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Canada 'I'm watching it disappear:' Residents along Lake Erie reckoning with worsening shoreline erosion

17:32  06 december  2019
17:32  06 december  2019 Source:   cbc.ca

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Residents along the Lake Erie shoreline should be prepared. People should take extra caution and avoid the shoreline . The waves can be strong and the shoreline slippery. There could also be hazardous debris within the waves and water.

“The erosion is quite a big problem. It ’s one of the biggest problems we face here,” said Hollie Constant pounding from waves, especially during storms, continue to chip away at the shoreline Last year, Mentor-On-The- Lake received the results of a study done on possible solutions at Overlook Park.

In this May 8, 2019 file photo, firefighters kayak in floodwaters in Berlin Township, Mich., checking for evacuations. Wind-driven water caused flooding along western Lake Erie following recent rainfall that contributed to high water levels in the Great Lakes.© Tom Hawley/The Monroe News via AP In this May 8, 2019 file photo, firefighters kayak in floodwaters in Berlin Township, Mich., checking for evacuations. Wind-driven water caused flooding along western Lake Erie following recent rainfall that contributed to high water levels in the Great Lakes. Sue O'Brien gets anxious — "shaky," she said — as soon as a storm is in the forecast.

"We call it PTSD, and I don't think that's a stretch," she admitted. "As soon as the winds start … you start getting really worried."

O'Brien, who is now retired, said she has spent $100,000 trying to fortify her property on the edge of Lake Erie. Her backyard is guarded by a steel barrier, many of her windows are permanently boarded up and sandbags surround the foundation of her home.

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Erosion problems. The shoreline of many lakes is constantly being bombarded by wave or ice movement, which grinds and displaces soil particles. Erosion of soil into a lake also causes the water to become turbid, or cloudy. Loss of water clarity makes feeding difficult for fish and wildlife

The model takes into consideration sand transport both along the beach (due to longshore currents) and across the beach (cross- shore transport) by waves and sea-level rise. Installing large boulders as rip rap to armor the shore against further erosion at Goleta Beach in Southern California.

But every storm betrays the cruel futility of her efforts. As the winds pick up, so does the water, as four-metre-high waves slam into cottages already gutted by nature's wrath. The lake takes over O'Brien's backyard and gushes around to the front of her home.

"We used to have sand and beach," she said. "This year has been like a nightmare."

a woman standing in front of a building: Sue O’Brien, who is now retired, said she has spent $100,000 trying to fortify her property on the edge of Lake Erie. © Provided by cbc.ca Sue O’Brien, who is now retired, said she has spent $100,000 trying to fortify her property on the edge of Lake Erie.

O'Brien lives on Erie Shore Drive, a stretch of road near Chatham-Kent in southwestern Ontario that was originally built as a dyke.

It's prone to flooding, but O'Brien and her neighbours aren't alone in their struggle. Many communities along Lake Erie have faced a challenging combination over the past year: record-high water levels and significant erosion of the shoreline.

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Residents along the Lake Erie shoreline should be prepared. People should take extra caution and avoid the shoreline . The waves can be strong and the shoreline slippery. There could also be hazardous debris within the waves and water.

Lake Erie is not unique. I am sure you have heard or read about erosion issues along the California coast. The Ohio Geological Survey has as nice summary about efforts to control erosion along Lake Erie .

This double whammy has caused property sizes to shrink as the lake swallows land, and has forced some homeowners to make the painful decision to either continue to try save their lots or abandon them.

'I'm watching it disappear'

Chris Bradley said he had no choice but to leave. He bought his cottage near Long Point, further northeast along the shore of Lake Erie, in July 2011. He said that at the time, he had about 12 metres of beachfront. But over the past few years, it has vanished.

a man standing in front of a building: Chris Bradley said he had no choice but to leave his cottage near Long Point on Lake Erie, which he bought in July 2011.© Provided by cbc.ca Chris Bradley said he had no choice but to leave his cottage near Long Point on Lake Erie, which he bought in July 2011.

The water rose and didn't recede. Waves knocked his cottage from its foundation, ripping away the facade looking out over the lake and destroying most of the building's structure, leaving many of his family's belongings strewn about the shore.

Last month, Bradley watched as a demolition crew tore down what was left. He likened it to the death of a dream.

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Beyond the erosion along their property line , Graham and Pat have been sad to see the loss of sand at Malden Beach, down the road from their house. As for whether or not Andrews would ever consider moving if erosion continues into the future? "No, I think I 'll just keep pouring money into it as

Shoreline Erosion . Ohio’s Lake Erie coastal property owners can take advantage of free technical assistance; the Ohio Department of Natural Resources is developing the Lake Erie Shore Erosion Management Plan (LESEMP).

"I expected to come here and see my grandchildren hanging out with us, and instead I'm watching it disappear," he said. "On a logical level, I understand it, but on a personal level, it sucks."

Like O'Brien, Bradley has lost a staggering amount of money trying to protect his property. He said he's out about $400,000.

"It's really sad," he said. "Frankly, if I were to go back [in time], I never would have bought the place."

Chris Bradley watches as a demolition crew tears down his cottage:

A 'battle versus nature'

The cost of protecting private lakefront property falls on individual owners, who are expected to get a work permit from Ontario's Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry or local conservation authorities to make repairs to eroded shorelines.

While the province said it recently streamlined the process, some homeowners want the government to take action to ease the erosion itself — especially since it may get worse over the coming years.

Peter Zusek, a geological scientist studying the impacts of climate change on the Lake Erie shoreline, said the water could rise by another half-metre by the end of the century.

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Residents and officials are trying to find a solution to curb the erosion along Lake Michigan. Beach erosion , classified as 'sand starvation', has ravaged the shore and while plans are being developed to resolve the No one knows what will happen if another hits. ' I ' m here watching seven-foot waves

"That's important, because we already have tremendous challenges with the current levels," he said. "Living on the edge of a lake is a beautiful experience, but you have to be willing and prepared to fight that battle every day versus nature."

Zusek's study is being supported, in part, by Natural Resources Canada's Climate Adaptation Program, along with the municipality of Chatham-Kent and the Lower Thames Valley Conservation Authority.

The municipality has held several community meetings, which have been attended by hundreds of worried residents who've come together to talk about solutions. Potential plans have ranged from elevating roads to building large revetments, or retaining walls, along the shoreline.

a screenshot of a cell phone© Provided by cbc.ca

But those proposals cost tens of millions of dollars — money that just isn't there. Residents, frustrated with their lack of options, use the meetings to vent.

"My 12-year-old son thinks he's going to be able to live there," said Renata Palmateer, referring to her home not far from the lake. "And I'm thinking, No, you won't be able to."

'It's quite normal'

It's important to remember the cyclical nature of water levels in the Great Lakes, said Robin Davidson-Arnott, professor emeritus of geography at the University of Guelph.

"We have about 100 years of really great lake measurements on all the Great Lakes," he said. "So what we're seeing is something we've seen many times in that 100 years. It's quite normal."

Davidson-Arnott predicts the water will eventually go down, following historical patterns.

Residents along the shoreline hope that prediction is right. In the meantime, they continue to pay the price for living beside the water.

O'Brien fears bankruptcy may be in her future, but the thought of leaving the home she's lived in for nearly 30 years is too painful.

"This has been my life investment," she said. "We're going to stay as long as we can."

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