Geologist: Erosion, bluff collapses will continue

Kalamazoo and Battle Creek

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Researchers from the Michigan Geological Survey at Western Michigan University are studying bluff failures along the lakeshore and creating detailed maps.

They are trying to get a better understanding of the makeup of the soil and how it affects erosion.

Heavy rains and the high winds on Tuesday will only add to the problem, according to John Yellich, the director of the Michigan Geological Survey.

“We are trying to get more and more subsurface detail so that people can have a better understanding of what the subsurface geology is,” Yellich said.

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>>Photos: Erosion threatens homes along Lake Michigan

The team is focusing their research on St. Joseph, the Miami Park area north of South Haven, and Pentwater.

“The bluff failure now is a combination of two things. One is the type of glacial material that we have and two is what have we been doing on the upper surface on the top of the bluffs,” Yellich said.

Building on the bluffs has also changed how water flows into the soil.

“We put a house on something, and we make an impervious surface, which means that the water has to go somewhere. They’re not directing the water where it needs to go, which is to get it away from the bluff face and many of the places are not doing that,” Yellich said.

He says homeowners trying to fight back individually with netting or other systems ultimately will not work.

“Putting something down at the bluff face isn’t going to help you. It helps you only momentarily, but everybody else on either side is going to be impacted because you’ve just trained the energy that comes on to the shore and force it to go to the neighbors next door,” Yellich said.

The researcher does not believe the problem will improve. Yellich wants homeowners to leave native vegetation and grasses along the shoreline because their longer root system holds the soil together, helping to prevent erosion and bluff failures.

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