Program and People News

New Initiative Will Build Resiliency in Lake Michigan Coastal Communities


Wisconsin Sea Grant today announced it would work with partners on a new, three-year $840,000 multi-faceted project to protect Lake Michigan shoreline homes, beaches and harbors. 

The effort is funded through an award from the federal National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Coastal Resilience Grants Program and builds on prior Sea Grant work in Kenosha, Racine, Milwaukee and Ozaukee counties, which are dotted with natural and man-made features susceptible to damage from erosion, fluctuating water levels and coastal storms with pounding surf and high winds.

“Our proposal to safeguard the people and property along the coastline of Lake Michigan was well-received by federal grant reviewers. This infusion of nearly $1 million in federal money recognizes the importance of the Great Lakes to our nation’s economy and the unique coastal challenges the region faces. For example, our current above-average lake levels combined with high-energy storm waves have increased erosion of the coast. Private property owners and local officials need to be able to protect assets—homes, garages, sheds and yards, as well as  public features important to commerce and tourism, such as harbors, beaches and other lakefront recreational spots,” said Adam Bechle, the former J. Philip Keillor Fellow, a position supported by Sea Grant and the Wisconsin Coastal Management Program. Bechle was the primary architect of the successful grant application during the time of his fellowship earlier this year.

Four coastal counties, 22 coastal municipalities, and various state and local organizations will be the focus of the work.

The new grant will allow Sea Grant and the lead agency on the project, the Wisconsin Coastal Management Program of the Wisconsin Department of Administration, along with other partners—the University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission—to complete a number of tasks.

“Lake Michigan communities are vibrant places, but also face challenges when the lake’s waters rise and fall, weakening natural physical structures and threatening man-made ones,” said Mike Friis, director of the Wisconsin Coastal Management Program. “We have some outstanding partners with deep expertise in areas that will benefit southeastern Wisconsin. For many years, we have collaborated with the organizations who are now partners on this grant—whether it’s setting up rip current and dangerous wave warning systems, advising towns on how to better build or repair marina infrastructure or preventing beach erosion. We have been successful in improving the quality of life in our state and boosting economic potential. This grant offers yet another way to continue some very well-started efforts.”

The new efforts also build on work from last summer when Sea Grant conducted five public meetings with southeastern Wisconsin residents and local officials about higher water levels that cause bluff collapse, putting homes and other property at risk of sliding into the lake. At the meetings, Sea Grant staff identified more than 60 action items to address the effects of rising Lake Michigan water levels.

 “Across the nation, a core part of Sea Grant's service to coastal communities is ensuring resiliency, both economic and as a matter of practical applications. The effectiveness of these efforts is evidenced by how many of the federal awards involve Sea Grant's expertise,” said Sea Grant Director Jim Hurley. “I am pleased that is the case here in Wisconsin as well.”




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