Researchers work with communities to shore up effects of erosion | 3/7/2018 | Staff
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Mayor Hannah Anderson, a fifth-generation resident, remembers the thrill of sledding down from the sand dunes above Weko Beach right onto frigid Lake Michigan with her friends on winter days in the 1950s.

"When I was growing up, there was nothing down there but sand, the lake, dunes and this little, dilapidated old building we affectionately called our beach house," she said.

1960s - Things - Bridgman - Town - Michigan

By the 1960s, things started to change for Bridgman, a small lakeside town in Michigan's southwestern-most county: A road was paved to the lake, the beach house was expanded and a parking lot soon followed. In the 1980s, high water had city officials sandbagging the beach house and trying to protect the beach with boulders.

"Over time they realized that putting the rubble in makes things worse," she said.

Shoreline - Erosion - Boat - Ramp - Beach

Shoreline erosion also has affected an old boat ramp on the beach. The city shells out $8,000 a year to add gravel to set and stabilize it, and that seems like a waste to Juan Ganum, Bridgman's city manager. City officials are considering getting rid of the ramp.

"Gravel costs are the most painful because the wind and wave action continuously take what we deposit," Ganum said. "Essentially, it's like throwing money into the water."

Lake - Towns - State - Edge - Damage

Several lake towns along the state's western edge have faced even more costly damage to their beaches and structures because of fluctuating Great Lakes water levels. For example, in New Buffalo, severe shoreline erosion has cost private homeowners more than $7 million for repairs and resulted in one house demolition.

University of Michigan researchers are part of a program that trains local officials in coastal management and helps them better understand the threats posed by climate change and building in floodplains. They conducted three training sessions in Bridgman in November and plan to offer the sessions in Traverse City this year.

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