by Natalie Johnson, Executive Director, Save the Dunes
In response to the recent storm damage as well as Governor Eric J. Holcomb’s executive order directing state agencies to take steps necessary to declare a disaster of emergency along the Lake Michigan shoreline, Save the Dunes makes the following statement:
Lake Michigan is, undoubtedly, one of our region’s greatest assets. Yet, living next to the shoreline and dealing with the natural process of erosion is a challenge for many property owners, especially with the current high lake levels. We understand and sympathize with those whose homes are at risk or have already sustained damage, and we urge Governor Eric J. Holcomb to move beyond his executive order and take action on this critical issue.
Yet, we must also exercise caution when deciding what protective measures are best suited for our lakefront. If done improperly, we risk not slowing the erosion, but rather moving it to another location on the shoreline. We also risk losing precious stretches of shoreline and the ability to use them for recreation.
Overall, Save the Dunes supports an array of non-structural, natural, nature-based, institutional, and regulatory measures for shoreline protection. We caution residents to minimize the use of structural measures on private property and to seek natural solutions where possible. We also hold firm that no new permanent structures, including but not limited to rock, revetments, and seawalls, may be placed below the Natural Ordinary High Watermark along the entire Northwest Indiana shoreline. We further assert that a coastal professional, preferably the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, using the US Army Corps of Engineers physical characteristics test, must delineate the Natural Ordinary High Watermark. This ensures that no new structures are placed on the shoreline in a way that may impact the traditional uses of our beaches.
While it is difficult to imagine at this time, Lake Michigan will eventually recede as a part of its natural cycle. It will be our responsibility to ensure that we do not build any closer to the lake than we already have. It will also be our responsibility between now and its recession to steward the shoreline in a way that is consistent with our surrounding natural areas and that is supportive of public access. We applaud the Governor for his commitment to the Great Lakes Coastal Resilience study, which will yield long-term solutions to this issue. We at Save the Dunes will continue to advocate for federal funding of the study as well as both short term and long term nourishment solutions. We also encourage residents to get acquainted with the shoreline erosion issue through Save the Dunes sponsored workshops. Please look for a workshop coming near you at savedunes.org.