Saybrook Township Park Board worried as erosion eats away shoreline

SAYBROOK TOWNSHIP — Lake Erie’s high water levels and lack of ice coverage continue to cause significant erosion along the shoreline and has prompted Saybrook Township Park officials to hire an engineering firm to study the damage.


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SAYBROOK TOWNSHIP — Lake Erie’s high water levels and lack of ice coverage continue to cause significant erosion along the shoreline and has prompted Saybrook Township Park officials to hire an engineering firm to study the damage.

The constant pounding of waves has eaten away boulders placed along the shoreline 20 years ago for erosion control, said park board member Pat Shells.

“The high lake level breached our erosion control, causing the shoreline to slip,” she said. “The unfortunate part is you can’t see the damage from the bluff. We used a drone to see the damage.”

According to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, it’s going to cost the park board $2,000 a foot to reinforce the shoreline, and the park board needs to reinforce about 200 feet, Shells said.

An estimate on the construction only is about $265,000, she said.

The park board’s annual budget is about $125,000.

Park board members received a temporary emergency permit from ODNR, which is good until 2021. They also are meeting with local and state legislators to try to come up with the money.

The park board already has spent $16,400, Shells said.

Saybrook Township Park isn’t the only park along Lake Erie in trouble, said Ashtabula County Commissioner Casey Kozlowski.

“We are aware of numerous erosion issues along the shore of Lake Erie,” he said. “They have been more significant in nature recently, and we also are advocating for state and federal help to address these types of issues, as they are having a considerable impact on lakefront properties.”

State Rep. John Patterson (D-Jefferson) said the state of Ohio and ODNR are providing assistance.

“We recognize the imminent threat to property and infrastructure that exist given the record high water,” said Patterson. “What’s more, the Army Corps of Engineers predicts that record levels are expected over the next few months.”

Patterson said the following programs are available:

• Temporary shore structure permits, which are available to coastal property owners, allowing them to install emergency shore protection to protect their property from erosion-related damage. Program applications can be found at

• Free on-site technical assistance is available to coastal property owners by ODNR coastal engineers to provide recommendations for erosion mitigation. Call the ODNR Office of Coastal Management at 419-626-7980 to speak with a coastal engineer.

• Coastal management assistance grants are available for coastal planning, habitat restoration, public access, research and water quality improvement projects. Local governments, county and regional planning agencies, universities, school districts, conservancy districts, port authorities and certain non-profit groups are eligible to apply for these competitive awards. More information can be found at

• The coastal erosion area loan program, which provides low interest loans for the design and construction of erosion control measures for properties within a designated coastal erosion area. This program is administered by participating counties, not the ODNR. For more information, visit

· Special Improvement Districts, or SIDs, which provide local financing to facilitate erosion improvements along Lake Erie. ODNR will work with SIDs to ensure that projects are well-designed and that they minimize adverse impacts to Lake Erie and that appropriate authorizations are obtained when necessary.

In addition, House Bill (HB) 343, sponsored by Patterson and Rep. Gayle Manning, R-North Ridgeville, would create the Water and Sewer Emergency Fund and provide grants to local entities for water and sewer infrastructure projects such as those threatened by high water levels and erosion along the lake.

In the Geneva-on-the-Lake, Geneva State Park lost about 35 feet in a week, said Village Administrator Jeremy Schaffer.

Village officials met last week with ODNR, the Emergency Management Agency and one of the village’s engineering firms to determine the cost of taking action.

ODNR suggested using boulders to stop erosion and buy time, Schaffer said.

Patterson said he’s working to move HB 343 as quickly as possible.

“Geneva-on-the-Lake is currently facing infrastructure challenges due to erosion. HB 343 would be of great assistance to this village and the municipalities along the shore facing similar emergency issues,” he said.

Lake Erie water levels are six inches above the record for February, and 37 inches above average, according to the Army Corps of Engineers.