Lake Erie shoreline is eroding, and high water isn't the only reason why
Chris Houser is leading a study looking at the devouring of the Lake Erie shore
Lake Erie continues to take huge bites out of its shoreline — the southern coast of Essex County and Chatham-Kent — and even if lake levels go down, that shoreline may continue to disappear.
A combination of factors are contributing to unprecedented erosion along the lakeshore from Amherstburg, past Point Pelee and all the way to Rondeau Provincial Park.
Chris Houser is the dean of the Faculty of Science at the University of Windsor and is leading a study looking at the devouring of the Lake Erie shore.
Houser said the high lake level is just the beginning of the problem. Man-made changes to the shoreline are also contributing to the erosion.
"You're now pushing that water higher up on to the shoreline, interacting with an area that had never experienced waves and currents," he said.
"We've also got changes to the shorelines that have happened historically through jetties, through break walls, that have disrupted the sediment transport pathways along that shore."
Sediment transport is how sand, silt and clay are moved along the shoreline, explained Houser. The monitoring of sediment transport is important because it is the main factor that determines if a shoreline will erode or grow.
Houser's study is looking at where erosion is happening, which areas are vulnerable to more, and which have the potential for recovery.
"Right now we're monitoring and figuring out how the shoreline has eroded," he said.
LISTEN | Hear more from Houser on what's eroding Lake Erie's shores:
He's noticed that sand is being lost from the beaches and from the cliffs and in some areas where they have break walls, it's not moving backwards but down.
If there is no sand on the shoreline, the water will pick up whatever material is there and move it along shore.
If the sand isn't on the beach, it will take it from deeper down and deepen that area of water, which could cause break walls to collapse along the shoreline.
"At the same time, in the last couple of years, we've had no lake ice," said Houser.
Ice can help protect shoreline areas. The lack of ice subjects the shoreline to vicious winter waves, which batter the shoreline.
Houser said that as water levels drop, they will continue to study how the shoreline recovers.