Chesterton Tribune

Park Service takes public input as breakwaters continue to cause beach erosion and dune loss

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Last December the National Park Service (NPS) invited the public to comment on the pressing problem of shoreline erosion at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, as part of the process to develop a long-term plan to restore and manage the Dunes.

The results of this “public scoping”: mixed, it would seem, with no obvious consensus among the 24 persons and groups providing input.

As the Shoreline Restoration and Management Plan/Environmental Impact Statement, released this summer, suggests, commenters were divided on the subject of “soft or natural” shoreline restoration tools and “hard or manmade” ones.

The “main concerns” of those favoring a soft solution “were protecting habitat, maintaining a natural viewshed, and not causing additional disruptions to sand movement in the area.” Those of persons favoring a hard solution: “the need for a permanent solution that would protect homes and public infrastructure along the shoreline.”

Still other commenters championed sand-bypass systems and dredging.

A selection of comments, as made available in the Public Scoping Comment Analysis Report at

•“Personally I would like to only see soft, natural solutions implemented because hardened structures tend to push the problems further down the shoreline.”

•“Ecological issues become (moot) when waves destroy vegetation. (Too) much emphasis is placed on natural protections that the lake can wipe out in minutes when the north wind sets in for 24 hours.”

•“Breakwaters are dangerous for paddlers and swimmers.”

•“Given the damage already inflicted upon INDU’s nearshore dunal ecosystems as a result of existing manmade structures, it is not in the best interest of natural resource stewardship for the NPS to construct more hard structures in the lake like breakwaters and jetties that have already proven to significantly disrupt natural sand movement along the shoreline.”

•“Installation of a permanent slurry pump at the east side of Michigan City Harbor.”

•“This writer strongly prefers the use of direct sand replenishment. In fact I see no downside to filling in the entire triangle south of a line between the west end of Portage Lakefront and the end of the jetty. This would place a developing fore-dune right in front of the Pavilion . . . . (and) might also provide a sand repository large enough to require less periodic replenishment at this site.”

•“I am NOT a proponent of a permanent sand bypass system. It requires too much costly engineering, too much initial cost, and appears to be impractical from several aspects.”

•“(The) most cost effective solution would be a sand bypass system that runs from the area near NIPSCO water intake to west of Burns Waterway near Portage Lakefront Park.”

The public will again have a chance to comment, sometime in the fall or winter, after a draft plan and environmental impact statement have been prepared.

The basic problem with shoreline erosion is that the development of the Michigan City Harbor—with its jetty and breakwater—has altered the natural movement along the Lake Michigan shoreline, with the result, for instance, that the dune at Mt. Baldy used to be “more than 100 yards farther north than it is now,” as National Lakeshore Superintendent Constantine Dillon put it last year in an issue of Singing Sands.

So there’s too much sand east of the Michigan City Harbor and Burns International Harbor and outright sand starvation to the west of those developed areas.

Soft solutions would include the planting of dunes grasses and the installation of organic materials like coconut fibers.

Hard solutions would include the construction of revetments, bulkheads, and breakwaters and the stone armoring of the lake bottom.




Posted 7/14/2011