Requests for emergency permits for shoreline protection keep rising

Published: Jun. 12, 2020 at 2:29 PM CDT
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The number of property owners seeking emergency permits for shoreline protection along Lake Michigan and the Bay of Green Bay has nearly doubled since the beginning of the year and is now approaching 500.

As we first reported in January, more than 250 homeowners at the time sought authorization to install emergency rip rap to protect their property against record-high water levels.

As water levels on Lake Michigan and the bay continue to set all-time record highs with each month that passes, anxiety along the shoreline is rising too.

"Banks are washing out. Their trees are looking like they're going to fall or they're already tipping in. They want to save the old mature trees. Maybe the erosion is getting to the point where they think they may lose a structure or it's getting close to something, they're just not comfortable with what could happen next," says Crystal von Holdt, DNR Water Management Specialist.

And every time the wind blows hard, von Holdt is fielding calls and explaining to property owners how they can fill out a one-page emergency permit application form, and begin work immediately to shore up their shoreline.

"Every storm event brings a new group of people contacting me. Some people are still trying to wait it out, if there aren't structures at imminent risk I offer the option for people to consider maybe wait and see what happens, you might not have to spend all of that time and money," says von Holdt.

Through at least the end of the year, von Holdt says she expects her phone to continue ringing.

And on a historical note, she points out there's a big difference from the time when the previous high water marks were set.

"The high water from the mid-80's was also quite high, but from what I gathered from people, they had fewer storms in the mid-80's, and we're seeing a lot more storm events, so we're feeling way more damage and flooding and risk for shorelines washing away and structures being damaged," says von Holdt.