Great Lakes
Featured image: A stormy Lake Superior sends waves crashing against Duluth’s shoreline. (Great Lakes Now Episode 1026) Detroit Public TV

Great Lakes - Coastal Concerns: Communities lack skilled staff and funding to tackle erosion and flooding

Erosion, flooding and high water levels are some of the most concerning issues across the Great Lakes region, according to a recent survey.

But communities lack the funding, knowledgeable staff and support from government agencies to face these issues.

Water levels in the Great Lakes basin change naturally with recurring high and low water levels.

Recently water levels reached record highs, and the time between record highs and lows is shrinking, said Brian Saunderson, the co-chair of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative Mayors Advisory Council on Coastal Resilience.

These high water levels paired with severe storms and wave action are the cause of more erosion and flooding along the coasts, said Saunderson, who is also the mayor of Collingwood, Ontario.

“Cities are on the frontlines of addressing these issues,” he said. “And we’re feeling the impacts, and we need help dealing with these impacts and sharing the cost.”

Almost 300 coastal community leaders across the five Great Lakes and various connecting channels responded to the Coastal Resilience Needs Assessment Survey this spring.

The survey found that though 95% of communities were highly or moderately concerned about erosion and flooding, and almost all reported consistent or increasing public support, barriers like lack of technical expertise, staff numbers and funding are stopping them from solving these problems.

Less than one-third of the survey replies rated their staff as highly knowledgeable and only 11% indicated a high level of available employee hours.

Respondents were also asked to gauge their community’s financial needs regarding erosion and flooding over the next five years. They reported about $2 billion is needed to support the Great Lakes shorelines.

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