It’s something anyone who’s been past the lake can’t help but notice this year: high water swallowing up sidewalks, piers and beaches up and down the city’s coastline.
While less space to lay out on the sand is a bummer for beachgoers, Joel Brammeier, president and CEO of the Alliance for the Great Lakes, says it’s a fairly normal part of the lake’s cycle, with peaks every 30 years or so.
“This is a great reminder that the Great Lakes are not bathtubs. The water levels going up and down is part of a natural process, and it actually is good for the critters that live in the lake,” he said. “It improves the diversity of coastal habitats, which are critically important for all the things that depend on the lake to live.”
High water has completely covered some of Chicago’s tiniest beaches, clustered near Howard Street at the far northern edge of the city. While waves battering breakers, buildings and sidewalks are making some Chicagoans nervous, Brammeier thinks it’s good that it’s got their attention.
“The flip side of (the natural cycle) is this increased volatility that we think is being driven in part by global climate change trends. … The one thing I’m glad about is that the more people see the lakes go up and see these extremes, the more people are talking about them,” he said.