Communities along the Lake Erie shoreline are dealing with continual erosion in a variety of ways.
Route 531 was closed at the Ashtabula Township/North Kingsville village line late last year by the Ohio Department of Transportation due to fears of encroaching erosion.
Ray Marsch, a spokesperson for ODOT, said an emergency project to protect a section of the road has been completed, but a longer-term project is now in the works.
Sheet pilings were driven 40 feet into the ground to stabilize the slope.
“The work that originally took place in that emergency closure ... we’ve finished what our initial scope was, to add about 300 feet of sheet piling in that area,” he said.
“But, since we’ve had it closed and we continue to monitor it, we’re deciding to keep that roadway closed and add additional sheet piling all throughout that section of 531, there.”
The amount of new sheet piling that will be installed as part of this project has not been determined, because the project is still being designed, Marsch said.
According to a press release from ODOT, the project will involve installing pilings along Route 531 in areas from LaBounty Road to Ridge Avenue, and from the intersection of Route 531 and Monday Avenue several hundred feed west along Route 531.
Route 531 will have to be closed near Monday Drive at some point to accomodate the work there, but there is currently no date set for that closure. Marsch said.
The project also includes drainage improvements and roadway and guardrail repairs and installation, where necessary.
ODOT will be putting the larger project out to bid once the design work is finished, Marsch said.
The work is expected to be finished this fall, with an estimated cost of $5 million. ODOT is also studying additional long-term solutions to the issue, including the construction of stone revetments are being studied.
“That is still in the design phase, as well,” Marsch said.
Route 531 will remain closed until the project is completed, but any residents impacted by the closure will continue to be able to access their homes.
Jeremy Schaffer, village administrator for Geneva-on-the-Lake, said the village has been conducting a series of public meetings over the last week, meeting with residents of different areas to get their feedback.
“We’ve been doing some ongoing planning, and getting shoreline property owners and public properties involved,” he said.
There has recently been significant erosion near the Jennie Munger Museum, Schaffer said. A meeting was scheduled for Friday night to discuss erosion control in that area.
An emergency was declared in the area of the museum in order to bring awareness to the accelerated erosion, Schaffer said.
The village has also had meetings with residents in the area of New Street, and residents around Old Lake Road.
Tonight, Feb. 18, the village will host a meeting with residents from around the Palmetto subdivision area at 5:30 p.m. at Village Hall, Schaffer said.
“Across Geneva-on-the-Lake ... we are doing consistent planning,” he said. “We’ve been hit hard with erosion. As the water recedes, it’s actually an opportunity to continue and do better erosion control, so when the water rises in 10 years, we won’t be impacted as bad.”
Patricia Shells, chair of the board of park commissioners for Saybrook Township Park, said the park recently finished a $750,000 erosion protection project, spanning the parks 445-foot shoreline.
“It’s been a three and a half year project,” Shells said. “We passed a levy, a half mill levy in 2021, and we’ve essentially completed the entire shoreline.”
Shells said there was one area where the erosion was encroaching so far the park’s pavilion could have been destroyed.
“The only thing we have outstanding is ... we just have to put up our swings,” she said.
High water levels, a lack of ice on the lake in the winter, and winds all contributed to cause extensive erosion, Shells said.
“We weren’t the only ones that had problems, it was everybody,” she said.
Shells said the erosion protection that was installed at the park is lovely.
“The lakefront is gorgeous,” she said. “We have people that take pictures all the time because it’s just absolutely gorgeous. But it’s also very treacherous.”
Conneaut City Manager Jim Hockaday said the impacts of erosion on Conneaut vary along the lakeshore. He suggested anyone considering buying property on the lakefront check the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ coastal erosion area maps.
“They demarcate properties that are going to lose 30 foot or greater in a 10-year period,” Hockaday said. “They’re required to flag them, and it’s required to be disclosed on new property purchases.”
Hockaday said he is a big proponent of forming special districts in order to assess the cost of erosion protection projects.
“The problem is, is if homeowner A does costal protection, homeowner B doesn’t, and homeowner C does, then A and C just wasted their money,” he said. “There needs to be some public-led forums to explain coastal erosion phenomenon, what a protected coastline looks like, how other things like dumping debris and material over the bank actually worsens or accelerates erosion issues in many cases, because it destabilizes an already destabilized bank.”
Hockaday said shoreline protection used to cost about $1,000 per foot, but that cost has likely risen in recent years.
In 2019, the city spent approximately $300,000 to build erosion protection around the building that draws the city’s drinking water from Lake Erie.
Higher levels of erosion are usually seen when Lake Erie water levels are higher, but there are exceptions, Hockaday said.
“That Christmas Day storm, while relatively gentile on the southern shore, was devastating to Buffalo and the north shore in Canada,” he said. “If you look at the erosion issues as a subsequent result of that singular storm, millions, tens of millions of dollars of damage.”
According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Buffalo District, Lake Erie was 14 inches above its average height, and four inches above its height from this time last year. The lake is still 21 inches below the record highs that were reached in 2020.
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