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Erosion, bluff collapses threaten Lake Michigan communities

MOUNT PLEASANT, Wis. (AP) — Severe erosion along some of Wisconsin’s Lake Michigan communities is threatening homes and causing bluffs to collapse.

The problem is especially bad in Mount Pleasant, which could receive state or federal assistance after Racine County officials last week issued an emergency declaration, but Caledonia and Port Washington also have reported problems with bluff erosion.

“I believe that we will see more regions with significant problems,” said Gene Clark, a coastal engineering specialist with the University of Wisconsin Sea Grant Institute.

The combination of rain, wave action and at least a 4-foot jump in lake levels since early 2013 is eating away shoreline, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. Experts say rising water levels are expected to claim more shoreline up and down the coast.

The Lake Michigan system is projected to rise another 2 inches by the end of June, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Weather conditions play a big role in dictating Lake Michigan’s water levels, but another factor is the complex relationship between the extent of ice cover, air temperature and evaporation.

In Mount Pleasant, one resident already was forced to move his house, and another tore down his garage because it was teetering above a disappearing bluff. Mount Pleasant President Gerald Garski estimates that 10 to 12 homes in the village could be lost.

“We don’t know when, how or where the next part of the bluff will go,” Garski said Wednesday.

In Port Washington, Mayor Tom Mlada said portions of the bluff above the city’s North Beach have collapsed twice in the past month, closing the beach both times for a day. He said the city’s beaches stretched for 75 to 100 yards three or four years ago and have since shriveled to 25 to 30 yards.

No decisions have been made on whether the Corps will use federal assistance to construct a shoreline barrier to protect roads, sewer and storm sewers and utility lines, but funding cannot be used to protect private property.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources sped up the process for homeowners who want to protect their property.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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