Lake Michigan water levels up, shrinking beaches

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Lake levels are up four feet since 2013, which means a spot on the beach will be at a premium this summer. (WLS)

Lake Michigan water levels are up four feet since 2013, causing shrinking beaches and significant problems along Chicago's lakefront.

The last time the lake was so high during the spring was in the 1980s. Right now, the water is about a foot away from its all-time May high.

"Montrose (Beach), it feels like, even length-wise, it's reduced by a third," said Katherine Kinney, who has lived in the city's Edgewater neighborhood for more than a decade. She said she's seen the problem in many area beaches.

Heavy precipitation in recent years has caused the high levels.

The area's average annual rainfall is 38.89 inches. However, the Chicago area and much of the Great Lakes has seen higher yearly rainfall totals for each of the last three years - 42.09 inches in 2013, 39.47 inches in 2014 and 39.85 inches in 2015.

The higher levels have impacted not just beaches, but trails and piers as well.

"The pier, or walkway, is completely under water where it used to be last year. So it's quite a bit this year," said Patrick Oceans along the lakefront in the Edgewater neighborhood.

The high water levels has caused erosion problems at Ohio Street Beach and Northerly Island.

Lake levels usually fall in the summer due to warmer and longer days, which increases rates of evaporation. In July, August and September, lake levels are expected to drop.
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