NEW BUFFALO — The effort to protect the Warwick Shores Condominium units closest to the eroding shoreline of Lake Michigan is well under way, but it’s far from over.
Warwick Shores Homeowners Association President Joe Galetto said a stairway and observation deck in front of the pool near two of the New Buffalo condo units was recently lost to the eroding bank.
The remaining portion of a deck located closer to the pool offers a view nearly straight down the collapsing sand dune to a barrier of boulders that have been piled up as a buffer against the threatening waters of Lake Michigan by Donkersloot and Sons.
Galetto said more boulders are being placed along the shore to further protect the condos.
“Those rocks come from Green Bay. They have trucks that leave at 2 in the morning and they drive down there and dump the rocks off … I think it’s two or three deliveries a week,” he said.
Galetto said the boulders are transported along a construction road along the shore where a crane adds them to the growing barrier (“it’s like putting together a jigsaw puzzle”) that stretches from one end of the property to the other.
After the boulders are all in place, Galetto said sheet metal will be placed behind the rock wall in an attempt to keep the dunes from eroding to the point where the Warwick Shores buildings closest to the lake are brought to the brink or beyond.
“They’re going to take these corrugated sheets that are like 10 feet by 20 feet and drive them down into the dune and then backfill it so that the dune doesn’t collapse,” he said.
The process is expected to continue through next spring and cost well into the seven figures.
“We’re not millionaires,” Galetto said, adding that a long-term loan is being sought to pay for the expensive project.
Paul R.T. Johnson Jr., a member of the New Buffalo Shoreline Alliance Board and a Warwick Shores Homeowners Association representative, said those trying to save properties along the eroding shoreline are working with local governments to get whatever help they can get.
He added that some sort of a municipal bond or special assessment district, or hopefully assistance from FEMA if an emergency is declared, could be used to help pay for efforts against erosion.
Johnson said plans also being eyed to appeal taxes on properties affected by the crisis on the shoreline, noting that the values of many are “probably half” what they used to be.
Galetto said the Warwick Shores complex includes eight buildings near the water along the dune and seven in the woods, adding that there are a total of 74 units in the complex.
Galetto lamented the lack of action by Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer or the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers regarding the erosion problem which is affecting the entire lakefront.
Johnson said much of the problem south of the harbor breakwater stems from the Army Corps of Engineers not doing what it promised to do when it built the structure 50 years ago by replenishing sand to the south, a task he said they provided until 1995.
“They said all this would happen if they didn’t do their job. Well. they didn’t do their job.”
He said strong October storms caused serious dune loss in front of the Warwick Shores before the protective barrier could be reinforced.
“We’re in a tough position because five years ago the DEQ would not let us build the wall higher … So now we did get to build it higher and we suffer the consequences and they suffer nothing.”
Johnson credited State Sen, Kim LaSata with helping to get permission for the revetment enhancement project approved.