A one day event for coastal managers dedicated to Lake Superior’s fluctuating water levels.
Many consecutive years of high water conditions in Lake Superior have challenged coastal professionals to consider the best use and management of coastal areas in the face of threatened infrastructure and landscapes, eroding shorelines, elevated storm hazards, and anxious residents. Sustained high water levels over a five-year period have created an array of hazards, damages and uncertainty for Great Lakes coastal planners and managers. But as dominant as the story of high water conditions has been recently, the long-term history of Great Lakes water levels is a dynamic story of highs and lows. Implementing practical solutions for water level driven issues is difficult in the face of dynamic conditions and uncertainty.
With process and facilitation leadership from the Reserve’s Coastal Training Program, a coalition of coastal outreach organizations came together to deliver a western Lake Superior water levels conference in December 2019. The event was attended by 84 professionals from both the Wisconsin and Minnesota Lake Superior shores. The conference featured presentations on lake level trends and drivers by subject matter experts, a panel of local speakers who identified impacts to their communities and their own professional roles, and lightning talks by outreach specialists with a resources and decision support tools to share. The conference also provided two facilitated opportunities for participants to share their experience of water level driven impacts, and identify the data, expertise, and project funding that would improve their ability to manage impacts. The Highs and Lows conference identified a regional need for more natural shorelines research and outreach specific to western Lake Superior conditions, a critical need for coastal engineering expertise, greater decision-maker education about lake level dynamics, and an immediate need for increased lake level data collection and shoreline impacts documentation.
A facilitated exercise captures what coastal professionals most need to address water level challenges at the 2019 Highs and Lows conference.