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USACE, Detroit District, Role in Emergency Management
International Lake Superior Board of Control
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NOAA - Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory
Living on the Coast Booklet
Sandbagging Instructional Video
Water levels are primarily determined by regional climatic conditions, which influence the net basin supply (NBS) of water to each lake. NBS represents the net influence of precipitation over the lake, runoff from a lake’s watershed into the lake, and evaporation from the lake’s surface. Over the past several years, the NBS has, more often than not, been above average on all lakes. On Lake Superior and Michigan-Huron, the extremely high 2013, 2014, 2017, and 2018 NBS were especially noticeable, and were accompanied by a record setting 2-year rise in 2013-2014. This dramatic rise in water levels came on the heels of a decade of mostly below average NBS that resulted in an extended period of low water levels and culminated in a record low water level on Lake Michigan-Huron in January 2013. So far in 2019, there has been a continuation of this wet pattern as precipitation and runoff have been above average throughout the spring leading to the rapid rise in water levels experienced across all of the lakes beginning in the spring and into the summer. For more information on conditions in the Great Lakes basin that impact water levels, see our Great Lakes Basin Conditions page.
Official forecasts of Great Lakes water levels extend out six months. To see the latest 6-month forecast, see the Monthly Bulletin of Great Lakes Water Levels. Beyond six months, it is difficult to say with certainty how high the water levels will be, because climatic forecasts become less certain. However, it is safe to say that unless we see very dry conditions, water levels will remain very high for the time being.
Lake Superior outflow is regulated by the International Lake Superior Board of Control, under the authority of the International Joint Commission. Although the Board as the ability to control Lake Superior's outflow, full control of lake levels is not possible. This is because the major factors that affect the supply of water to the Great Lakes (overlake precipitation, runoff, and evaporation) cannot be controlled, nor can they be accurately predicted over the long term.
Unfortunately, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers cannot provide individual assistance for erosion or erosion-related damage under emergency response authorities.
However, the Corps of Engineers has a program to assist communities with shoreline erosion. To be eligible, there are several factors that have to be considered. First, the erosion must be threatening public infrastructure (major road, water treatment facility, school, etc). In addition to public infrastructure being present, there has to be an imminent threat to the structure(s). Please contact our Outreach Coordinator at 313-226-3387 for additional information on this program.
If you feel that you are in danger or need immediate assistance, please call 911 or contact your local authorities.
The primary responsibility for protecting homes and property from flood damage rests with the individual. Non-federal interests, which include local governments, levee and drainage districts, federally recognized Indian tribes and the state share the responsibility and together they form the first line of defense in preventing flood damage. Occasionally, however, local resources are not able to contain or control a flood emergency situation. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' flood disaster assistance program is intended to supplement and support local interests upon their request for assistance. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers can furnish assistance for flood emergency preparation and flood fighting, as well as provide flood fight personnel for technical advice, sandbags, plastic sheeting, pumps or other materials or equipment for an imminent or actual flood emergency in order to protect against substantial loss of life and property.
Additionally, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has several programs that can assist with community flooding issues in the long-term. Government entities are eligible to submit requests under these programs. The range of services that the Corps can provide varies from providing technical assistance, to conducting a study, to constructing a flood control solution. Examples include determining why you are having flooding issues, flood warning/preparedness, a flood damage reduction study, or construction projects such as levees or flood gates. If your community is interested in understanding why you are getting flooded, being prepared for an upcoming event, reducing the impacts of a flood event on your community or obtaining help with the construction of a flood control solution, please reach out to your local emergency management agency or contact us directly at CELRE-EOC@usace.army.mil or (313) 226-1323.
In general, Corps' permits are needed for structures and work (including dredging and discharges of dredged or fill material) in navigable waters of the U.S., and discharges of dredged or fill material into waters of the U.S., including wetlands. Shore protection projects typically requiring Corps' permits include riprap, revetments, seawalls and bioengineered shore protection. Many shore protection projects qualify for expedited review under general permits.
Contact the Corps of Engineers, Detroit District Regulatory Office with questions about permit requirements in Michigan or Indiana. For Illinois, Chicago District Regulatory Office, and for Wisconsin and Minnesota, St. Paul District Regulatory Office.
Detroit District Regulatory Office
Chicago District Regulatory Office
St. Paul District Regulatory Office