PORT CLINTON, Ohio -- A scenic Lake Erie shoreline with postcard views draw over a million visitors every summer to Port Clinton and all throughout Ottawa County beaches. But now, orange fencing and signs let visitors know Port Clinton’s City Beach is closed until further notice, due to substantial sand erosion and beaches washing away. Officials say this is causing safety concerns, such as deep drop offs for beach goers.
Port Clinton Mayor Mike Snider said the city of 6,000 people only has a $12.5 million budget.
The cost of a plan to mitigate high water could cost tens of millions of dollars which is why he declared a State of Emergency, hoping to get state and federal funding.
He also hopes to receive help from the Army Corps of Engineers to find a plan to fix the problem. That could include more break walls, spillways and other creative ideas engineers can mastermind.
Snider said recent years of heavy, heavy rain and snow melt caused run off which led to historically high water levels on Lake Erie.
Severely adding to the problem, habitual northeast winds from relentless storms recently pushed strong waves across shallow water onto the shoreline, eroding tons of sand and washing away beaches.
“The old timers say it always runs in cycles. Seven year highs, seven year lows. If you were to come here ten years ago, we were experiencing record low water levels. Boats in the harbor were sitting on mud. Now, the docks are underwater,” Snider said.
The mayor said there’s also concern that huge power lines buried underground could become exposed and destroyed by continued erosion.
He added that when northeast winds are strong they push lake water levels into the Portage River, flooding roads by nearby businesses like Great Lakes Popcorn which had to close three times in the last two weeks.
“Flooding isn’t going to stop our community,” said manager Loria Hofer.
She wants visitors to know they’re still serving up their famous popcorn.
“We are still open for business as long as the weather let’s us be open and our business is we are gourmet popcorn,” Hofer said.
Snider said the fluctuating Lake Erie water level is frustrating. He also said despite the beach closings, tourists can still enjoy shops, restaurants, boating Walleye fishing, beautiful sunsets and other attractions.
“We would certainly like everyone to come to Port Clinton and enjoy what we have to offer. We are open for business,” Snider said.