To see a chart showing recent lake levels plus forecasted levels for wet and dry weather conditions through October 2003, visit
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