Midwest drought hampers boating season

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Lower water in the Great Lakes has many recreational boaters, charter fishing operations and shipping companies worried about long-term revenue.

Unusual heat this summer boosted water traffic around the basin, but it also caused water levels to continue to drop, forcing many boaters to quit the season as much as five weeks earlier than expected, according to the Great Lakes Echo.

“This is not good for us,” John Killius, owner of Lake Ontario’s Henchen Marina in Henderson Harbor, told the publication. “The fall of water levels shortens our season, and boaters have already started taking the boats out of the water.”

The owner blamed a 15 percent hit on the low water and is concerned that water levels will remain low and deter boaters from renting slips next summer.

In August, the water level on Lake Ontario was about 243 feet above sea level, 9 inches lower than last year, according to the Army Corps of Engineers. Lake Michigan is down by 23 inches, reaching 577 feet above sea level, 5 inches above the historic low recorded in 1964.

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Meanwhile, drought continues to plague boat traffic on Mississippi River.

Shipping resumed last week through one of the Mississippi River's busiest locks after crews completed emergency repairs that took days and stranded hundreds of barges destined for points north or south.

By the time the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reopened Lock 27 at Granite City, Ill., just north of St. Louis, on Thursday, the Coast Guard said the traffic jam had grown to 63 vessels and 455 barges — carrying enough cargo to fill 6,100 railcars or 26,400 large tractor-trailers, according to the Associated Press.

Several lower stretches have been closed, and barges have run aground. At other times, towboat pilots have had to wait at narrower channels for a barge to pass through in the opposite direction before easing their own way through snarling traffic.

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