Chesterton Tribune                                                                                   Adv.

National Park Service wants your input on saving the dunes shoreline from erosion

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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 Visitor Center.

There are numerous issues at stake in saving the shoreline, Winick said in his presentation:

•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 foredunes?

•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 should consider?

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.


Posted 12/17/2010




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