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Erosion Continues to Batter Ogden Dunes, Portage Shores

Posted on July 5, 2016

By Joyce Russell,

Erosion is continuing to batter the Lake Michigan shores of Ogden Dunes and Portage this summer.

As lake levels rise, beach along the two communities continues to disappear, affecting the Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk and residents in Ogden Dunes.

Officials, however, say moves have been made to find a long-term solution to the problem, which will ultimately be a plan for continuous nourishment of the beach west of the Burns Waterway Small Boat Harbor.

In April both Ogden Dunes and Portage signed on to be nonfederal sponsors intending to raise matching funds for a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers feasibility study to develop a beach nourishment plan.

“Portage and Ogden Dunes are working together,” said Jim Coombs, chair of the town’s beach nourishment committee at an informal meeting of residents last week, adding the town, along with Portage, agreed to be nonfederal sponsors with Portage coming up with the necessary funding.

Mayor James Snyder said signing on as a sponsor for the feasibility study is an intent, not a commitment, based on commentary from the Army Corps. Snyder said the city included the necessary funding in its latest application for matching funds to the Regional Development Authority.

“There have been a lot of phases that have taken place. We started well over a year ago. We are serious about finding a long-term solution,” Snyder said.

That long-term solution, once the study is completed and the federal government allocates the resources, likely will be to put a permanent pump where the sand is getting caught up at the NIPSCO and ArcelorMittal facilities and pumping the sand directly to the beach at Portage Lakefront, Snyder said.

Presently sand being dredged from facilities to the east is being dumped in water 12 feet deep off of the Ogden Dunes shore. The Army Corps, Snyder said, is doing a study to determine if that sand is drifting toward the beach or out into Lake Michigan.

Both Snyder and Coombs said NIPSCO is presently in the application process to dredge around its facility next year.

“We are working with NIPSCO to get them to apply it closer to the beach,” Snyder said.

Coombs encouraged residents to participate in the public comment process for the permit to encourage getting the sand closer to the beach.

Steve Davis, Indiana Department of Natural Resources Lake Michigan coastal specialist, explained that man-made break walls along Lake Michigan’s shore have stopped sand from its natural flow towards Portage and Ogden Dunes. The break walls, which protect industry along the lake and the mouth of the small boat harbor, in essence, starve beaches immediately to their west while sand tends to build on their east sides.

Davis told the group the situation will continue as long as the break walls remain in the lake.

The situation has been exacerbated in recent years by rising lake levels. According to the Corps of Engineers’ report, Lake Michigan’s levels were 2 inches higher in May than in April and 9 inches higher than lake levels of May 2015. They forecast the levels to continue to rise slightly through July and then dip through November, but end the year higher by 5 to 7 inches from the 2015 level.

This isn’t the first time Ogden Dunes residents have faced erosion issues. Record high lake levels in 1986 caused erosion and forced residents and the state to protect the east end of the town with sheet piling walls. However, lake levels began to decline in the late 1990s with record low levels in 2012 and 2013 which provided a wide beach along the town’s lakefront.


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