NEW BUFFALO — “It’s not about the level of the lake, it about the loss of sand” read the sign greeting people entering the fourth annual meeting of the New Buffalo Shoreline Alliance on Saturday, Aug. 31, in the New Buffalo Performing Arts Center.
During the gathering, New Buffalo Shoreline Alliance (NBSA) President Ted Grzywacz, a Sunset Shores resident, reviewed the “great strides” made during the year on the group’s goal to restore the beaches, save the New Buffalo water pump house facility, and also restore the natural habitat of the lake bottom and sand bluffs.
“We have moved off the ‘It’s not my fault page’ to ‘Let’s see if we can find a solution,’” Gryzwacz said after describing a meeting with the Army Corps of Engineers (ACE) during which he said common ground with Corps was found.
The Shoreline Alliance is made up of representatives from the lakefront communities south of the New Buffalo breakwater along with the City and Township. Grzywacz emphatically dispelled the notion that high water was the cause of the erosion and laid the blame on the New Buffalo breakwater built by the Army Corps of Engineers in 1976 and the failure of the ACE to fulfill its promise to provide on-going beach nourishment.
Other members of the Alliance board include Vice President Ed Oldis of Sunset Shores, Secretary Ron Watson of Sunset Shores, Treasurer Brian Byrnes of Grand Beach, Joe Galetto of Warwick Shores, Mark Shulte of Forest Beach Villas, Mike Miske of Forest Beach Estates, Cindy Denning of Grand Beach and Paul Johnson of Warwick Shores.
Also recognized by Grzywacz for their support were New Buffalo Mayor Lou O’Donnell, New Buffalo Township Supervisor Michelle Heit, Mike Ryan of Congressman Fred Upton’s office and County Commissioner Ezra Scott, who also spoke briefly during the meeting.
In reviewing the ongoing efforts, Grzywacz said NBSA is continuing its pursuit of a Great Lakes Fishery and Eco System Restoration (GLFER) grant to build offshore breakwaters that would increase fish habitat and contribute to erosion control. Grzywacz reported that $225,000 has been allocated by the EPA’s Great Lakes Restoration Initiative for related studies.
Shoreline Alliance representatives and local government officials also met and corresponded with ACE, including a visit to New Buffalo by the out-going commander of the Great Lakes and Ohio River Division Major General Mark Toy and his staff and attendance at ceremonies for his replacement Major General Robert Whittle.
On another front, the Alliance partner with Michigan State University in the administration of a hoped-for Coastal Zone Management grant from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. This would be a one-to-one matching grant, with NBSA needing to match $75,000.
In Washington D.C., the Alliance’s efforts were bolstered by hiring O’Connell & Dempsey, a governmental affairs firm with related experience. The firm will assist NBSA in contacting key government decision-makers and in filing government applications.
Due to U.S. Rep. Fred Upton’s effort’s, Grzywacz reported that New Buffalo received $275,000 in 2019 for dredging by the Corps. He also described a study that showed the movement of rocks in the revetment around the pump house and the pursuit of funding under various sections of the River and Harbor Act.
Other NBSA activities involved a meeting with and visit by Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist and his staff to discuss erosion issues and potential water problems; meetings with State Senator Kimberly LaSata and State Representative Brad Paquette, and planning for an upcoming trip to Washington to meet with elected representatives and officials.
Also reported were: $50,000 in funds that have released by the Corps to fund the first phase of a Section 111 study; $625,000 in dredging funds for New Buffalo in the 2020 work plans summited by the Corps; and $200,000 for a 216 study is also in the Corps’ 2020 work plan.
Grzywacz ended his presentation with a review of the budget and request for monetary pledges. He said it took $54,400 to operate during the past year, with $100,000 budgeted for the coming year, plus another $75,000 needed to match the hoped-for Michigan Coastal Zone Management (CZM) grant.
“Why should the whole community be concerned about someone’s beach? … This is a public problem that touches on every aspect of our lives. Any money spent to protect our beaches is an investment in our homes, our schools, our communities, our economies and our future,” Grzywacz said.
Contributions are tax deductible and can be made through the NBSA website at www.newbuffaloshorelinealliance.org or by mail to New Buffalo Shoreline Alliance, P.O. Box 425, New Buffalo, Mich., 49117.
During the question and answer session which followed, Grzywacz responded to the question as to when access to the beaches and lakefront will be restored, saying, “If everything went perfectly, two to five years. My guess three to seven years for the effort to be 100 percent completed.”
During his comments, lifelong resident Scott said he had seen the shoreline go from “lots and lots of sand to no sand.” After being contacted by NBSA, Scott said he started his campaign “to meet the right people in order to come up with the solution.”
In addition to contacts made during Major General Whittle’s appointment as the new commander of the Great Lakes and Ohio River Division of ACE, Scott reviewed his attendance at the International Joint Commission conference that addressed the negative effects high water levels.
“We are in a spot we’ve never been in before due to everyone’s efforts. All we ask for is support. Call your Congressmen and your state reps. Don’t call me, I’m already on. Shoreline doing its darnedest to get all of this taken care of,” Scott said.