PORT SHELDON TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — As the waters of Lake Michigan rise, so too are the concerns about the shrinking beach backdrop for a string of homes and cottages in Ottawa County’s Port Sheldon Township.

“My biggest fear is losing my cottage, of course,” said Susan Wittenbach.

An old photo from 1999 shows the stunning difference at her property. 

Wittenbach said the erosion has worsened to the point that it’s unearthed an old set of lakefront stairs on her property that were covered by the dune for the past two decades. 

“I was here a week ago and I burst into tears. That’s what it’s like. It’s very scary. I’m emotional about it. I love this place,” she said. 

Robert Stanich of the Army Corps Engineers told 24 Hour News 8 Monday that precipitation, ice cover and evaporation are all factors in Lake Michigan’s fluctuating water levels. Right now, Lake Michigan is nearly 2 feet above its long-term December average.

“It is quite high,” Stanich said. “We’re very aware of the emotional impact. It’s scary. The water’s coming up, you’ve got your house right there.”

Stanich said water levels are cyclical. In 2012, they were at record lows, and history suggests they’ll go back down. But he admits there’s no guarantee.

“We look at forecasts and see what Mother Nature gives us and hope it comes down,” Stanich said. “Only time will tell.”

For now, Wittenbach is doing what she can. She recently pulled a permit to build shoreline protection.

Ultimately, hopes time works in her favor.

“I think we need to talk about it and be aware of our climate change and our environmental issues and what’s at stake here. It’s just huge,” she said. 

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