City officials address shoreline erosion, Riverwalk damage

The city owns riverfront property upstream alongside private residential lots, beginning at the top of the bank. They have been alerted to recent severe erosion in this area. (Courtesy Photo/Jeff Mikula)

MANISTEE — This winter season was not gentle on the Lake Michigan shoreline.

During a Manistee City Council meeting this month, city officials revealed damage that has occurred resulting from erosion.

“We are seeing shoreline erosion along the (Manistee) River Channel, as well as significant damage to our Riverwalk due to the high water levels, ice and the wave action,” said city manager Thad Taylor.

Severe erosion has been taking place in locations along the inner Manistee Harbor near the First Street Boat Launch, at city property along residential lots on the Manistee River Channel, and damage has occurred to the Riverwalk.

DEALING WITH THE DAMAGE

Right now, a portion of the Manistee Riverwalk is closed to the public due to its unstable condition.

“We closed (the Riverwalk) from Tamarack to Cherry streets,” said Jeff Mikula, Department of Public Works director. “What we are seeing now is that the wave action has been tremendous and actually devastating.”

A portion of the Riverwalk was previously damaged in late fall, but workers were not able to finish the repairs. Mikula said the damage has only worsened since then.

“There’s a section that lifted up and broke; we actually started repairing that in house,” he said. “When the weather hit, and we were not able to finish it, (more) damage occurred from wave action. It actually pushed chunks of ice up underneath it, lifted it and snapped it off from the foundation.”

The city is working on a solution, and hopefully, it should be reopened this summer. A long-term solution to the erosion impacts, he said, will be costly.

“The railings are all broken; the damage is substantial,” Mikula said. “Just to put some heavy stone there, you could spend half a million easily to protect that. The Riverwalk, regardless of whether the insurance gets a claim on that, we will get that fixed and opened. But the protection from the erosion is a whole different thing.”

The Manistee Municipal Marina docks also saw some damage during the seiche event on April 13, 2018. This year, the city is repairing the docks just in time for the summer boating season.

Another area of impact, city property along the Manistee River Channel, which is parallel to residential property, has been compromised. Mikula said bank erosion has started to occur. A tree on the lot can be seen slowly breaking off from the edge of the property.

“Houses between Tamarack Street and the Armory Youth Project, the lots go close to the bank, which is city property from the top of the bank to the water,” Mikula said. “There’s portions of the top of the bank that are sliding in, and erosion is occurring from the bottom. This is causing the top to come down. Certainly to these property owners, that’s a very big portion of their yard about to slide down that hill.”

Mikula said the Riverwalk could suffer significant damage.

“What’s concerning is, number one, it’s city property and we have some utilities close to that area; number two, the Riverwalk is down at the bottom of that,” he said.

The property owners were notified of the damage.

AN ONGOING TREND 

The City of Manistee is looking into both long-term and short-term solutions. Mikula said they plan to seek help from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, among other entities.

“The erosion is real,” he said. “When the water gets low in the Great Lakes, you hear everyone talking about the need to dredge. When the water starts to get high, and it’s coming up again this year, then the erosion starts to become a significant issue.”

However, the erosion is not going to come to a halt any time soon.

This year, the Great Lakes water levels are higher than normal. According to the Army Corps of Engineers, Lakes Michigan-Huron water levels are projected at eight inches higher than in April 2018.

Lakes Michigan-Huron water levels are said to be “more than average” for the month of April, and are four inches higher than in March. Within the next 30 days, water levels are anticipated to climb another two to four inches.

While the city has funded erosion reparation and prevention efforts in the past, Taylor said this process will not occur over night.

“We have contacted our insurance company about the damage to the Riverwalk,” Taylor said. “We are not going to move forward on any of those repairs until we hear whether we are covered or not.”

“It seems like the erosion is moving to the east, and we are going to have discussions with the Army Corps of Engineers to find out what options are best suited to address this. We can fix what we see today, but the year after we are just going to be chasing it down,” he added.

 

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Posted by Ashlyn Korienek

Ashlyn is the cops & courts and city reporter for the Manistee News Advocate. You can reach her at (231) 398-3109 or akorienek@pioneergroup.com

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