TRAVERSE CITY — Concerns over high water levels are on the rise, just like the Great Lakes.
Just ask David LaGuire who lives on the East Grand Traverse Bay side of Old Mission Peninsula. He has watched Lake Michigan waters grow closer and closer this year, sometimes by big chunks at a time.
LaGuire’s home is about 18 feet from the water unless you consider the 6 feet washed out beneath the yard.
“We joke that we go to bed with our life jackets on,” he said, laughing.
LaGuire said he’s certainly not alone. Anyone living on the Great Lakes this year has struggled with erosion, sometimes even losing entire docks during storms or gale-force winds, he said.
Hundreds of sandbags have helped keep the lake at bay along LaGuire’s section of shoreline, but he has paid contractors $21,000 to shore up the stretch with 100 tons of limestone. It would have cost three times that for natural stone, he said.
“It’s going to go right at the water line and restore the wall that was basically destroyed,” he said.
LaGuire said he has not seen conditions like this in the nearly three decades since he and his wife Deb moved onto Old Mission Peninsula. And there is no insurance money to help pay for related expenses, he said.
“I asked ‘if my house falls in the bay am I covered?’ They said ‘no,’” LaGuire said. “It’s just the way it is. It’s been 26 years without any erosion.”
Christina Deeren, zoning administrator for Peninsula Township, said she’s been sprinkled with questions and concerns from residents who want to battle this year’s erosion problems. Many homes on the peninsula were built before zoning laws and are closer to the waterline than would otherwise be allowed today, she said.
“There’s a reason you don’t want to be on top of the water,” Deeren said.
Now Peninsula Township Hall will host a pair of speakers from local nonprofits to discuss the impacts of this year’s high water levels on shoreline property, as well as answer questions that arise. The free event will be from 6 to 8 p.m. Monday, Nov. 4.
Baykeeper Heather Smith from the Watershed Center Grand Traverse Bay and extension educator Mark Breederland from Michigan Sea Grant will wade into the issues during the informational session.
“The best thing people can do is to live with a little erosion in these high water years,” Smith said.
The trouble with “armoring or hardening” the shore with seawalls, boulders and riprap is it can affect the natural functionality of the shoreline. That means it can lead to extreme erosion on neighboring stretches of beach and block the natural movement of sand along the edges of the lakes, the baykeeper said.
“The best advice is to build back, as far back as you can from the water,” Smith said.
Federal statistics for Great Lakes water levels show Lakes Michigan and Huron are down 2 inches from last month, but remain 15 inches higher than this time last year. Estimates show the conjoined lakes will drop another 2 inches by the end of November, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The situation continues to ebb and flow, said Deanna Apps, physical scientist with the Corps’ Detroit District.
“We’ve definitely seen some wetter conditions. So far in October precipitation has been above average,” Apps said.
Typical autumn water level declines in the Great Lakes are continuing, she said, but have slowed down with the repeatedly rainy weather in recent weeks.
Deeren said Old Mission Peninsula residents and the general public are all invited to attend the free informational session.