Water levels in area lakes dropping

July 17, 2012 3:00:17 PM PDT
While temperatures are rising, water levels in Lake Michigan and other lakes in the Chicago area are dropping.

According to a report, for the month of June, the Chain O'Lakes area has only received about 25 to 50 percent of its usual rainfall, making it hard for boaters to navigate. The area depends in large part on tourism to survive.

"This is probably the worst I've seen it," said Jim Wendlandt, a Chicago cop.

Between the extreme heat and the drought this may very well be one of the weakest boating seasons the Chain O'Lakes has seen in recent years. Wendlandt is spending a week here with his kids, but the boat is staying put for now.

"The kids keep asking me to go out but you can just look at the seawall there and see we're about two feet down, and I'm afraid if I go out I'm not going to even get out of the dock here," said Wendlandt.

The Stratton Lock and Dam in McHenry regulates boat traffic between the Fox River and the lakes. They say the water flows are well below average to the point that there is no water going over the dam.

"Have been talking to the general public as they come in with their vessels letting them know there's low water levels upriver and downstream and just to beware, be careful," said John Palmieri, lockmaster at the Stratton Lock and Dam.

"The lower Fox River is lower. Boats can't run on it. They're actually pulling them out of the water, bringing them up to upper river," said boater Carl Darling.

One coast guard patrol tells us they've seen several incidents of boats stuck in the muck over the last month. The regulars tell us, it all comes down to navigation.

"If you know the water, you're OK, but if you're a newcomer to these lakes, you'd better make sure that you're driving right in the middle, because if you're getting close to shoreline you're going to be in trouble. It's shallow," said boater Mike Przybylski.

The Department of Natural Resources is saying they are worried about the difficulty in balancing water flows, not just because of the effect on marine life and boaters, but because it also impacts drinking supplies for nearby communities.


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