Understanding the Impacts of High Water Levels on Your Facility
April 19, 2022
The purpose of a High Water Level Vulnerability Analysis (VA) is to identify potential impacts to a facility resulting from high water in the Great Lakes Basin. The United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) monitors and forecasts water levels of the Great Lakes Basin, which encompasses the Great Lakes, the surrounding states, and Ontario, Canada. Record-high water levels were observed in 2019 and 2020, while 2021 saw a shift to below-record levels. According to the U.S. EPA website, “The past few years have shown notable increases [in the Great Lakes’ water levels] toward the top of the historical range.”
At the beginning of 2022, the USACE six-month water level forecast projected that Lakes Michigan, Huron, St. Clair, and Erie will retain their above-average water level. Lake Ontario is projected to remain above average until July, when the water level is forecast to transition below average through September (the end of the available six-month forecast).
Envirologic offers VA services for industrial and commercial clients, so they can understand the vulnerability of their infrastructure to damage caused by potential high water levels. A VA includes a summary of a facility’s current systems and its potential vulnerability. The report also identifies response actions that may be necessary for the facility to continue to meet its National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit requirements.
In years past, the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy has requested that certain lakeshore/near-lakeshore entities with NPDES permits conduct and submit VAs. The intent is to prepare facilities to implement preventative measures to maintain the requirements of their NPDES permits in the event of high water level events.
As of January 2022, the Climate Prediction Center’s (CPC) seasonal precipitation forecast for the Great Lakes Basin predicted above-average precipitation for the first quarter of 2022. Likewise, the April 2022 USACE Monthly Bulletin of Lake Levels for the Great Lakes reported the Great Lakes Basin received above-average precipitation for the month of March, trending with the CPC s forecast. Lakes Michigan-Huron received 146% of average precipitation, well above the norm.
In March 2022, Lakes Superior and Michigan-Huron declined less than an inch in water level, likely reaching their seasonal low. They are predicted to begin their seasonal rise during April. Lakes St. Clair, Erie, and Ontario have already begun their seasonal rise, with Lake St. Clair having risen 10 inches and Lakes Erie and Ontario rising 4 inches during March.
While the rise of the Great Lakes’ water levels is impacting shoreline communities and businesses, inland lakes and streams are also reaching high water levels. It may be prudent to conduct a VA of your inland facility regardless of whether an NPDES permit is in place. Envirologic can assist you with conducting a VA of your facility, as well as updating your Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasure Plans and Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plans.
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