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Researcher: 'Armored Shorelines' Contributing to Great Lakes Erosion Issues

Chris Winslow at Ohio State's Stone Lab in Lake Erie says concrete and steel barriers have replaced vegetated shorelines that could naturally buffer rising waters. [Elizabeth Miller / ideastream]
view of path along Lake Erie

Geneva-on-the-Lake continues to experience massive amounts of erosion due to high water on Lake Erie, and Chris Winslow, director of Ohio Sea Grant College Program at Stone Laboratory, said this problem is not unique to the Ashtabula County resort town.

The large amounts of erosion are across the Great Lakes region are due to water levels reaching historic highs, as well as a lack of ice coverage this winter, Winslow said. Water levels have been rising over the years as a result of precipitation from both spring rain events and heavy snow packs from the upper Great Lakes melting.

For long term sustainability, Great Lakes’ coastal communities need to return to nature-based shorelines, Winslow said.

Chris Winslow, Director of Ohio Sea Grant College Program at Stone Laboratory, explains what the program has done to combat the problem.

“We’ve removed a lot of those wetlands and vegetated shorelines that basically naturally try and help buffer these sea level rises, and we’ve gone in and instead just put concrete and steel barriers or what we call armored our shorelines," he said.

Water levels around the Lake Erie islands are 30 to 32 inches higher than the long term historic average, and all of the Great Lakes have surpassed historic highs, Winslow said.

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