Rising Waters, Rising Concerns: Part 5

Water levels on Lakes Michigan and Huron have been going up all year, breaking record highs each month. We’ve been showing local impacts of the high water.

This week we’re focusing in how the freighters along the St. Marys River are creating major problems.  06 29 20 Rwrc St. Mary's Ri.mov

“It’s God’s country.  Fresh air, blue skies. I mean, it’s why everybody downstate kills themselves to get up here to vacation in the summertime, and for us it’s 12 months.”

The St. Marys River between the Sault Ste. Marie and Detour: it’s one of the most gorgeous waterways in the world fill with beauty at every turn.

It’s also one of the best freighter-viewing rivers for boat nerd. But with the historic water levels we’re experiencing, shipping is causing problems due to something call the Bernoulli effect. We were lucky enough to follow the Arthur M. Anderson down the St. Marys.  Watch what happens as the Anderson goes by the park in the Soo.

As the ship approaches, the water gets displaced getting pushed out to the edges of the river. But the water then rushes back in behind the boat creating incredible waves. This is a major problem for property owners up and down the river.

“Barbeau is a really bad spot because it’s very low. It floods so bad when those freighters go through here it just sucks the water right back out and it’ll pitch it back up maybe 50 feet onto somebodies lawn.”

Welcome to Bob’s Island by Detour! Most of what you see was a yard not long ago!

The big ore boats are what create the biggest waves.  Add in the high water levels AND a strong east wind, things get so much worse!

“When we get a wind from Drummond Island it washes right up here and as I said before 5 years ago it was 100 yards out there. We had launched fireworks out there. And now, coupled with a ship going by it will wash right on up to the deck. It will wash right up there and splash on the window,” explained Bob Vaught, who lives on the river.

The waves in his yard have even created a duck pond.

“It’s almost like a tsunami. Water splashes up on the front windows.  There’s mornings I wake up and wonder if I’m gonna have a houseboat or something of that nature. I haven’t tried fishing off the deck yet but it’s getting close. I can toss a rock from the couch into the water now,” said Bob.

Cathy Kohring is having the same problem. She calls it “the beast from the east because it starts from way over there, and by the time we get it, it just destroys us just destroys. It was bad enough when we have low water now as high water that just wipes us out every time.”

The water is so strong it can move 40 lb. boulders!

“There was a beautiful dock, David had benches and I could go through here with a 48 inch John Deere lawnmower and still have room to spare when I was cutting now, I don’t even want to walk at one point because you can see where it’s undercut.”

So, is it even worth it to live here?   Kathy and Bob say YES!

There is no question this month’s record will be broken by 4.5 inches! That’s just incredible. The problem is levels will go up another inch or so before starting the fall drop. So, things will get worse before getting better, at least we are almost at the top of the hill.