PARK TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) - The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says a Holland State Park sand dune is putting too much pressure on the seawall below and is leveling it to prevent the wall from collapsing.
The dune on the north side of the channel is a popular spot for senior and wedding photos and many enjoy the view of the lighthouse affectionately called "Big Red" from there. People at the park Wednesday said they were sad to see the beautiful dune go.
"It is not a naturally occurring sand dune and it is negatively affecting the pier, so it has to be removed, unfortunately," Project Superintendent Blake Jordan said.
Engineers say the dune is recent -- about 50 years old or so. It grew from sand blowing off the beach. Now 30 feet high, it weighs in at more than 24,000 tons.
"The sand is pushing outward on the seawall and it is going to cause some sort of failure," Jordan said.
If the seawall were to collapse, it could close the navigational channel. That could be economically catastrophic.
The Army Corps of Engineers first noticed the problem more than a decade ago. In the last five years, it became critical. This year, nearly $200,000 in federal funding was granted and the work started Monday.
The dune is also costing taxpayers money in the form of additional dredging.
"Even on it's own without any wind, it is spilling sand daily into the channel," Jordan said.
The mountain of sand will be moved into areas of the beach where it should help control erosion and the dune grasses are being sent to other state parks with erosion problems. Some of the grasses will be sent to areas devastated by Hurricane Sandy.
Park-goers said they understand why the work was being done, but that it was sad anyway.
Jordan said the project is expected to be completed in two to three weeks.
We get a brief break from the "lake-effect machine" Friday.
A few flurries occurred Thursday night. Lows held in the teens and the wind relaxed to the 5 to 10 mph range, with 20s at the Lake Michigan.
On Thursday, the medical examiner's office said CMU student Kelly Markatos died as a result of the eating disorder bulimia.