Good Weather Causing Pricey Problems On Lake Erie

EASTLAKE, Ohio – The good weather that northeast Ohio has gotten this winter has been great for most of us, but it has led to some expensive problems on Lake Erie, 19/43 News' Bill Younkin reported.

As the lake level goes down, up goes the costs of keeping marinas open and rivers clear for navigation and flood control.

John Sima, who is the owner of Sima Marine, said that the Eastlake Port Authority spent $300,000 last year to keep Chagrin River marinas open. A lot of that fee was covered by state and federal grants, but marina operators said that they paid to do their own dredging as well.

Sima said he figures that he spent $60,000 last summer, and he'll pay even more this year.

"It makes running a marina not profitable for sure," Sima said.

Without dredging, the riverbed would fall to under four feet of water. On the other side of the low lake level crises are the marine contractors. A few years ago, they couldn't find work, but now it's a much different story.

"In the back channel, it was still June and I believe we were still dredging there," dredging company worker Chris Ross said.

The water-level problem could always be worse -- some marinas have simply run out of water.

"The one good thing here is we are able to dredge," Sima said. "I know up in the western end of the lake there are some areas that are so large that they just can't dredge and become unusable due to the low lake levels."

The lower water levels are being blamed on a lack of heavy snowfall in the upper Great Lakes. That and the fact that Lake Erie never froze over this winter is leading to even more evaporation.

This is the third straight year of lower lake levels.