Beach erosion isn't limited to the national seashores. Indeed, Lake Michigan at times has a personality that rivals the oceans', and beach erosion along Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore is no small problem. But seashore officials are working with other public agencies to counter that erosion.
The evolving plan is outlined in the lakeshore's draft environmental impact statement for shoreline restoration. Funded through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, in collaboration with the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers, the Park Service has prepared the draft document to examine various approaches towards restoring the lakeshore’s eroding beaches.
Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore includes most of the beaches along Indiana’s shoreline from Trail Creek in Michigan City to U.S. Steel in Gary, Indiana.
"The shoreline in this area suffers from erosion that threatens national park resources, recreation opportunities, homes, industry, and businesses. The erosion is largely due to the natural movement of sand being obstructed by navigational harbors and shoreline structures, resulting in sand accretion (too much sand) in some areas and sand starvation (too little sand) in others," seashore officials say. "Sand dredging and artificial beach nourishment operations have been used as stop-gap measures, but this process is not sustainable and does not address the long-term problem of protecting this valuable shoreline."
To address the problem, seashore officials split the shoreline into four sections, or "reaches," based on how Lake Michigan is affecting them.
Maps and photographs contained within the DEIS show just how substantially the beaches have been altered down through the decades, either through erosion or by accretion. In some cases, individual beaches have averaged an annual loss of more than 4 feet of beachfront to the lake since 1950, while some beaches have grown by nearly 8 feet a year, according to the document.
The end goal of the DEIS is to come up with a workable plan to prevent long-term erosion of the beaches, allow creation of sand dunes running parallel to the beach, reclaim habitat needed by threatened and endangered species, and improve habitat for aquatic species native to the lakeshore's ecosystems.
In areas where beaches have eroded away, lakeshore staff are considering mechanical means, such as trucking and dredging, to rebuild the beaches.
"The DEIS evaluates seven possible alternatives for reaches 1 and 2, extending from Crescent Dune to Willow Lane, including a no-action alternative. For reaches 3 and 4, extending from Willow Lane to the City of Gary’s US Steel breakwater, four alternatives were evaluated, including a no-action alternative. All alternatives meet park purposes and objectives while protecting park resources by minimizing impacts, and are consistent with the legislative intent of Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, applicable NPS laws, policies, and regulations," a park release explained.
You can review these alternatives either on-line, by requesting a CD from the lakeshore by calling 219-395-1547, or by reading hard copies at the Indiana Dunes Visitor Center at 1215 North State Road 49 in Porter, Indiana, or at the lakeshore's headquarters at 1100 North Mineral Springs Road in Porter, Indiana.
A 60-day comment period on the alternatives runs through November 13. If you can't comment at the on-line site, you may mail or drop off a hard copy comment form and/or letter to: Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, Attention: Charles Morris, Environmental Protection Specialist, 1100 North Mineral Springs Road, Porter, Indiana 46304-1299