Everything about the bay: boat holds, water weather, beach closures and more
Is Grand Traverse Bay warm enough for a weekend swim? What are your chances of getting a marina slip this year? And what about those record water levels and the occasional summer beach closures due to contamination? Just in time for summer, The teleprinter calculate the numbers that affect the water economy in and around the bay.
According to Heather Smith, bay warden for Watershed Center Grand Traverse Bay, the highest “May monthly mean water level” on record for Lake Michigan – Huron (which she says is “considered a lake, hydrologically ”) was May 2020. The May monthly average has not yet been calculated for 2021, but April figures indicate a slight improvement: Lake Michigan – Huron water levels are down by about 17 inches from last May, but still 22 inches above the long-term average.
“So we’re not as high as we were last year around this time, but we’re still way above average,” Smith concludes. “An important thing to keep in mind is that we are talking about an elevation. Lake levels that have fallen by about 17 inches since last year mean that some beaches have risen – or, more precisely, “come back” – by 15 feet or more, depending on the slope.
Landowners and government municipalities have reason to celebrate the return of 15 feet or more of beach space and coastal land. Last year, The teleprinter has repeatedly reported on high water issues, ranging from threats to private homes to the collapse of Bluff Road. As water levels drop, these types of property risks become less serious.
However, Smith is quick to warn that the drop in water levels did not immediately solve the problems caused by last year’s water levels. High water causes erosion and threatens “structures and infrastructure built too close to the water’s edge”. This damage is still there, as are the protective structures that the owners have put in place to prevent the rising waters.
“2020 brought a record number of shoreline shielding permits – hence, riprap and dykes – across the state,” says Smith. “While we don’t have a final count of the length of shoreline hardening along Grand Traverse Bay, we suspect that thousands or hundreds of thousands of feet of shoreline may have been hardened in 2020. This significantly reduces shoreline health and near shore habitat. complexity.”
While Traverse City has already had its fair share of summer temperatures this spring, that doesn’t mean the bay has reached summer swimming temperatures yet. Temperatures in the bay fluctuate quite a bit throughout the season depending on air temperature, wind direction and water depth.
Smith says current water temperatures in the bay hover around 50 degrees Fahrenheit. There are no National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) buoys with continuous water temperature monitoring in Grand Traverse Bay itself, but the nearest buoys – at Point Betsie, north of Frankfort, and in Little Traverse Bay – were showing respective readings of 49.3 and 47.8 degrees Fahrenheit at the time of the call. writing this article.
While current water temperatures in the bay are at or above typical late May / early June averages, according to the Army Corps of Engineers, Smith says swimmers should exercise caution.
“Warm air temperatures can make people swim or paddle, but water temperatures below 70 degrees Fahrenheit can be extremely dangerous,” says Smith. “If people want to go out on the water in a paddle boat, it is safer to do so by wearing a personal flotation device and a wetsuit or drysuit…”
It may not be swimming season yet, but Memorial Day usually marks the start of boating season. If you’re looking for a slide at a local marina, you might have to wait a year or two, or even 20.
According to Shane Dilloway, dockmaster of Duncan L. Clinch Marina, the demand for seasonal slips at the port is so high that the current waiting list has 281 names. In relation to demand, the marina has only 119 slides, of which only 71 are seasonal (the other 48 being reserved for transitory use). These 71 leaflets are divided into seven types of leaflets, ranging from 24 to 60 feet in length. While Dilloway says he generally advises applicants on the wait list to “anticipate a wait of 5 to 7 years,” he also notes that Clinch has previously had boaters on the wait list who waited 10. at age 12 for a slip to open.
And it’s even worse later: Jim Kostrzewa, harbor captain of the Harbor West Yacht Club, says the marina’s waiting list is “so long that we don’t take any more names.”
Water quality and ecosystems
From June 16 to September 8 this summer, the Watershed Center will monitor 14 public beaches along Grand Traverse Bay for signs of E. coli. While the organization is quick to close beaches when high levels of bacteria are detected, Smith says it’s not possible to predict how many closures will occur.
Last year, the monitoring program triggered “dozens of beach closures in Grand Traverse Bay.” Many of them, Smith notes, were the result of “City of Traverse City sanitary sewer overflows during three extreme rain events.” Even without these overflows, however, Smith says that “rainfall, proximity of beaches to storm sewers, sewage or faecal leakage” and other factors will still lead to water quality issues. sometimes.
To be safe at the beach this summer, we suggest people pay attention to the beach watch results found on the Watershed Center’s Facebook page, as good as Michigan BeachGuard System“Smith continues.” Also, it is safer to avoid swimming on beaches adjacent to storm sewers during or immediately after rainfall events. “
E. coli bacteria are not the only threat to the health of the bay or its beaches: litter and litter is another big problem that the Watershed Center is working to tackle. This spring alone, the organization removed nearly 1,000 pounds of trash from “over 30 stretches of beach along Grand Traverse Bay.”
There is also a less immediately noticeable threat: invasive species. Scientists have estimated that the Great Lakes are collectively home to more than 180 invasive species, from mussels to fish. Smith says those interested in learning more about these species – and particularly those that “pose an immediate or potential threat to Michigan’s economy, environment or human health” – can do so by exploring the “Invasive Species Watchlist. “