Lake Erie water levels receding

It took most of the summer for water levels to retreat from a dirt road leading to the Conneaut Sandbar that was not used this summer because of the high water levels.

CONNEAUT — Lake Erie water levels reached record highs this year. Waters have begun to recede, but are still above average.

Conneaut Harbormaster Denver Spieldenner said water levels have gone down but there were still issues at some of the harbor’s facilities.

Water levels were 4.7 inches above the record high in June, and 32 inches above average, according to the Army Corps of Engineers.

In mid-June, the Port Authority had to shut down power to parts of the Port Conneaut Marina because of the high water level. Power is still off because of the water, Spieldenner said.

The Port Authority also had to construct bridges atop some docks to allow safe access.

“The water is down to the dock height again, so things are looking up,” Port Authority Chairman Wally Dunne said.

Several Port Authority docks were damaged during the winter of 2018-19 by ice, waves, and wind. This year, ice and wind and will be the biggest threat to the docks, Spieldenner said.

“It just depends on the wind and how much ice we get,” he said. “It’s mostly the wind that affects us. We’ll have to wait and see what kind of storms we get in November, December and January.”

Lake levels are at 573.56 feet, said Andrew Kornacki, chief of public affairs with the Buffalo Army Corps of Engineers. Lake levels are still 25 inches above average, Kornacki said. The levels are down five inches from August, according to data from the Corps of Engineers.

In July, the city of Conneaut constructed a $300,000 wall to protect the pumps that provide the city with drinking water. The pumps are near the water-level, and the enclosure that protected the pumps and the building that houses them was washed away by high water and storms, city officials said.

The Conneaut sandbar is still closed, Spieldenner said. The road leading to the sandbar has been under water for most of the summer.

“We’re looking forward to being able to open the sandbar next year,” Dunne said.

Mark Brockway, owner of North Coast Marina in Ashtabula, said his marina has been lucky and been affected less than others by the high water levels.

“We always have a concern with ice damage,” Brockway said, but added that the biggest concern was from ice floes from up-river, not necessarily from the lake.

The Geneva Marina takes a preventative approach, dockmaster Bob Munson said.

“The only docks that we usually have any concern with are docks more towards the opening of our harbor, and we take a dock and the fingers, (which) is the dock that goes out that the boat is next to, so we take those fingers off and move them to a more protected area within the marina,” Munson said.

The Corps of Engineers expects lake levels to continue to decline and end up near their averages if rainfall levels are in line with past years, Kornacki said. Depending on how much rainfall there is, lake levels could vary widely.

“It really fluctuates,” Kornacki said. “It’s safe to say it’s going to continue to decline.”

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