This summer's high temperatures and lack of rain are taking a toll. This week Lake Michigan is measuring about 2 feet below average -- nearing record low levels.
Record Low: about 576 feet
Current Level: about 577 feet
Average Level: about 579 feet
You can't tell from close up, but there are certainly signs that the water levels on Lake Michigan are down -- way down.
"I haven't seen the lake levels officially but judging by what I see on the piling wall, I think the water is down over a foot now," says Pete Berghoff, the owner of Dock 63 in St. Joseph, MI.
Berghoff can't seem to catch a break. Large barges bring salt and stone to his dock which sits along the St. Joseph River just before it meets Lake Michigan in St. Joseph. He sells off those supplies but last year he couldn't get any barges into the harbor because silt made it too shallow. The harbor has since been dredged but now low water levels in Lake Michigan could affect him again this year.
"No water equals no boats, no boats equals no stone, no stone equals no business," says Berghoff.
And most boaters are noticing a difference too. Along every marina and dock in St. Joseph mother nature has marked on walls and boat docks where the water level normally sits. But because the water is so low, those water level marks are exposed.
At Pier 33 Marina a worker told WSBT they have been marking the decreasing water levels with paint over the last few months. The water is about 6 to 8 inches below their last mark which was made in June.
It is not all bad news though.
People who live along the beach in St. Joseph say they are noticing they have more sandy beach than normal.
So, why are levels so low? Tom O'Bryan from the Army Corps of Engineers says the two factors that affect lake levels are evaporation and precipitation. Last winter was mild so the lakes didn't freeze, which meant there was more evaporation. And because there wasn't a lot of snow, the lake didn't receive much melt off from a snow pack. Then, this summer we experienced hot weather and a lack of rain.
"If we have low precipitation levels below normal and we continue to have above average temperatures we should be below our all time low water levels in the mont of November and December this year," says O'Bryan.