Lake Michigan water level highest in 17 years

Published: Jul. 8, 2019 at 5:39 PM EDT
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The water level of Lake Michigan hit a 17-year high in the month of June.

Lake Michigan is now 13 inches higher than it was last year at this time and 4 feet above its average historic level.

While the rising tide simply lifted all boats at the marina in Michigan City, it frustrated some land-loving beachgoers who found their favorite haunts have either disappeared or been dramatically reduced in size.

“Little different than last year and different than the year before,” Debbie McMullan said while sitting on a modest strip of Cherry Beach in Chikaming Township. “Every year, it seems the water goes a little further up here.”

“The beach is pretty much disappeared,” added Debbie’s husband, Kelly. “There’s only about 10 feet here.”

Kelly said the beach once extended at least 30 feet.

Chikaming Township has closed its Pier Street Beach because the stairs now lead directly to the water. Operation of the Harbert Beach has been intermittent this year, although it is now considered open.

“When we look at water, well, the more water, the more hazard," added Dave Benjamin, executive director of the Great Lakes Rescue Project. “Water in general is a huge hazard. Water unfortunately is one of the leading causes of accidental death in the nation and the world. Most people are simply unaware of that.”

Benjamin said that the high water tends to break down or reorganize sandbar formations that play a key role informing rip tides.

“We also have less beach space, so we may have more people on a smaller piece of sand, so it can be a little more challenging to keep track of the people who are in your party on the beach,” he said.