May 14, 2020

Great Lakes High WaterA flooded marina parking lot in Sodus Bay during the 2017 high water event.

We have periodically reported on the very significant issue of high water levels in the Great Lakes for several years now. There have been high water events in 2017 and 2019 resulting in dramatic shoreline erosion and damage where docks, boat houses, homes and businesses have been affected; in some cases destroyed. There has generally been no compensation available to those businesses and individuals suffering the losses. Some marinas have invested hundreds of thousands to rebuild and secure their waterfront structures in the last few years, and we have a great concern that 2020 will again be a high water level year.

Boating Ontario is very engaged with the provincial and federal government and also the International Joint Commission, (IJC). The IJC has equal representation from both Canada and the United States as the governing body for the Great Lakes.

The IJC in particular has major control over water levels and they are responsible to many different interests including the Great Lakes shipping industry, power generation, and other interests who want water levels within a certain range.

The purpose of this story is to say that anyone can access excellent information on this and without cost.

The US Army Corps of Engineers has an excellent website with a wealth of information that is easily accessed and understood.

By going to their site at for the full spectrum of information or to the water levels pages at the general public can find lots of information on water levels. These are referenced to the International Great Lakes Datum of 1985 (IGLD 85). On the charts, water levels have been coordinated with Canada for the full history from 1918-2019.

Options include downloading the Long Term Average, Maximum, and Minimum Great Lakes Water Levels in either feet or meters. You can see the coordinated monthly mean water levels and the graphs give a good idea of where the levels are likely to go in the coming weeks and months.

Another organization we follow is United Shoreline Ontario, which is Canadian and works closely with Save Our Sodus, a similar American organization. Both are dedicated to the rights of property owners in Canada and the U.S. This could be another year with high water levels and major flooding and damage that will affect our industry significantly.

From Boating Industry Canada News Week