Ohio offering help for coastline erosion because Lake Erie is at record high levels

Lake Erie is 37 inches above the long-term monthly average water level for the month of February.
Geneva-on-the-Lake shoreline shrinking from fury of Lake Erie
Geneva-on-the-Lake shoreline shrinking from fury of Lake Erie(WOIO)
Updated: Feb. 18, 2020 at 1:23 PM EST
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) -The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) is battling a problem it hasn’t been seen since 1987, with record high water levels in Lake Erie causing major erosion of the coastline.

Several strong wind events have sent waves crashing into the coastline, eating it away at alarming rates.

The fact that there is very little ice on the lake is only compounding the problem.

“Lake Erie ice acts as a natural form of shore protection,” said Scudder D. Mackey, Chief, Office of Coastal Management with ODNR. "Wave energy is also damped by the ice. The lack of ice on Lake Erie has contributed to an increase in the amount of erosion along the Ohio Lake Erie coastline.

Water levels of all of the Great Lakes have been above record levels for the past two years.

“The entire coastline has been impacted by record-high Lake Erie water levels this year, and also last year,” Mackey said. “Low lying coastal have experienced flooding and unprotected areas of the coastline have experience severe erosion such as has been observed at Geneva-on-the-Lake in Ashtabula County. Moreover, many existing shore protection structures are failing due to age and the fact that many were constructed during periods of lower lake levels and are now being overtopped by waves combined with record-high water levels.”

The state and ODNR have a couple options to help homeowners and municipalities along the lake shore:

Temporary Shore Structure Permits are available to coastal property owners to protect their properties from catastrophic erosion.

  • The permits allow coastal property owners to install emergency shore protection to protect their property from additional erosion-related damage.
  • Permits are free of charge and are typically issued within a week.

Free on-site Technical Assistance to owners of property along Lake Erie by ODNR coastal engineers.

  • Provide recommendations for erosion mitigation and best management practices to prevent or slow coastal erosion.
  • Call the ODNR Office of Coastal Management at (419) 626-7980 to speak with a Coastal Engineer.
  • Upon request, the ODNR Office of Coastal Management also participates in local community meetings to discuss high water levels and coastal erosion with local officials and coastal property owners.

Coastal Management Assistance Grants:

Competitive awards for coastal planning, habitat restoration, public access, research, and water quality improvement projects. Local governments, county and regional planning agencies, universities, school districts, conservancy districts, port authorities and certain non-profit groups are eligible to apply

Coastal Erosion Area Loan Program:

Low interest loans for the design and construction of erosion control measures for properties within a designated coastal erosion area This program is administered by participating counties, not by ODNR.

Passage of SB 51 in the 132nd General Assembly Authorizes the Creation of Special Improvement Districts.

  • Special Improvement Districts (SIDs) provide local financing to facilitate improvements that control erosion along the Lake Erie shoreline.
  • ODNR will work with Special Improvement Districts along the Lake Erie shoreline to ensure that projects are well-designed, minimize adverse impacts to Lake Erie, and to ensure that appropriate authorizations are obtained when necessary.
  • NOTE: This is not an ODNR program.

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