Advance Notice: Briefs

Michigan Republicans press FEMA, Army Corps on Great Lakes shoreline erosion

By: - January 13, 2020 1:53 pm

Manistique boardwalk destroyed by high Lake Michigan levels | Susan J. Demas

As water levels in the Great Lakes continue to break records, three Michigan U.S. representatives whose districts include communities on Lake Michigan have called for federal and state agencies to help mitigate shoreline erosion.

U.S. Rep. Jack Bergman at the 2019 Mackinac Policy Conference | Andrew Roth

U.S. Reps. Fred Upton (R-St. Joseph), Bill Huizenga (R-Zeeland) and Jack Bergman (R-Watersmeet) met on Friday with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Detroit District and representatives from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for what they say was a “productive discussion” about erosion, which has increasingly become an issue along the state’s shorelines since water levels have started to rise.

At a high point last summer, Lake Michigan was 15 inches above where it was in 2018 and just one inch away from breaking its record high set in the 1980s. 2020 levels are predicted to be even higher, and in just the last week, water levels for Lakes Michigan, Huron and Superior were above their record high monthly averages for the month by several inches.

Research shows that rising water levels and shoreline erosion are just some of the consequences that climate change has in store for the Great Lakes basin as the earth continues to warm. A report released by the office of U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Lansing) in October notes that the Great Lakes will also be subject to extreme lake level fluctuations, more intense and precipitous storms, and displaced native lake species.

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A joint statement released from the three congressmen on Monday reads, in part:

“Erosion threatens our beaches, our homes, and our state’s overall well-being. As three members who represent our Great Lakes shoreline, it is an issue that is deeply personal and one that we take incredibly seriously. In our meeting, we asked for tactical assistance, meaning that our communities need the USACE and FEMA’s expertise right now on how to protect our shorelines and our properties. We also asked them for solutions to mitigate damage and alleviate some of the burden on constituents.”

U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga, June 3, 2019 | Nick Manes

The statement also noted that all parties plan to continue monitoring the shoreline and the threat of erosion, and that a “coordinated response with every level of government” is being worked on in order to ensure that the Great Lakes shoreline can “withstand, recover from, and adapt to high lake levels and erosion.”

Bergman represents Michigan’s 1st Congressional District, which encompasses most of northern Michigan and all of the Upper Peninsula. Huizenga represents District 2 in the western part of the state along Lake Michigan; and the 6th District represented by Upton includes the Southwest corner of the state along the coast.

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Laina G. Stebbins
Laina G. Stebbins

Laina G. Stebbins is a former Michigan Advance reporter. A lifelong Michigander, she is a graduate of Michigan State University’s School of Journalism, where she served as Founding Editor of The Tab Michigan State and as a reporter for the Capital News Service.