What if (Inland) Sea Levels are Falling...Then Rising...Then Falling…? Climate Change and Shoreland Management on the Laurentian Great Lakes
AbstractThe water levels of the Laurentian Great Lakes are today at historically low levels, probably as a result of global climate change, but those water levels will almost certainly climb again as they always have in an ongoing pattern of seasonal, annual, and decadal fluctuations. Coupled with physical dynamics that are unique to the Great Lakes system, there are good reasons to believe that Great Lakes shorelines will continue to shift lakeward and landward dramatically over time, perhaps more so because of climate change. This pattern of shifting shores implicates legal doctrines that attempt to balance public interests and private property rights at the shore, complicating the Great Lakes state’s efforts to effectively manage their Great Lakes shorelands. This paper describes Great Lakes shoreline dynamics and the application of the Public Trust Doctrine to those shorelines. It concludes by discussing the challenges that the Great Lakes states face especially in marking ordinary high water on their shores given global climate change.
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