CLEVELAND — Lake Erie’s record high water level is having an impact being felt by boaters and property owners facing an increased threat from erosion.
The lake’s level is about 30 inches above normal, causing some shoreline flooding and submerging docks.
Some docks were underwater in places like the Mentor Lagoons Marina where contractor Adam Williams of Williams Brothers Construction was building a new, higher dock for a boat owner Wednesday.
“I’ve not seen the water this high,” he said. “Since we started this project about two weeks ago, this water has consistently risen.”
The water is also speeding erosion, threatening the city-owned marina and neighboring nature preserve.
“There’s really no easy answer. We can’t control the lake levels. All we can do is really react to them,” said Mentor City Manager Ken Filipiak.
He said the shoreline is disappearing at a rate of five to ten feet per year.
“We’re losing several acres a year to erosion,” he said. “Our community used to have the longest stretch of natural beach along Lake Erie. Most of that is now gone completely.”
To combat the erosion problem, the City of Mentor paid $600,000 to build a rock barrier wall in recent years. It’s now hoping to double the size of the wall and expand it by 600 feet to the east.
Filipiak said the city needs more financial resources from the state and federal government.
“Protecting the assets we have is important, so we need some help with that from our legislators,” he said.
The impact is also being felt to the west. Erosion toppled trees at Sherod Park in Vermilion, water encroached on the Jet Express boat launch in Sandusky and marina docks were underwater in Catawba.
U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer Brian McCrum said the high water level also means there’s a higher risk of hidden hazards for boaters.
“People can drive their boats closer into land than they normally would because they think that is deeper water, so you can run your boat aground, you could damage it,” he said.
McCrum said even some break walls that are usually visible are now submerged. The Coast Guard also warned about reduced bridge clearance for boats on rivers.
McCrum said on June 1, a barge hit the raised railroad bridge at the mouth of the Cuyahoga River in the Flats. He said some boaters are even overloading their boats with people to weigh them down to clear the Liberty Avenue Bridge in Vermilion.
“It’s not safe to overload boats,” he said.