County must get to bottom of water level drop

There’s one thing that appears perfectly clear – the groundwater levels in portions of Sands Township are dropping drastically.

Former Sands Township Supervisor Dave Kallio told the Marquette County Board this week that the township has been testing the Sands Plains Aquifer twice a year since the 1980s.

That testing has shown that the groundwater level has dropped between 9 and 17 feet, depending on where it’s tested.

Residents along Martin Lake near K.I. Sawyer also complained about the sinking water level in their lake, which aerial photos show shrunk dramatically since the U.S. Air force base was established in the 1950s.

What are the causes of this water drop? Theories run from over pumping out of the groundwater for usage at first the air base and now the community of K.I. Sawyer to water needs at the Empire Mine near Palmer.

In regard to the Martin Lake issue, the county agreed last fall to reduce the amount of water pumped from two wells near the lake, but lakeside residents said the water level has still dropped, even as much as 6.5 inches in one month.

Kallio also pointed out that while some lakes in the township have actually rebounded this spring, such as Big Shag Lake rising 4 to 5 inches, others continue to drop, like Strawberry Lake that is down about 10 inches.

The county board took action to have the county planning commission review information on the issue to gauge whether a groundwater study on the Sands Plains is warranted.

Included in that review will be a plan devised by a retired Cliffs Natural Resources engineer to divert spring floodwater from the Escanaba River to help replenish the Sand Plains Aquifer.

This is a good first step in the right direction.

We feel there needs to be a more thorough examination of the situation, though, based on the number of examples of significant drops in groundwater and in lakes clustered over one aquifer.

Perhaps county officials need to look at getting state and federal agencies that deal with hydrology involved, as well as the funding to do the evaluation properly.