The Log is taking a break from history and “the Widow Maker’s” era to note some recent highwater events along the lakeshore. The Widow Maker sales are continuing at Amazon. Each month the royalty checks have been a bit bigger-so keep spreading the word! Our next book signing will be in Canada at the South Bay Mariners Museum on June 22.
Last week we took a ‘cruise’ along the shoreline between Port Bay and our home port of Little Sodus. There wasn’t a great deal of wind so we motored along a few hundred yards from land, curious to survey the 2019 high water effects. Evidence of erosion was abundant along this stretch. Some of the shoreline bluffs had a narrow vestige of a beach, others had absolutely no beach. Black Creek, Red Creek (see photo above) and Blind Creek all had breached barrier bars as did Blind Sodus Bay.
Blind Sodus Bay, a developed embayment just west of Fair Haven developed a gap in its barrier bar during the 2017 high water event ( as did Sodus Bay). That gap has widened considerably this year, though I’d estimate perhaps half the barrier bar with its willows and cottonwoods and ash trees remains intact. This year the cormorants are nesting in trees near the end of the remaining bar with at least a hundred nests visible in trees.
The Blind Creek bar breached initially last November and the gap has continued to widen since then. Back in November lake levels were a little higher than average for that time of year and the breach (like Black and Red Creek’s) occurred on the west side of the marsh. It has continued to widen since then, and wave action has ripped out a considerable area of emergent vegetation(photo shows entrance back in early April).
In 2017 with similar high water levels, this marsh did not lose it’s barrier bar. Now, however lake water wave action, temperatures and siltation from near by bluffs have created a very different environment for this marsh. The heavy erosion from the bluff has also resulted in an almost constant plume of sediment out in front of it with unknown impacts on the insect larvae and other benthic life of the shallows here.
I do not know if the barrier bars at Black and Red Creek breached in 2017, but I do know back in March the Red Creek bar was still intact. We wonder, with similar water levels what is different this time? I know that many permits have been issued and much of the residential development now has been ‘hardened’. But the stretch we surveyed is lightly inhabited and it’s difficult to believe hardening would be having that much of an effect on the supply and movement of beach building gravel.
The human reaction to this second year of record high water has been predictable. Blame the IJC or other government entities. Recently I heard that Obama had created Plan 14. (I busted out laughing at that one, rude maybe but couldn’t help it. Oh, and by the way Plan 14 only raised spring water levels by 2 inches, not 2 feet).
But the people are right. Something is different. As Log readers know I’m convinced that loss of arctic sea ice, associated changes in jet stream behavior, and stalled weather systems that result in extreme flooding drought and other anomalous weather have a lot to do with it. Something else people who lack historical perspective don’t know is that before the Sea Way and that damn dam at Messina, the lake levels varied MORE widely than they do now. Since systematic recording of lake levels began around 1860 Lake Ontario varied 6.6 feet. Since regulation the variation has been 4.2 feet. This article has a graph that shows pretty clearly how humans have muted the variation in Ontario.
link below or enter 'Historic Lake Ontario levels' into search engine for this IJC pdf