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'They've lost a lot of Earth:' More homes in danger of falling into Lake Michigan

Posted at 9:05 PM, Dec 20, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-20 22:05:03-05

VILLAGE OF SOMERS — More homes are at risk of falling into Lake Michigan due to rapid erosion along the shoreline.

"They've probably lost an additional 30 feet since we started this project," Max Lucansky said.

Lucansky was the contractor who tore down a home hanging over the edge of a cliff in Somers. It's been more than a month since the demolition. But with each passing wave pounding the side of the bluff, the demolition hasn't stopped.

"They've lost a lot of Earth," Lucansky said. "If someone doesn't do something, Green Bay Road will be Lakeshore Drive."

One neighbor has been forced to destroy their garage because of the receding bluff. Joe Plewka lives next door and he says his family is talking about moving.

"If it keeps going like that, the house will be in [the lake] in two years," Plewka said.

It's not just a residential problem. Carthage College is just south of where the home was demolished in November. They too have erosion issues along with their picturesque campus. However, waves pound the tons of rocks they recently installed a few months ago.

"I don't think it's a battle we can win with rocks," Ted Fares, Associate Vice President of Campus Operations said. "We'll probably figure out something else to do. We're looking into other options so we're not constantly doing the same thing over and over."

Fares fears they may have to put more rocks down in just a couple of years so it could be extremely costly to the college; an issue he knows all of the area is facing.

"It's not unique to us," Fares said. "But we're trying to do something about it. I think we can do it. I'm worried about people who own property on the lake who probably can't afford it."

Fares says a more permanent solution, like a cement barrier wall, could cost millions.

It's an option most homeowners don't have.

"I have received [questions] from at least a half dozen residents in the last month, looking for support and how they can stabilize their bluffs and slow down the erosion," Theresa Szabelski, Water Management Specialist with the Wisconsin DNR said. "Hopefully, keep the upland and their homes intact."

Szabelski says they are working with the Village of Somers, the University of Wisconsin Sea Grant to put together a community meeting to help provide some information to residents to let them know options they have. It isn't scheduled yet but should take place sometime in February.

In the meantime, Szabelski says there are options homeowners have right now.

"To aid in landowner’s abilities to protect their properties, the Department has developed a streamlined process intended for emergency erosion control along coastal (Great Lakes) shorelines," Szabelski said. "Landowners do not need to wait to hear back from the Department prior to initiating emergency shoreline protection, and the Department will continue to allow the placement of temporary emergency material in public water to protect property while a permit is being applied for."

There is an online form to fill out to allow landowners to place revetments immediately. For more information, visit the DNR's website.