NEW BUFFALO — The New Buffalo Shoreline Alliance announced in a press release that New Buffalo elected officials including Berrien County Commissioner Ezra Scott and New Buffalo Township Supervisor Michelle Heit, along with Shoreline Alliance President Ted Grzywacz, met with high level Washington decision makers on Dec. 5 and 6 to make their case for Federal funds to combat erosion along the New Buffalo lakeshore.
“From the Governor’s Washington office to the Pentagon to our Senator’s Offices and Congressman Upton, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and to the Office of Management and Budget, we made our very strong case for Federal funds for the Corps to meet its obligation to restore the shoreline,” said Scott. “It’s a straight line between the mitigation plan as included in the Corps authorization for the New Buffalo Harbor and our $2.4 million request to the Corps to restart trucking sand to our beaches to meet the Corps’ obligation and they got it. We are in hand to hand combat for funds and our Representative and Senators are right there with us.”
Meeting with key leaders from the Assistant Secretary of the Army, Corps Headquarters, the Office of Management and Budget, Washington Office of the Governor, and the New Buffalo House and Senate Congressional Delegation, the release stated that “New Buffalo leaders stayed focused on their specific funding requests for the Corps to restart the beach restoration program, as well as for Operation and Maintenance funds for protecting the Pump House, which provides water supply to New Buffalo and surrounding communities.”
“They heard us loud and clear that we have a high priority health and safety need in securing the Pump House to protect our water supply, as well as in providing trucked in sand for beach nourishment, said Heit. “We needed to be there in Washington to tell our story as powerfully as we could for our community and both the reception we received and the timing were excellent. We will not let up on our fight for Federal dollars and neither will our tremendous delegation.”
In addition, there were wide-ranging discussions on best approach for moving beyond the immediate need and to get the Corps working on a permanent solution for protecting the New Buffalo shorefront.
“We are actively working with the Corps leadership to not only address our immediate beach nourishment need, but to find the best and most efficient path to developing a partnered permanent solution to protect our community against the ravages of erosion,” said Grzywacz. “We were very pleased with the Corps’ recent approval of $100,000 in start-up funds to look at the impacts of the New Buffalo Harbor on our shoreline and to recommend a structural solution. Now we are looking at ways to broaden their reach to get the solution we need.”
The Washington, D.C., meetings were held against the backdrop of the local effort to have Michigan’s Governor declare a state of emergency due to shoreline erosion and then, if successful, working for the Administration’s support of that, as well as Congress’ efforts to wrap up Fiscal Year 2020 Appropriations. Assuming Congress finalizes its 2020 Appropriations package to fund the Federal government, the Corps is typically given 60 days from funding measure enactment to come up with a Work Plan to allocate the FY 2020 funds to projects across the country.
Upton Makes Resquest
By John Matuszak
For the News
NEW BUFFALO — Southwest Michigan leaders aren’t treading water when it comes to combating the growing problem of erosion along the lakeshore.
U.S. Rep. Fred Upton recently sent a letter asking for the Army Corps of Engineers to include $2.4 million in its 2020 budget to add 120,000 cubic yards of sand to replace materials lost south of the New Buffalo harbor breakwater.
The request came as Upton met in Washington, D.C. with Berrien County Commissioner Ezra Scott, of New Buffalo, and members of the New Buffalo Shoreline Alliance, including New Buffalo Township Supervisor Michelle Heit.
New Buffalo is among the areas hard hit by rising waters and heavy waves along the shore, that is worsening erosion and threatening homes, beaches and infrastructure, such as the New Buffalo water plant. Sidewalks at Lions Beach Park and Silver Beach in St. Joseph were damaged by storms last week, and hundreds of Bridgman residents filled and stacked sandbags on Dec. 7 to protect the Weko Beach House.
In his letter to R.D. James, assistant secretary of the U.S. Army (Civil Division) Upton pointed out that for 20 years the Corps of Engineers had replaced sand lost due to the construction of the New Buffalo pier, but stopped short of its 50-year commitment to mitigate the erosion. A 2009 plan recommended replacing the 120,000 cubic yards of sand at the Warwick Shores/Sunset Shores location, Upton wrote.
Members of the New Buffalo alliance have been working to get the Corps of Engineers to restore the beach and install structures that would reduce erosion.
Last month, Scott introduced a resolution, passed by the Berrien County Board of Commissioners, asking Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to declare a state of disaster along the 3,400mile Michigan shoreline, as a step toward seeking federal aid. While in Washington, he was planning to meet with White House contacts to make the case for the needed aid.
State legislators are taking up that call, as well.
Rep. Brad Paquette, R-78, announced that he and others, including Speaker of the House Lee Chatfield and Rep. Pauline Wendzel, R-Watervilet, also have made a request for a disaster declaration from the governor.
“Tremendous damage has been done not only in my community, but along the entirety of the Lake Michigan shoreline,” said Paquette, of Niles, in a news release. “I’m proud to join my colleagues in the fight to address this devastation by allowing the impacted areas to qualify for additional financial help.”
By issuing a state of emergency, the governor would be able to designate more resources to respond to the erosion along the Lake Michigan shoreline, the release explains. A state of emergency declaration would also allow the state to petition the federal government to do the same, activating additional resources to assist impacted communities and property owners.
The letter mentions how the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy has been helpful in speeding up the permitting process and reducing regulatory hurdles to address potential future impacts, But it also notes that much of the damage has already been done, “leaving residents and business owners to pick up the pieces.”