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Great Lakes shorelines still eroding 1-2 feet per year despite lower water levels

Posted at 6:29 PM, Jun 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-08 20:17:16-04

(WXYZ) — With water levels finally going down on the Great Lakes, some people couldn't be happier.

"We have beach! We are back, we are all excited," Jill Laidlaw said.

Related: Great Lakes water levels down significantly from April 2020, still above average levels

When we talked to Laidlaw a year and a half ago, she wasn't in such a good mood.

She runs Camp Cavell, a retreat for underserved people along the shores of Lake Huron in the Lexington area.

Related: 'It was all gone.' Erosion along Lake Huron wreaking havoc for residents, businesses

The record-high water had destroyed her beach, undermined her buildings and threatened the future of the camp.

This year though, she's filling up with her summer reservations.

The lake levels are expected to continue to fall over the next six months, but that doesn't mean things are getting much better.

Jim Selegean, an erosion expert with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said it's important to realize the shorelines are naturally eroding at a pace of a foot or two feet per year.

"It's the waves that are doing the work, but it's high water that dictates which part of the coastal profile erodes," Selegean said.

'It was all gone.' Erosion along Lake Huron wrecking havoc for residents, businesses

He added that you don't see them go back a foot every year.

"We might wait 30 years for the next high-water cycle, then when the high water comes up you might lose 30 years of shoreline," Selegean added.

That's exactly why we saw such a major impact over the last two years. The last high-water on Lake Huron broke a 102-year-old record.

If we forget about the erosion cycle during quiet years, it creates problems. Using unstable land or building too close to the coast can come back to haunt people.

It's not just a problem for homeowners, either. Entire communities are severely impacted by the high water and erosion.

Most of the country does not have to worry about erosion, but it is a critical factor in the Great Lakes. We are the ones living with this problem.

There is still a lot to do before the next high water causes problems. Hopefully, it won’t happen for another 30 years. Now, however, with the water level down, many can plan on having a great summer along the lakes.