Water levels in the Great Lakes rise and fall on a multi-year cycle. Over the last year, farms have been impacted by water levels in the Great Lakes breaking record highs, especially near Saginaw Bay and Lake Erie. Worse, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers predicts those high levels will continue for at least the next six months.
Controlling lake levels is very difficult: studies commissioned by the International Joint Commission in 1993 and 2012 found the cost of constructing water level management structures sufficient to control water levels in the upper Great Lakes (Superior, Michigan, and Huron) would far outweigh the benefits both financially and environmentally, and that many solutions to address high water levels would not effectively correct low water levels.
Farmers need solutions to help them survive both high and low water levels. Some may be regional, like the Maankiki Marsh restoration in the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge, which helps to address upstream water storage during high-flow months. Other solutions may be local, like Bay County’s Drain Commissioner using a diver to clear flap gates to improve drainage, or Michigan State University’s research on improving soil health to better manage both wet and dry conditions. No one solution will solve all problems; water level management will need many practices on many scales to make a difference for farmers.
Contact: Laura Campbell | 517-679-5332
How can farmers and Michigan Farm Bureau communicate the need for more coordination of water level management between local, state, and federal agencies?
How can publicly owned and other non-agricultural land be better used for upstream water storage, and how can farmers and MFB promote such projects?
What research, practices, and farm plans can help farmers build soil health and use tools like drainage water management to help their farms survive wet and dry conditions?
AFBF Policy #546 U.S. Army Corps
AFBF Policy #548 Water Use
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Great Lakes Water Level Forecasts
International Joint Commission 1993 Lake Level Study
International Joint Commission 2012 Lake Level Study
Maankiki Marsh restoration
Bay County Drain Commissioner Diver Project
MSU Research on soil health for water management