Used to be, the beach at Mt. Baldy in what would become Indiana Dunes
National Lakeshore moved an average of four feet every year.
But development of the Michigan City Harbor—with its jetty and
breakwater—has significantly altered the natural movement of sand along the
Lake Michigan coastline, with the result that the dune at Mt. Baldy is now
eroding at a rate of 20 feet per year, almost one foot per month.
As Superintendent Constantine Dillon noted recently in The Singing Sands,
“not that long ago” the beach at Mt. Baldy “was more than 100 yards further
north than it is now.”
It’s with that problem in mind—too much sand east of the Michigan City
Harbor and Burns International Harbor—and outright sand starvation to the
west of those developed areas, that the National Park Service (NPS) has
begun work on a Shoreline Restoration and Management Plan.
And NPS wants your input.
Consultant URS of Chicago has the contract for the plan and will be working
closely with subcontractors JFNew, based in Northwest Indiana, and Baird &
Associates of Chicago, Bradley Winick of URS told the Chesterton Tribune
at a open house held by NPS on Thursday night at the Dorothy Buell Memorial
There are numerous issues at stake in saving the shoreline, Winick said in
•Protecting endangered, threatened, and rare species which make use of the
beach, like the Piping Plover and Pitcher’s Thistle.
•Protecting and restoring critical habitat such as pannes at West Beach.
•Re-establishing the foredunes, those areas immediately behind the beaches
typically growing marram grass.
•Managing non-native and invasive species of plants and animals.
•Minimizing the negative impact of human activity in the project area, which
extends approximately 13 miles from Michigan City to Gary.
•Addressing linkages between shoreline processes and shoreline ecology.
•And identifying beach nourishment materials more compatible with the
natural ecology of the shoreline.
To date, Dillon has noted, isolated small-scale attempts to replenish eroded
sand have been conducted, for instance at the National Lakeshore beach near
Ogden Dunes. “But these projects are a temporary solutions to a long-term
problem,” they’re very expensive, and they don’t “sustainably address the
problems of sand accretion and starvation.”
More permanent solutions include both natural and manmade approaches, Winick
said. Natural ones include the planting of dune grasses and the installation
of organic materials like coconut fibers, and while these do provide both a
natural buffer and habitat, they require “significant on-going maintenance”
and are not truly suitable for active littoral zones like those along the
shoreline at the National Lakeshore.
Manmade technologies include the construction of reventments, bulkheads, and
breakwaters and the stone armoring of the lake bottom, Winick also said.
These approaches can reduce landward erosion and can handle the high-energy
movement of the lake but, on the other hand, they entail a high up-front
cost and provide little habitat opportunity for native species.
And then there are hybrid structures, combining the natural and manmade
approaches, but these technologies share the downsides of both.
So NPS wants to know what you think, and to that end has prepared a
comment card available at
Answer these questions:
•What are the most important shoreline restoration and management issues?
•What are the most important ecological issues along the shoreline and
•Which shoreline restoration and management tools should NPS consider?
•Which shoreline restoration and management tools should NPS not consider?
•Do you have any other comments or concerns about the Plan/EIS the NPS
Submit your response by Feb. 7, 2011.
Winick emphasized that no decision are being made immediately. Right now the
process is strictly preliminary. “We’re here to get input on the hot-button
issues,” he said. “The things people would like to see. The things they
don’t want to see. There will be additional input sessions later next year,
where folks will get a look at the draft plan and have the chance to give us
the thumbs up or thumbs down.”
A draft plan should be ready by the fall/winter of 2011 and a final plan by
the summer/fall of 2012.