Chesterton Tribune



Region goes back to the drawing board after state rejects funding to fight beach erosion

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The Region lost out on $800,000 in sorely needed funding for an Army Corps of Engineers study on beach erosion, Executive Director of Indiana Dunes Tourism Lorelei Weimer told the Tourism Board at its meeting yesterday.

Weimer said State Senator Karen Tallian (D-Ogden Dunes) had been determined to get $800,000 earmarked in the biennial budget--$400,000 this year and $400,00 next year--to fund a local match for the $1.6 million study, the goal of which is to find a long-term solution for rapid and damaging erosion at the Indiana Dunes National Park beaches.

The Senate approved the measure, but it didn’t survive final changes to the budget bill, Weimer said. “We were told that if Senator Tallian got it in on the Senate side, it would stay in,” Weimer said. “No one is letting us know who took it out, but it was taken out at the last minute.”

The lack of state support puts Tourism and the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), which it has partnered with in the lobby for funding, back at square one for finding a total of $1.2 million-- $800,000 for the study and the rest for immediate beach nourishment, according to Weimer.

Weimer said the study will take two to three years to complete, even if expedited. “We can’t access any federal funds at all unless we do that study,” she added.

So far, Portage and Ogden Dunes have pledged a total local match of $250,000.

Meanwhile, erosion at the Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk is still worsening after the collapse of an observation deck in January 2018.

Weimer said two handicap accessible paths have been lost to erosion, and the park’s pavilion could be next. “We’re very concerned that a $60 million asset could wash away.”

The focus for Tourism is back to awareness, for the time being.

In January, Dunes Tourism announced Weimer was working with the NPCA to create a video to show state legislators what’s going on at the Lakefront. Weimer said yesterday that her new goal is updating that video to show today’s conditions.

Weimer said a representative from U.S. Senator Todd Young’s (R) office recently visited the Portage site, and Dunes Tourism also hosted Lieutenant Governor Suzanne Crouch. Along with the National Park, they arranged for Crouch to view the shrinking shoreline by boat.

Weimer reported visitation at the National Park is up 27% since the name change, despite the problems at the Portage facilities, and she expects the trend to continue throughout summer.

“We just got this great status. We’re a National Park, but at the same time, we’ve got a huge erosion issue,” Weimer said.



Posted 5/17/2019




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