The remnants of an anti-erosion structure from days gone by along the Lake Michigan shore near Harbert.

HARBERT — The Chikaming Township Board during its May 14 regular meeting (held remotely via the Zoom app) agreed to hire a consulting firm to help officials evaluate the impact of proposed protective boulder revetments along the lakeshore.

Township Board members heard quite a few comments on the issue of boulders being placed along the lakeshore to protect homes from erosion during the May 9 session.

Most of those speaking on the issue were opposed to such revetments being installed, especially in the area between two township-owned public access beaches.

Ian Ram said some of the houses located between Cherry Beach and Harbert Beach are planning to install “large boulder revetments that would likely cover the majority if not the entirety of the beach from the dune to the water.”

While he said protecting a home is a legitimate concern, Ram said he believes boulder revetment is not the only solution.

Concerns also were raised about the ability of first-responders to traverse the beach with the boulders in place.

Daniel Glavin said he has spent his life on the beach in that neighborhood and has seen previous responses to high-water periods including seawalls and other methods.

“I’ve yet to see one that works,” he added.

And Glavin said he believes Cherry Beach will be significantly damaged if a boulder revetment is built to its east.

Sarah Schrup said she has been studying the implications of the two homeowners in her neighborhood who intend to have revetments installed.

She said the Army Corps of Engineers and environmental scientists agree that hardened structures on the coastline will eventually destroy the beaches.

Schrup said the township has the right to pause the process so it can study the issue and come up with a community-wide plan.

Michael Sobczak said he has been a beach property owner for 20 years, and would like to hold off and get more information before the projects move forward.

Theodore Handrup said he has lived in the area since 1983 and has seen water levels go up and down.

In 1986 he said levels went up enormously and some people put up seawalls, “which I think they have regretted.”

“I feel like we’re being pushed into something so quickly,” he said, adding that he lives next to a property where a revetment is proposed.

Handrup said a revetment that has already been put in north of Harbert Road makes walking the beach difficult.

“You have to crawl over the rocks or you have to go way out in the water,” he said.

Brian Kern said he lives south of Cherry Beach on a property purchased in 1998 that had a seawall installed in 1973, along with telephone pole and tire “wave energy dispersers” which were mostly removed in 2004 and replaced by rocks.

At that time there was 20 to 30 feet of beach. It grew to as many as 100 feet. Now the water is up to the rocks.

“It does work, and with the cycle of the lakes … it eventually will open up beachfront again.”

Township Supervisor David Bunte said a number of permit requests for revetments are coming in through EGLE (the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy) and through the zoning department, adding that it seems the time has come to decide if the township will take a position to make sure the projects will not only be non-harmful to neighbors, but also to the public and the township’s interests.

Bunte noted that he has been told that any objection to a project by the township will put a halt to the permit process.

“For us I feel to be as educated as possible and to make sure that we’re doing it with basis if we do an objection, that we needed to hire a consulting firm that is very familiar with the lakefront, very familiar with the coastal movement of the water, sand, sediment … that could give us an educated recommendation based on what was going to be installed and how it was going to impact the coast, how it was going to impact township properties and neighboring properties.”

The board approved an agreement with Edgewater Resources to evaluate permit requests for the township.

In another matter, Bunte said the total amount of pledges collected is $824,761 with outstanding pledges of $191,385. Of the uncollected total he said approximately $115,000 is committed.

“So we’re looking at $76,000 still outstanding that the committee is working diligently on collecting.”

Also waiting for funds to be released from the state legislature to the MDNR Trust Fund, after which a project agreement would begin the process of acquiring the property.

Bunte said the first phase of the Union Pier Red Arrow Highway road project, a major sewer project currently under way, is about two weeks behind its original schedule due to the COVID-19 situation and some de-watering issues.

“We’re anticipating the intersection being re-opened sometime in the first or early second week in June.”

He added that the road and streetscape improvement portion of the project is set to begin in mid-July.

In other May 14 business, the Chikaming Township Board:

• Was told by Bridgman Public Library Executive Director Dennis Kreps said he is thinking about Little Free Libraries as “touch points” for physical libraries.

Jill Underhill later said there is a Little Free Library at Harbert Community Park (a gift from the Bridgman Public Library), adding that it is fully stocked right now.

• Extended the contract with local libraries (Bridgman, New Buffao and Three Oaks) for a year while a possible new pact is negotiated to being in June 2021.

• Approved an amendment to the Zoning Ordinance to rezone land along Three Oaks Road that was sold by the township from recreational/commercial to ag (agriculture).

• Were informed that Greg Bunch is chairman of the Public Safety Committee, with Brian Kern Vice Chair, Secretary Steve Smith and Chuck Garasic also on board.

• Bunte told the council of a letter received by the township thanking emergency personnel for a wonderful birthday parade.

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