Here in Manistee County we are fortunate to have access to beautiful shorelines, ranging from inland lakes, streams, rivers, and other waterways to the edges of Lake Michigan. The diversity in ecosystems that surround and encompass these water systems provide many environmental benefits, and are extremely specific to this part of the United States, and the world. One of those ecosystems are sand dune areas that encompass extremely complex ecosystems, some of which are recognized as critical dune areas. Shoreline erosion (on Lake Michigan) and dynamic movement in our dune systems are different and can often times be confused with one another. Below you will find a brief description of each, and we encourage you to visit all of the provided links for more information on shoreline erosion!
WHAT IS IT?
Shoreline erosionis defined by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation as a natural process that occurs on lakes, streams, rivers and along coasts. It is gradual, although sometimes rapid, removal of sediments from the shoreline. It can be caused by a number of factors including storms, wave action, rain, ice, winds, runoff and loss of trees and other vegetation. When it reaches the point where it affects natural resources, water quality, ecosystems and property loss, it is generally unwanted and raises concerns. Natural processes of shoreline erosion through geologic processes are typically very slow, when the disturbance along shorelines and throughout watersheds increases by climatic or human time scale, the changes can happen at a greatly accelerated pace causing severe environmental and economic impact. The Michigan Shoreline Partnership defines accelerated erosion of the shoreline as human activities that change the natural balance and greatly accelerates the natural shoreline processes. They also note that there are three different groups of factors that contribute to erosion: 1) Terrestrial (land based) force, 2) Aquatic (water based) force and 3) human activities.
Dune ecosystemsrequire movement to maintain their diverse benefits, and the rich and active habitat they encompass. Dune movement can visibly appear similar to shoreline erosion, but they are separate in many ways. Sand dunes undergo a continual cycle of ‘erosion’ (breaking down) and accretion (building up) with wind and waves. Coastal sand dunes create natural barriers to wind and waves, and provide habitat for plants and animals including various rare and endangered species. Certain species are specific to these areas due to the continuous cycling of the system. Sand dunes bordering Lake Michigan represent the largest grouping of freshwater dunes in the world. The dunes originally formed as a result of the retreat of glaciers, and are among the youngest geomorphic structures in the state. The special climatic and geomorphic conditions responsible for dune formations are no longer operative, making these systems a unique and irreplaceable resource. However, the dune environment remains a very dynamic system. Variety of factors including wind, waves, currents and vegetation continually change the face of the dunes. These factors contribute constructively and destructively, a balance of these factors allow dunes to continue their vital function of stabilizing and resupplying beach fronts. This should not be confused with intense use pressures that can disrupt the ecosystem dynamics and accelerate natural processes.
New York State , Department of Environmental Conservation. “Shoreline Stabilization Techniques.” Shoreline Stabilization Techniques - NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation, www.dec.ny.gov/permits/67096.html.
Pearson, Joan M., and Eckhart Dersch . A Guide to Sand Dune and Coastal Ecosystem Functional Relationships. Department of Resource Development Michigan State University , 1971, pdfs.semanticscholar.org/375e/5e8880b82121bd0bbe7bc15796a4c4945ba6.pdf.
Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council. Understanding, Living With, & Controlling Shoreline Erosion . 2007, www.watershedcouncil.org/uploads/7/2/5/1/7251350/shoreline_erosion_3rd_edition.pdf.
Manistee Conservation District’s Role Regarding Shoreline Erosion
The legislature has defined the scope of activities that conservation districts in Michigan can take to meet the needs of landowners and constituents in their service area. The breadth and depth of programs and services offered by each office tends to vary based on the level of appropriations and economic support provided by grants, state, county and local funding, as well as the interests and needs of the communities served. The Manistee Conservation District’s current focus is to provide education and outreach to private landowners and other constituents in Manistee County, although several of our technical specialists are supported by grant funds that allow them to provide technical and compliance assistance to a larger geographic area. Given the shoreline erosion impacts facing a number of landowners in our county recently, we plan to work closely with county government to increase understanding about forecasted lake water levels and present information available to landowners that may help mitigate the impacts of soil erosion both now and in the future. The Manistee Conservation District currently does not have the technical staff available to address the many questions and resources the private landowners may need for shoreline erosion, but we are gathering information to place on our website so that landowners can become familiar with available educational programs or assistance. Here is what we are doing to support your education and outreach needs for shoreline erosion in Manistee County:
Working closely with county government for opportunities to provide education & outreach
Added a Shoreline Erosion Self Education Resource Tool on www.manisteecd2.org to support your search for educational and information on shoreline erosion
Arranged for an expert speaker for a public information session, “Lake Michigan – What’s in Store for 2020”, on Friday January 17, 2020, 6-8 pm, at The Ramsdell Theatre Auditorium
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