High Great Lake Water Levels Causing Some Flooding from the Boardman River

“I’ve worked downtown for 20 years and this is as high as I’ve ever seen the river,” said Bill O’Brien, the communications manager for the Traverse City Chamber of Commerce.

High water levels on Lake Michigan are affecting the Boardman River in Traverse City.

The water’s fluctuation keeps flooding the boardwalk near Cass Street.

A river ecologist we spoke with says water levels have not been this high since 1986.

“Within the last couple weeks, there have been a couple days where it’s actually come up over the edge, over the patio here and then over the river walk and then within a couple of hours it’s back down,” said O’Brien.

O’Brien says he walks to work every day and has paid close attention to these high river levels.

“It makes the river walk kind of dangerous and slippery and kind of tough to navigate down here,” said O’Brien.

He says he’s worried tourists won’t be able to enjoy this boardwalk.

“All the tourists, you know, people do like to come down and walk on the boardwalk and go up and down and if it’s wet or even if it’s just slippery, it makes it a little less safe so people need to be careful,” explained O’Brien.

While getting a look at the situation ourselves, we actually ran into river ecologist, Brett Fessell.

“What we’re seeing here is just a backwater effect from that lake level rising and then to add to that we’ve got a north wind that’s pushing water and stacking up into the end of the bay,” said Fessell.

He says that’s creating seiche waves, which are like small tides.

However, there’s good news.

“I would say this would be the lowest elevation in terms of a boardwalk or any kind of infrastructure so impacting those businesses would be unlikely,” said Fessell.