Changing shoreline worries

To the Journal editor:

“Hey Honey, where did the backyard go?”

Michigan stood with its arms on its hips as it looked at the Upper Penisula beginning to change shape before its very eyes. This might be seen as a funny joke on the changing coastline of the largest freshwater lake by area in the world and the healthiest Great Lake. Lake Superior is an indispensable resource for the area and the world.

Dear my fellow Northern living friends, I am scared of the future. It is daunting to face head-on the harsh reality of the environmental crises around us. To everyone who grew up with Lake Superior in our backyard, I would like to congratulate you on the astonishing landscape that graces us with its presence. The beautiful environment that we call home is beginning to shift. Our shorelines are shrinking and relocating with new and aggressive weather patterns. These include winter storms like the one around last Christmas that foiled many holiday plans for Yoopers alike.

The water level ranges have risen and fallen over the past years with extreme weather conditions causing the bluffs of Lake Superior to take a beating. Over the past years, there have been floods and droughts. The mild winters and scorching summers have been what could be the new normal for the Upper Penisula. The erosion of shores shows their true meaning transitioning through the seasons especially when it comes to the ice melt that affects land depending upon the absorption rate of said land.

I fear for the future generations of Yoopers to come. Our mild winter has caused low snowpack and increased spring rainfall has caused erosion to be a looming concern. I am concerned about the kids that want to ski but the season keeps shifting later into the spring or the businesses that rely on the seasons in Marquette. Think of Frosty Treats and any outdoor recreation businesses that need the coastline to succeed and rely on the seasonal pull to the coast to promote the economy of the communities along it.

I remember first coming up to the U.P. in the winter of 2018 and was told that we were having mild winters of late but last year, we had a snow day on the first days of May. The coastlines are home to many native species in the area that are endangered and on close watch lists for the EPA keep their eyes on. Think of the blue-spotted salamanders that shut down roads in the spring for migration.

The push for the protection of shorelines is not a new concept however it has begun to take out residential homes and businesses along the lake are in slow motion falling into the lake. This causes many citizens to be concerned for their livelihoods. Sure residents can build walls and reinforcements but for a longer-term solution there needs to be an understanding of bioengineering such as using native deep-rooted plants along the shoreline to reinforce the foundation of the border. This slow erosion would be prevented by the support of deep-rooted plants. The land going from wet to dry causes the composition and structure of the land to change what was once solid rock becomes clay and moldable when wet.

I urge all residents along the shoreline to educate themselves on the best management practices of bioengineering to protect their property lines. Some areas have seen losses of multiple feet over the years with infrastructure having to be relocated like Marquette’s beautiful Lake Shore Boulevard had to be moved inland along with an armored rock shoreline with native plants added. The sheer amount of money saved due to the implementations is huge with an extreme storm causing thousands of dollars in damages.

These improvements will not only enhance the environment but also the economy. The shifting is never going to fully stop but if we as residents understand how to best support our environments to be sustainable.


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