Senators urge emergency declaration over beach erosion

LANSING, Mich. — Members of the state Senate sent a letter to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Tuesday, urging the governor to declare a state of emergency for the entire Lake Michigan shoreline because of the increasing problem of beach erosion, said Sen. Kim LaSata, who co-signed the letter.

“High water levels and erosion have led to significant damage to both privately and publicly owned property along the lakeshore,” senators said in the letter. “Homes have fallen into the lake, tremendous damage has been done at state and county parks, roads have been closed, and businesses have had to close or have been severely affected.”

According to the state Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy, beach erosion is a natural process that occurs from the wearing away of the shoreline by forces moving sand and soil from one area to another; waves, water levels, rain, wind, groundwater, frost and human activity all contribute to eroding shorelines. The department indicates shoreline erosion rates may be as high as 17 feet per year.

In requesting an emergency declaration, the lawmakers said additional resources could be made available to address the impact of the erosion, as well as enable state government to petition federal authorities for assistance.

“Constituents have been left to literally pick up the pieces of what was once their homes, businesses and infrastructure,” the letter concluded. “We are hopeful you will agree with our request and act both quickly and cooperatively with your federal counterparts to free up resources to those affected.”

Last month LaSata sent a letter to Whitmer urging the governor to direct state government to engage with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to find an expedient and quick solution to the erosion problem.

Michigan has about 3,300 miles of Great Lakes coastline, the longest freshwater coastline in the United States.