Ottawa Co. homeowners eye encroaching Lake Michigan

Rising Waters

GRAND HAVEN TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Every day, more and more of the lakeshore in Ottawa County seems to disappear with rising lake levels and eroding beaches.

“This is first time there’s been any beach. It was just a sheer drop-off and no walking access,” homeowner Susan Wittenbach said Tuesday as she looked over her beachfront property south of Grand Haven.

Wittenbach is now one of several homeowners racing against time as Lake Michigan continues swallowing their land.

“I think we lost about 70 feet just since last fall. We did have three football fields at one point,” Wittenbach said.

ottawa county lakeshore erosion
Susan Wittenbach stands on her deck, which is perched precariously on a Lake Michigan sand dune. (Sept. 3, 2019)

Wittenbach has owned her cottage on Sunset Trail off of Lakeshore Avenue since 1999. Today, only a few feet stand between her home and the lake. The problem has gotten so bad that the family had to remove a portion of their deck this past spring after erosion left it hanging off the sand dune it was built on.

“It was very emotional for me in the spring because I was so frightened,” she said.

ottawa county lakeshore erosion
Wittenbach’s home perched precariously atop a Lake Michigan sand dune. (Sept. 3, 2019)

The problem affects many homes along the lakeshore, including properties near Stickney Ridge Road and Indian Village near the Grand Haven city limit. Some neighbors are now worried they could lose their homes completely.

Storm Team 8 says the fall months will bring more storm systems and brew bigger waves, causing homeowners to lose even more beach.

“I can’t let myself go there, (thinking) that this is going to fall in. It would take me down,” Wittenbach said. “I think the anxiety comes from living in the future and I can only do what I can do in the present, which is try to get protection.”

Seawalls were previously installed along the lakeshore but homeowners say they need a permanent solution before it’s too late. Some have already started filing permits to install a rock wall to help stall the dunes’ movement. They hope to put them in before the winter months.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Know something newsworthy? Report It!

News 8 Links

Weather Tools