- Tales of boaters hitting dry patches
in lakes, fish habitats in jeopardy and boat docks overlooking wide expanses
of soil instead of water are the talk of lakeside towns across Ontario.
- Great Lakes water levels are at their
lowest in a decade. Water levels in cottage-country areas of the province,
where tourism is among the biggest industries, have reached all-time lows.
- "It's just bone dry," said
Jim Reed, who owns a bed-and-breakfast near Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., that
includes a boat with the cost of renting a room.
- Boating might prove difficult this spring
and summer at the Surf Side Bed and Breakfast in Echo Bay. Reed can walk
200 metres from the embankment on Lake George before the water gets deep
enough to launch a small boat.
- Everyday he shakes his head at the dry
soil underneath his docks and fears financial ruin as tourist season approaches.
- "It's unreal. It's unreal,"
- The dry and record warm weather in 1998
caused water levels in the Great Lakes to drop dramatically over the past
year. Levels are at their lowest in a decade, according to Environment
- In the Great Lakes system, Lake Huron,
Lake Erie and Lake Ontario water levels are 50 to 65 centimetres lower
than they were in April 1998.
- Lake Superior's water level is 25 centimetres
lower than it was a year ago, setting a record for lowest annual water
supply for the lake this century.
- Other lakes are also feeling the pinch.
- In southern Ontario, Lake St. Clair is
lower than it was last year by 50 to 65 centimetres.
- The dry weather in the Great Lakes area
for most of 1998 meant more water evaporated from the lakes and from the
land, meaning there was far less run-off to replenish Ontario's smaller
- It means boaters will have to be careful
about the hazards associated with low waters this summer.
- Public and private marinas are watching
water levels closely and hoping they can accommodate boats that need deep
- It's a big worry for Andy Clark, who
says levels in the channel leading into his Lake Huron marina are up to
60 centimetres lower than normal.
- While Clark can launch some of the larger
boats he stores at a nearby government-run marina, next fall may be a different
- If water levels don't rise over the summer,
it will be impossible to get 40-foot (12-metre) boats through the channel
and into his marina to be lifted out of the water for winter storage.
- It could even spell financial disaster
if Clark's customers decide to choose one of the other marinas nearby that
can accommodate larger boats.
- Ontario cottagers are also being urged
to be aware of the threats that low water levels pose to them.
- "If you're boating in areas that
are relatively shallow, the possibility of hitting the bottom and having
people go overboard is increased," said Lawrence Swift, a Coast Guard
- Lower waters also mean shoals and rocks
are closer to the surface so boaters who were able to travel over areas
last summer need to exercise caution to avoid hitting them this summer.
- In some areas of the province, low water
levels are hampering the spawning habitats of fish.
- In North Bay, low levels have stopped
northern pike from reaching spawning areas. A watchful eye is also being
kept on walleye spawn, especially from Lake Temagami in the north.
- Industry too could suffer from the low
- For commercial shippers, low water levels
could mean their vessels stand the chance of running aground.
- Along the St. Lawrence Seaway, shippers
were forced to reduce cargo to get through the system last year and dozens
of wells in the Kingston area ran dry.
- And with lower flows, there is less water
available for hydro-electric generation for the large generating plants
on many of Ontario's biggest rivers, including the Niagara and the St.