MARQUETTE - Marquette city crews installed underwater equipment on the bottom of Lake Superior in the channel between shore and Picnic Rocks on Monday.
Members of the Marquette Police Department's dive team helped lower a current meter, which will measure the velocity and direction of water currents using Doppler sonar, to the bottom of the lake.
It was placed in 15 to 20 feet of water, about 150 feet away from Picnic Rocks and held down with three 50-pound weights. It is powered by a solar panel and a rechargeable battery and will send out data every 15 minutes.
Dave Guenther, a meteorologist who recently retired from the National Weather Service, said the NWS will use data gathered from the meter and corresponding weather readings from the U.S. Coast Guard and locations at Northern Michigan University's campus and K.I. Sawyer to try to establish weather patterns that may correlate with strong current. He said there's no other meter like it on the Great Lakes being used to measure channel currents.
A channel current, which moves parallel to shore, exists at Picnic Rocks and according to officials is one of the likely causes of drowning incidents near the rocks. Two people drowned in separate incidents near Picnic Rocks in 2010. A total of 14 people have drowned near the rocks since 1961, according to police data.
The cost of the meter, other equipment and initial installation was covered by a $26,570 grant from the Great Lakes Observing System. The city will pay for maintenance and city divers will remove the meter every winter.
Detective Lt. Michael Wasie of the Marquette Police Department looks over the water current monitor Monday before it is installed in Lake Superior between Picnic Rocks and the shore. (Journal photo by Christopher Diem)
The project has been a collaboration among the city, Michigan Sea Grant, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association and NMU.
Christopher Diem can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242.