The city of Highland Park recently hosted a public meeting to discuss the erosion problems plaguing Illinois’ north shore. The shoreline from Waukegan to Wilmette consists of a series of dramatic bluffs that naturally erode into the water. The material from these bluffs would traditionally feed material to the shoreline further south, but a history of armoring and hardening has resulted in significant erosion with no natural sand replenishment in sight. As hardening occurs in northern sections of the shoreline, it prevents sand from being re-deposited along the southern sections of the shoreline. Find a stretch of shoreline in Lake County that has been hardened, look south and you’ll see reduced sand deposition and reduced ability of the shoreline to withstand wave action.
With the beaches in the area now largely dependent on artificial means to keep sand levels up, area residents are searching for a long-term solution. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is proposing sinking tons of clean gravel into the lakebed near the shoreline to guard against erosion. This would be accompanied by berms to keep the gravel in place.
Unfortunately, the project’s projected cost is $50 million. The Corps has run out of funding to complete the project study, and has announced that the project is a low priority because of an apparently low cost to benefit ratio.
However, a community process is beginning that will supplement the Corps’ work. U.S. Representative Mark Kirk’s office proposed forming a task force of those impacted by the erosion problem to gauge the true costs of erosion and look at alternative solutions to the problem.
Lake Michigan Federation volunteers have been enormously helpful in staying on top of this issue. A thank you goes out to our Lakefront Task Force for bringing a Great Lakes voice to the discussion.