BY BRIAN HAYTCHER
Lake Erie’s water levels and ice along the shoreline have made this winter a little less stressful for entities that have to contend with the lake.
At this time last year, Geneva-on-the-Lake and the Geneva Township Park were dealing with an erosion crisis due to high water levels and a lack of ice on Lake Erie. This year, things are different. GOTL Village Administrator Jeremy Schaffer said the lake levels are higher than average, but are lower than they were last year.
According to the Army Corps of Engineers, water levels are 22 inches above average, but 13 inches below the record-high lake levels reached last year.
Erosion protection that was installed along the shore in front of Geneva Township Park and the intersection of Park Drive and Old Lake Road in late 2020 has held up well, Schaffer said. Additionally, the lake freezing over has been a lucky break, Schaffer said.
“The village is looking at still moving forward on some kind of long-term planning for the complete shoreline,” Schaffer said.
A public meeting is in the works to discuss the plans, Schaffer said. The meeting would include potential funding for property owners who partner with the village for public-access points, he said.
“These public access [points] could be as simple as just parallel to the shoreline,” Schaffer said. “They don’t have to be like, through a person’s property.”
In Conneaut’s harbor, lake levels will determine whether or not the sandbar will be accessible this year. Conneaut Port Authority Harbormaster Denver Spieldenner said that the Army Corps of Engineers has forecasted that lake levels will be 10 inches below lower than last year by June.
“You never know what the lake levels are going to do until later in the spring, because it depends on the snowfall in the upper lakes,” Spieldenner said. “If there’s a lot of snow-pack, it melts and raises the water level in the upper lakes, that all flows down to us, and that is what increases ours.”
The lake level in the spring depends on the winter in the upper lakes, Spieldenner said.
Last year, only a small portion of the sandbar was open.
“The water levels were high and there wasn’t enough room out there to put very many people,” Spieldenner said. “It would have been so congested, we weren’t even sure that one car could get by the other one because of the width of the beach there with the high water level.”
If water levels are lower this summer, the Port Authority plans to open the sandbar. If water levels go down another 10 to 12 inches, it will open up a lot of beach, he said.
“We want that open for the public to use, but we have to look at it from a safety standpoint and a congestion standpoint,” Spieldenner said. “We want everybody to have a good time, but we also want them to be safe.”