Chesterton Tribune



Public speaks; NPS listens, abandons cobble berm plan for beaches

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The National Park Service (NPS) has abandoned a plan to construct a “cobble berm” under 10 feet of water off Crescent Dune east of Mt. Baldy, after NPS received “substantive comment” from the public objecting to the plan.

The cobble berm had been the preferred alternative of a draft “Shoreline Restoration and Management Plan” for Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, aimed at combating beach erosion, caused by man-made structures--like the Michigan City Harbor--which are interfering with the normal flow of sand to the west.

As NPS announced last week, however, the cobble berm has been replaced with a new alternative: a hybrid of several other alternatives providing for beach nourishment which incorporates natural small stones mixed with sand at the shoreline.

As Dr. Charles Morris, a biologist at the National Lakeshore, told the Chesterton Tribune at an information session Monday evening at the Dorothy Buell Memorial Visitor Center, the cobble berm would never have been anything but a temporary installation, whose whole point was to disintegrate over time into the substrate of the shoreline, covering and stabilizing the aggregate material of the lakebed. “It was designed to fail,” Morris said.

The public, however, made its feelings about a cobble berm pretty clear, “such that we felt a change in our position was appropriate,” Morris noted.

Morris did say that cobble berm was one of a number of initial shortlisted alternatives, all of which NPS determined would meet the objectives of restoring the National Lakeshore shoreline. “But there was a miscue in how we presented it,” he said. The draft drawing represented it “as a structure” and “that set people in the wrong direction from the start.” And the word itself--“cobble”--gave folks an incorrect impression of the size and durability of the materials which would have comprised the berm.

Among the public’s objections--which accounted for “the largest numbers” of the 99 comments submitted to NPS--were the following:

* The draft EIS “does not fully address the effects of the cobble berm on existing lake-bottom conditions.”

* The draft EIS “does not fully address the ecological consequences of placing large quantities of cobble on the lakebed, nor does it provide sufficient evidence that these materials are a natural component of the system.”

* Drawings in the draft EIS “do not accurately present the placement of the cobble berm nor does it provide adequate information on how the berm will be marked to minimize the risk to recreational boating craft.”

Replacing the proposed cobble berm was the right and natural thing to do, given the public’s feelings about it, Morris said. And the new alternative--a nourishment plan using small stones mixed with sand--actually duplicates conditions at Dunbar Beach in Beverly Shores, downdrift from Crescent Dunes.

“We sampled the conditions at Dunbar Beach and used that material as our standard,” Morris said. “We don’t intend to create a situation on the shoreline that doesn’t already exist.”

NPS heeded public comment in one other way, Morris noted: by increasing the proposed frequency of beach nourishment in reaches 3 and 4--which includes the Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk site and West Beach--to every year, instead of every five years. “The public preferred it be done annually,” he said.






Posted 9/17/2014




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