High lake levels, and what landowners can do – from the Lake Huron Centre for Coastal Conservation

“HELP! The high lake levels are eroding my shoreline! My property needs shoreline armoring to protect my investment! What type should I use?!”
We have had inquiries about whether hardening shorelines are the best option for times of high lake levels, like we have this year. Coastal Engineers, regulatory bodies, and ecologists alike agree that shoreline hardening is not a viable option for lake shore properties on Lake Huron. A great resource from U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is here. High energy beaches, like those on the southeastern coast, many of the typical shore protection devices are unsuitable because they are extremely expensive to implement, require permits from Conservation Authorities and Municipalities, are extremely detrimental to natural coastal processes and coastal environments, and have short lifespans.
“So.. Shoreline Armoring is a bad idea… but what CAN I do to protect my shore?!”
Our best advice is to keep shorelines vegetated; if some of your trees or shrubs are being washed away by the lake, contact your Municipality if they are causing a risk to person or property, otherwise, let the lake wash them away. Reestablishing a dune, or a healthy vegetated buffer between your buildings and the water is your best defense. This method allows the dune to be the ‘sacrificial’ natural structure to take the brunt of the energy from the waves. In a few years when water levels are low again is the best time to protect your shoreline investments. Building dunes and planting vegetation is cheaper and can be more effective than armor stone or gabion baskets.
There are a few species of plants that are recommended for use in the Great Lakes Region. To initiate the stabilization process, plant one or more of the following species:
■ marram (dune) grass,
■ wheat grass,
■ wild rye,
■ dune willows
Once these plants are established and flourishing,
plant the following species:
■ sand cherry
■ choke cherry
To learn more about building dunes, or protecting your shoreline with vegetation, including natural species lists, check out the resources available on our website here
The Lake Huron Centre for Coastal Conservation