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Landscapers haul large armour stones to help homeowners along Lake Michigan fight erosion

Erosion woes continue on Lake Michigan
Posted at 9:36 PM, Dec 23, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-23 22:31:57-05

SOUTH HAVEN, Mich. — Two years ago, Brian deBest got a permit from the Environment, Great Lakes and Energy organization and the United States Army Corps of Engineers to begin moving large armour stones along the Lake Michigan shoreline, he said.

Monday, he and his staff at deBest Incorporated began moving those stones, which weighed between 1 ton and 5 ton each.

“We’ve done about 50 [projects] already in the last two years and it is slowing the erosion down considerably,” deBest said during an interview with FOX 17 News. “We put two rows below the lake level and seven rows above. And now at the current time we’re going up 9 [rows] because the lake continues to rise.”

Officials with EGLE and Army Corps are predicting that the water level will continue to rise another nine inches by August 2020 and 12 inches by 2021, he said.

Assistant City Manager Katie Hosier said city officials were hearing the same the predictions.

“They’re actually forecasting it to go higher by June of next year,” Hosier said. “We’re just waiting to see what the weather patterns do. Of course, the less precipitation the better off we are at this point.”

Hosier said shoreline protection systems involving the large armour stones were all privately funded. However, City Hall asks that homeowners and other property owners contact them first before they begin hauling rocks.

“What we’ve been saying is ‘hey get your stuff into the Corps and to the Michigan Department of EGLE and then of course get with the city staff,” Hosier said. “If you’re in the city of South Haven, there’s a process you have to go through to get your shoreline protection system put in.”

deBest added that both state and federal officials recommend using the armor stones to fight the erosion. He said the rocks are so dense that water can’t penetrate it.

“Its' jagged edges takes the energy out of the lake which slows the waves down and it keeps banks from eroding,” he said. “But it also rebuilds the beaches in front of the armour stones. The problem is in the state of Michigan we’re running out of rocks.”

So deBest gets them shipped in from Manitowoc, Wisconsin, he said. He then stores them at Brewer City Dock in Holland.

Currently, deBest Inc. is working on 17 projects he said. And, they’re working to get another 20 permits for future projects. If the officials predictions come true, deBest may be doing this for a while he said.

“Erosion continues to be an issue for many lakes and landowners that are on the lakeshore as well as in the river,” Hosier said. “This is a continued problem that [homeowners] are going to be facing for the foreseeable future.”