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Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Environment - "What happens if the water in Lake Michigan keeps disappearing?"

The subhead to this lengthy, illustrated (and with audio) Jan. 7 report by Lewis Wallace of Chicago Public Media WBEZ91.4 reads: "Great Lake humbled by record low water levels. Without a turnaround, shipping, fishing, and whole towns are at risk."

One section is headed "Indiana's not immune" and discusses Indiana Harbor. A quote:

“If we had another summer like we had this summer, you know, lord help us,” said Dan Cornellie of ArcelorMittal steel.

For every inch of water the lake loses, the ships supplying two large steel plants here have to lighten their loads by hundreds of tons. Right now freighters are coming into the harbor with two and a half feet less draft than just a few years ago, so for every six trips a ship makes, ArcelorMittal pays for a seventh to make up the difference. The result is a pricier bottom line for the thin, high-quality steel used to make everything from refrigerators to coffee machines.

Cornellie has been in the industry for a long time, and he remembers the low lake levels of 1964, but he said this time it doesn’t feel the same.

“Well, in '64 nobody talked about climate change,” he said. “There’s no mystery what’s going on. It’s a question of whether any of those temperature or precipitation trends reverse.”

Another story from the same reporter, dated Dec. 17, 2012, is headed "Drought could lead Chicago River to reverse course (again): The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers warns low water in Lake Michigan could cause the river to flow back into the lake."

And what of the Mississippi? This morning on NPR's Morning Edition, Clay Masters' story, headed "Mississippi River Level Disrupts Supply Chain," begins:

The Mississippi River is at historically low levels. The Army Corps of Engineers says the river will likely be able to stay open through the month, but soon it may be too shallow in parts for barge traffic. There have been calls for the corps to release water from reservoirs along the Mississippi.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on January 9, 2013 08:50 AM
Posted to Environment