NEW BUFFALO — An Oct. 16-17 wind-storm that whipped up high waves on Lake Michigan damaged the revetment structure installed to protect the Warwick Shores Condominiums in New Buffalo, creating a sand slide perilously close to a deck and pool area in front of one of the buildings.
“It’s very close to their pool. Their stairs are almost gone,” said Ted Grzywacz, president of the New Buffalo Shoreline Alliance.
“The lake breached the revetment, and once the lake breaches the revetment the revetment caves and then the water just rolls in.”
He said the damage measured about 1,100 feet of collapse, adding that the cost to repair the revetment at almost $3,000 a foot will be daunting.
“They’re in a bad way there, but quite frankly the whole shoreline from the harbor wall to past Grand Beach is in a bad way, It could happen anywhere along there, there’s no sand.”
Two weeks later a Halloween evening storm flooded the lakefront area in New Buffalo causing damage to the public beach parking lot and leaving behind a debris-filled high-water mark.
Ed Oldis of the New Buffalo Shoreline Alliance said Warwick Shores has been "devastated," losing a set of stairs and an observation deck while pumps at Harbor Pointe had to be run continuously to keep up with the floodwaters.
Warwick Shores Homeowners Association President Joe Galetto said the current crisis at those condos has its roots in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers 1995 decision to stop depositing sand on the southern shore below the New Buffalo breakwater after they had done so for about 20 years to keep the beaches in that area from disappearing.
He said there were years after the Corps stopped depositing sand south of the breakwater when the lake level was high, but there was still enough beach left to offer some protection. Now there is no beach at all.
“The beaches stayed there for a while … in ‘98 we had a bad storm and we had to put up our first revetment.”
By the time a “terrible storm” struck in 2009 and took away the beach, Galetto said another revetment was installed. The same scenario played out in 2015.
“At Warwick we’ve spent $4.5 million dollars on revetments over this period of time, in addition to the loss of our property values because we don’t have a beach,” he said. “Now we are going to spend another million and a had to two million dollars to fix this revetment again.”
Galetto said the 2009 storm also put the city’s water pumping station in peril and the Corps of Engineers placed huge boulders around it for protection.
He said a study was done in 2009 and possible solutions to the erosion were found, but nothing else has happened since except for calls to do more studies.
“It’s not going to get any better unless they start putting sand in,” Galetto said, adding that dredging is used in other parts of the country and placing some kind of structure offshore like a wave attenuating device to keep the sand from washing away also could help.
Galetto said Arie Donkersloot was slated to start adding big boulders in the near future to reinforce the revetment and make it higher.
“Next spring we have to put in a permanent plan to prevent that from happening again,” he added.
Galetto said the Warwick Shores complex includes eight buildings near the water along the dune and seven in the woods.
Grzywacz agreed that the shoreline erosion issue is much more than just a high water problem.
“The high water is exacerbating the problem. The main problem is there’s no sand.”
During the Shoreline Alliance’s Aug. 31 annual meting, Grzywacz said organization was 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.
Due to U.S. Rep. Fred Upton’s efforts, 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.
For more, go to www.newbuffaloshorelinealliance.org.