Lake Erie’s water levels are at historic levels. In fact, the lake’s water level has raised 6″ since May 1st of this year, and we have already broken the historic highest water level of 1986. This is 30″ above the average sea level of the lake. May had the highest average monthly water level increase since 1918. Similar, but not as extreme high-water levels occurred in 1973-1974 and 1997-1998 when water levels receded until 2007. Historic patterns indicate we will continue to see elevated lake levels this spring and summer. Lake water level should begin to drop after this year.
Residents along our north shore and the city have been experiencing significant erosion damage due to these extreme conditions. In fact, the entire lakefront of Ohio has similar issues. Marinas with their docks underwater and lower lakefront areas experiencing flooding in many cities along the lakefront. In Lake County, Eastlake, Mentor, Fairport Harbor, and Perry Village are experiencing significant issues with lakefront erosion.
Over the past months, we have been investigating possible erosion control measures and funding for these.
We met with Paul Palgyi, Executive Director of Lake Metroparks, who offered to provide technical assistance in lakefront planning to help with temporary and short-term erosion control measures including landscape design. We also met with Peter Zahirsky of the Lake County Port Authority and Director of Coastal Management to review any funding sources for erosion control. Peter indicated that there are no funds specifically dedicated to lakefront erosion measures. However, he did state that if we combine erosion control improvements with lakefront master plan improvements, funding may be available. He referenced the work Euclid is doing as an example. Recently, Councilman Woodin joined the administration in a visit to Euclid to meet with Mayor Holzheimer Gail and her staff to better understand the scope, schedule, and funding of their project at Sims Park. We also participated in a meeting with mayors, managers, and state elected officials sponsored by the Lake County Port Authority, representatives from Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) and the law firm Bricker and Eckler, experts in Lakefront Special Improvement Districts. From this meeting, we learned:
- The ODNR, Office of Coastal Management is issuing Temporary Shore Structure Permits to allow homeowners to act faster than the standard permit process that can take three months or longer.
- The Technical Assistance phone number for ODNR is (419) 626-7980. Their website is http://coastal.ohiodnr.gov/.
- There is no financing assistance for landowners using the Temporary Shore Structure Permits.
- The temporary permits can be issued in 1 – 2 weeks and are good for two years.
- There are Coastal Assistance Planning Grants, for planning only, from ODNR. Willowick, Eastlake, and Willoughby are jointly pursuing these.
- Homeowners have the option to create a SID to help finance erosion control measures. Municipalities sponsor the SID, and it may contain both public and private properties, and the properties do not need to be contiguous.
- The SID would allow homeowners to amortize the cost of erosion control improvements over 30 years.
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