Policy Implications of Rising Water Levels in the Great Lakes

Alexa Longstaff

Great Lakes

In this capstone, I will explore the emerging trend of record high Great Lakes water levels and the impact of this trend on coastal environments and infrastructure.  I will provide background information on the causes and analyze the implications as they relate to policy, with perspectives including, but not limited to, liability, public expenditure, private property, and current case studies that exemplify how local governments are responding.  In the end, I will show how this can be applied on a larger scale to accommodate the changes that a high water level has brought to the Great Lakes region as well as my reflections on the effectiveness of certain policy decisions.

I will also perform statistical analysis on water level data to confirm that current levels are outside of the previous normal variability.  While the current trend reflects higher than normal water levels, which has its unique implications, data reveals that more extreme low and high levels are likely to become an expected event.  The information I will focus on in this project will be about high water levels, as this situation has its unique implications.

The Great Lakes represent a vital source of fresh water that must be represented with policies that reflect changing conditions that impact the Great Lakes ecosystem and economic network.  In discussions regarding the mitigation of climate change, the Great Lakes must not be forgotten as they represent a lifeline for millions of people. I grew up on Lake Michigan, appreciating its power and variability, and I hope to accomplish an in-depth study of the implications of high water levels on policy decisions.