Lake Erie Waters Erode More Than 35 Feet Of Geneva-On-The-Lake Shoreline

Feb 12, 2020
Originally published on February 21, 2020 12:57 pm

Lake Erie is tearing away parts of the shoreline along Geneva-on-the-Lake. The village has declared a state of emergency due to accelerated erosion.

The shoreline along Geneva Township Park lost 35 feet of land to Lake Erie last week. In the past 24 hours, it’s lost between six and eight feet more, said Geneva-on-the-Lake Village Administrator Jeremy Shaffer.

“We’re cautioning people to look but stay away, at a safe distance,” Shaffer said. “But there’s also that imminent threat to public infrastructure, to critical infrastructure pieces in this.”

Village Mayor Dwayne Barrett signed the paperwork to declare a state of emergency Monday night, Shaffer said. Erosion has been a concern for a few years, he said, but this winter’s high water and lack of vegetation along the shoreline has dramatically accelerated the problem.

“The water is hitting an empty shore at an angle – where there’s hill or bluffs, it accelerates,”Shaffer said. “It seems to be, once it starts to accelerate, it doesn’t slow down until something changes it.”

The mild winter is having aneffect too, Shaffer said. The lake is normally frozen by now, but that hasn’t happened this year.

“[Ice] kind of slows the waves down and acts as a natural barrier,” Shaffer said. “The waves that would normally be hitting ice and slowing down before they hit land are hitting the shoreline, and the shoreline is saturated with water.”

Township Park will remain open despite the erosion concerns, said Township Park Manager Gary Dudeck. Visitors are still allowed in areas deemed safe by park staff, he said.

“It’s a small park, but people are still coming,” he said.

Workers have put dirt and rocks down near the large pavilion to protect it from the water, Dudeck said.

“There are some big rocks down there that we’ve had, but now they’re underwater,” Dudeck said. “They don’t help.”

Local officials met with a contractor Tuesday to discuss the problem and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and local engineers will evaluate the site Wednesday, Shaffer said.

“I know it seems like a slow process and we know it’s getting worse in the meantime, but we have to go in with some kind of emergency action plan to get the bank held before we can go any farther,” Shaffer said.

The county has discussed potential fixes over the years, said Ashtabula County Commissioner Casey Kozlowski, such as boulders along the shoreline.

“Additional improvements can be made, but generally those improvements are very costly,” Kozlowski said. “And you’re talking probably thousands of dollars per foot.”

The most recent estimate, made before this month’s erosion, put the cost of combatting the problem at about $1.3 million. The Geneva Township Park District has a levy on the March ballot for additional parks funding.

“Something we want to continue to do on this very issue is make our state and federal legislators aware of the erosion concerns that are occurring on the shoreline,” Kozlowski said.

U.S. Rep. David Joyce (R-Ohio)’s office has been in contact with village officials to discuss potential grant and emergency funding, a spokesperson said. That includes Emergency Streambank and Shoreline Protection, a federal program aimed at addressing erosion threats to public infrastructure.

Erosion could impact water, storm and sanitary sewers along the shoreline, Kozlowksi said. Old Lake Road, which runs parallel to the lake near the park, is also at risk.

The village is seeking potential emergency funding. Neither the state nor federal government has declared a state of emergency for the area, said Village Administrator Shaffer.

Erosion is also having an impact on private property, Shaffer said, and officials can’t dedicate public money to fixing those damages. The village is holding a public meeting Feb. 17 to discuss residential concerns.

“We’re trying to figure out how to still help private property damage in some way, but we don’t know what that structure is going to be yet,” Shaffer said.

The most recent estimate, made before the accelerated erosion this month, put the cost of combatting erosion around $1.3 million. The Geneva Township Park District has a levy on the March ballot to garner more funding.

“Something we want to continue to do on this very issue is make our state and federal legislators aware of the erosion concerns that are occurring on the shoreline,” Kozlowski said.

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