Lake Michigan water levels rising after long-term lows


Remember how miserable we were this past winter? Well, it's paying off for people who live and work along the shores of Lake Michigan. After seeing critically low water levels just a year and a half ago, the water in lake Michigan seems to be on the rebound.

At Brian's Marina in St. Joseph, Maxine the shop cat watches customers come in and out.

"Maxine loves the customers," says Brian Jewel, who owns the marina.

And this summer Maxine has been busy.

"It's nice having the extra water this year," says Jewel.

Jewel has owned the Marina for more than 30 years. It sits along the St. Joseph River which goes up and down and is affected by the lake levels.

According to scientists, Lake Michigan has been below its long term average for the past 15 years -- that's the longest stretch of below average levels in its recorded history which goes back to 1918. And in January of 2013 the lake hit a record low.

"Two seasons ago, we had to dig out," says Jewel. "It was getting so shallow that we had to get some extra depth in here cause the boats were sitting on the bottom."

And that cost a lot of money. And to top things off, boaters were afraid to put their boats in the water. So business, like the lake, was critically low. Scientists say a combination of hot weather and little rain were to blame.

Now though, its a different story.

"Last fall you could literally see the dirt [along the pier] and right now we probably have a good extra foot or so [of water] than what we have before," says Jewel.

So where did the water come from? Scientists say two years of above average rain and snow and a really cold winter caused water to rise more than normal.

"This is a good level right here," says Jewel.

For Jewel, and Maxine, the more water there is, the more customers they see.

The US Army Corps of Engineers says right now the lake is still about 4 inches below average. But they predict that by the end of the year it will only be about an inch below average. And if we were to see more rain, the Corps says it is quite possible the lake could be above average in next couple months. If that happens, it would be first time the lake has been above average since 1999.