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Lake Erie water levels cause severe flooding, devastating erosion

The News-Messenger (Fremont) 9/28/2019 Daniel Carson, Fremont News-Messenger
a group of people on a beach near a body of water: Water covered a good portion of East Harbor State Park's beach area Aug. 17. Lake Erie's record high water levels caused widespread coastal erosion and flooding at state parks and communities along the lake this summer. © Daniel Carson/The News-Messenger Water covered a good portion of East Harbor State Park's beach area Aug. 17. Lake Erie's record high water levels caused widespread coastal erosion and flooding at state parks and communities along the lake this summer.

PORT CLINTON - Lake Erie's record high water levels brought months of severe flooding and devastating shoreline erosion to several Ottawa County state parks and coastal communities.

Now, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources is gearing up for a $300,000 erosion mitigation project at East Harbor State Park to put in rip rap material along the park's shore and beach area.

Eric Heis, an ODNR spokesman, said this week that the lake has been receding in recent weeks, as part of a seasonal decline, but erosion has damaged East Harbor State Park.

"That's the big project we have going on because of the water," Heis said.

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The lake's forecasted level stood at 573.75 feet Friday. That's down from 574.67 feet in mid-June.

Mike Monnett, manager at East Harbor State Park, said in June there had been deterioration on some of the dunes along the park's beach area and north shore.

At that time, the lake level had reached up to East Harbor's armor stone barrier and treeline along the shore and made much of the beach inaccessible.

Park employees have been placing large rip rap material along East Harbor's north shore and beach area to protect the armor stone and shoreline.

Monnett said the park has been adding this rip rap material over the last three years to help stabilize and protect the armor stone wall.

High water levels and erosion have also created issues at the marina at East Harbor State Park and the West Harbor channel wall.

a person driving a boat in the water: A man drives a golf cart through a flooded street on South Bass Island July 11. Lake Erie's high water levels contributed to widespread coastal flooding this year in communities like Put-in-Bay, Port Clinton and other parts of Ottawa County. © Daniel Carson/The News-Messenger A man drives a golf cart through a flooded street on South Bass Island July 11. Lake Erie's high water levels contributed to widespread coastal flooding this year in communities like Put-in-Bay, Port Clinton and other parts of Ottawa County.

Heis said the East Harbor project is the only current one ODNR is planning at any of its Ottawa County state parks in response to this summer's high water levels.

There were issues brought up this summer by boaters regarding water overtopping docks on Middle Bass Island and South Bass Island State Park, Heis said.

It's been a struggle for Port Clinton city officials all year to deal with the flooding and shoreline erosion brought on by the lake.

Mayor Mike Snider declared a state of emergency in May after repeated high water, combined with pounding wave action and northeasterly winds, devastated the city's shoreline, damaged pump stations, and caused substantial erosion along City Beach.

Port Clinton recently filed a pre-application for the Ohio Emergency Management Agency’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program.

The city is asking for between $4.5 million and $5.5 million for a project that would raise its seawall along Lake Erie to prevent flooding from Perry Street to the Jefferson Street Pier.

Snider told the News Herald Thursday the city had applied for grants and low-interest loans to address a high voltage conduit on the city beach that became exposed due to high lake waters.

A substantial portion of Port Clinton's city beach been closed to the public since May.

The city will encase the conduit in concrete and bury it deeper on the shoreline.

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Snider said the city beach will stay closed indefinitely until that project is completed.

"Unfortunately, it's not going to be any time this season," Snider said.

That project will cost the city an estimated $170,000 to $190,000.

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Later this year or in early 2020, the city will issue an RFQ for anyone interested in operating the Lakeview Park concession stand across from the beach.

Snider said the city hoped to have the stand up and running by the 2020 summer season.

To stabilize the beach's sand and combat shoreline erosion, the city consulted with ODNR's Office of Coastal Management and the Army Corps of Engineers and put in barriers.

Much of the city beach's sand moved offshore or west of the beach area.

A big concern for city officials is fall and winter storms accompanied by northeast winds and ice forming by Lake Erie's shoreline.

Altogether, Port Clinton has $10 million to $12 million in projects it needs to complete to combat shoreline erosion and mitigate flooding along the city's Madison Street corridor, Snider said.

"We've been talking to anybody and everybody who will listen to see about solutions," Snider said.

Fred Petersen, Ottawa County's EMA director, said he did not have exact dollar amounts related to county-wide coastal flooding damage.

a close up of a pier next to a body of water: Record high water levels on Lake Erie this summer resulted in water overtopping boat docks, including this one at Ohio Sea Grant's Gibraltar Island facility in July. © Daniel Carson/The News-Messenger Record high water levels on Lake Erie this summer resulted in water overtopping boat docks, including this one at Ohio Sea Grant's Gibraltar Island facility in July.

Seasonal homeowners experienced the most serious flooding issues this year in Ottawa County.

Petersen said Put-in-Bay Township had several roads wash out due to high water, with recurring standing water issues at Middle Bass Island's Burgundy Bay subdivision.

Federal and state disaster relief linked to coastal flooding can be hard to come by, Petersen acknowledged.

The EMA director said a rule of thumb for disaster relief is there needs to be at least 25 permanent, uninsured homes that sustained major damage or were destroyed.

In Ottawa County, most of this year's flooding problems impacted seasonal homes that were insured, Petersen said.

The county is working with the state EMA office to get funds to boost some homes' elevation.

Petersen said the county did purchase and hand out sandbags to some affected property owners.

"We've just got to hope the water goes down," Petersen said.

Ottawa County was somewhat fortunate this summer that there weren't a lot of northeast winds in June and July when Lake Erie reached its highest levels, Petersen said.

Lake Erie's average water level has dropped six inches since Aug. 13.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Detroit District office forecasts the lake's water level to fall another five inches by Oct.13.

Compared to the same time last year, Lake Erie is eight inches higher and 28 inches above September's monthly average.

dacarson@gannett.com

419-334-1046

Twitter: @DanielCarson7

This article originally appeared on Fremont News-Messenger: Lake Erie water levels cause severe flooding, devastating erosion

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