Coping with Changing Great Lakes Water Levels
Posted on: May 31, 2017

University of Michigan (Taubman College, Ann Arbor) reports that a multidisciplinary team of researchers have developed planning methods around land use and development decisions for Great Lakes coastal communities. The methods are meant to address unpredictably fluctuating water levels and increasing storms.

The coastal management techniques are aimed at communities of Great Lakes landowners who see low water levels as an opportunity to build close to shore. However, Great Lakes water levels have been shown to “fluctuate substantially,” and when water levels rise, this puts land developments at risk. Thus, the researchers’ goal is to help communities employ practical planning methods that “help them enjoy their coastal assets while protecting people, property, economies, and ecosystems.”

U of M suggests that scenario-based methods help communities plan effectively without conducting engineering studies, which can be costly. They explain that this approach

“…creates different combinations of water levels and storminess to anticipate possible climate futures and map coastal areas at risk of waves and flooding. Each possible climate future is paired with a set of management options, such as zoning-based setbacks, to create a single scenario. The scenarios are then used to identify the risks and benefits of development in coastal areas.”

This short video created by Resilient Great Lakes Coast summarizes the benefits of a prescient approach to Great Lakes coastal management.

The Resilient Great Lakes Coast website includes useful information on the research which details approaches, identifying high-risk flood areas, land use and environmental impacts, vulnerability assessment, fiscal impact analysis, implementing adaptation, and more. University of Michigan reports that the researchers worked with several coastal communities in Michigan to develop the planning methods, such as Ludington, Pere Marquette, Hamlin, Grand Haven, and St. Joseph.


If you’re interested to review and implement this Great Lakes coastal management research as a model in your own community, visit Resilient Great Lakes Coast. 

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