Is the cork off the bottle?

John of Grand Haven asked, "After reading your article ("Great Lakes drain," Jan. 26) about the lake levels going down and dredging over on the east side of the state, it made me wonder that if levels continue to go down, will dredging continue? Big ships need so much depth to come up into the lakes, where does it stop? Is the cork off the 'bottle,' or is the 'bottle' broken?"
Mark Brooky
Feb 8, 2013



Tom O'Bryan, chief of the Lake Michigan Area Office of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said dredging will continue as long as there is funding available for it and the appropriate navigation structures have been analyzed.

Here's his detailed explanation why:

"In the past, dredging is only to an elevation below a datum elevation (low water datum, or LWD, equals 577.5 feet). So, with the lake levels dropping below this LWD currently, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has additional authorization to dredge below LWD on those Great Lakes that are below LWD," he said. "Michigan and Huron fall into this category. Other factors come in to play regarding this as the adjacent navigation structures need to be looked at to assure the additional depth will not cause any failure."

In addition, O'Bryan said to keep in mind that there also would be problems if they didn't also dredge harbors during past high water levels.

"The record high was in 1986 and the dredging that occurred on the east side, if not accomplished, would have raised the record high water levels even higher by 10-16 inches," he said.

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