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Beaches get smaller as Lake Michigan water levels continue to rise

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ST JOSEPH, Mich. -- Rising water levels in the Great Lakes are causing erosion and flooding concerns for local lakeside communities.

The latest water level update from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers shows that over the last month, Lake Michigan lake levels have risen 7 to 10 inches. The water is expected to continue to rise over the next 6 months. 

The high levels are also impacting Lake Michigan beach lines.

The co-founder of Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, a nonprofit that works to cut the number of Great Lakes drownings through training and education, Dave Benjamin is asking beach goers to take certain precautions due to the higher water levels.

Benjamin says that the high water levels are shrinking Lake Michigan beaches. Putting it simply, he says more water means more hazards for people out on the beach. 

“Water is one of the leading causes of accidental death. If we’re looking at the beach here in Michigan City, Indiana, there’s a lot less beach here than there was last year. And, we have a lot of people that come to this beach every summer, which means this beach is going to be even more crowded, and in a smaller space,” Benjamin said. 

He explains that although the higher water levels don’t change the way lifeguards are trained, crowded beaches due to the changing beach lines make it harder for lifeguards to monitor the open water.

Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk is just one example of the devastating impact higher water levels have had on shorelines across the area. Right now, the beach is temporarily closed due to hazardous conditions from erosion. 

Benjamin asks that swimmers are careful on the sandbars because the arrangement of their formations can change due to the high water levels.

Plus, if you take the boat out, be on the lookout hazards like vegetation or trees that could’ve been washed off the shore line that are now submerged close to the water due to high water levels and wave activity.

He also says to take water safety into consideration is along the piers of Lake Michigan.

“Because the water level is higher along the piers, a smaller wave, 2 feet 3 feet might be enough to wash someone off the pier. So, we always tell people to steer clear from the pier. It’s one of the mantras across the great lakes. Whenever there’s water washing over the piers you should definitely stay off them, do not swim near them,” Benjamin said. 

Benjamin tells ABC57 that last year was the deadliest year on the Great Lakes with 40 drownings in Lake Michigan. 

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