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Lower water levels on the Great Lakes make some channels such as the Muskegon River too shallow for big freighters to enter fully loaded. (Photo by Lester Graham)
Lower water levels on the Great Lakes make some channels such as the Muskegon River too shallow for big freighters to enter fully loaded. (Photo by Lester Graham)

Weather squeezes Great Lakes

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Historic low water levels are an emerging concern for shippers and everyone else who uses the St. Lawrence River and the Great Lakes. The St. Lawrence was more than a foot lower than normal last fall. Lakes Michigan and Huron are even worse. The water is so low that 1000-foot cargo ships are running aground. The issue appeared on Governor Spitzer's radar last week in his State of Upstate speech. He called on the legislature to pass the Great Lakes Compact, which would limit water diversions out of the Lakes. Illinois and Minnesota are the only states to ratify the compact so far. All eight Great Lakes states must pass it before it can go before Congress for final passage. Drought in the southeast and southwest are adding new urgency to the compact. There's debate about whether the low water levels are just part of the historic ups and downs of the Great Lakes, or if it's the effects of global warming. Lester Graham reports from Lake Michigan's Muskegon River, a trouble spot for some of the big ships.

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