The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) forecasts that lake levels will remain at higher than normal levels for at least the next several months, the agency revealed during State Rep. Curtis Tarver’s (D-25) virtual town hall on lakefront erosion last Thursday.

Lakefront erosion and damage during this year's storm season has been extensively reported by the Hyde Park Herald and other outlets. This erosion continues. 

Heather Gleason of the Chicago Park District (CPD) highlighted significant erosion that has taken place along the South Shore Golf Course near the 2nd and 6th holes and the golf practice area. In this area, the metal revetment structure has been breached and the shoreline has advanced significantly inland. CPD predicted that erosion of this area will continue this fall, winter and spring, advancing inland about 100 feet from the original shoreline.

Following storms last fall, Tarver convened a town hall last December on lakefront erosion and subsequently formed a South Side Lake Front Erosion Task Force to address damage to the lakefront in the 25th District, which stretches from 4300 South and the lakefront on its northern edge to the Indiana border and the lakefront on its southern edge. The task force has met in working groups since early January. It participated in a tour of the South Shore lakefront with state officials in August of this year. 

South Shore resident and task force member Sharon Louis said that during the initial town hall and task force meetings earlier this year the community realized it might be difficult to fund some of the repair and erosion mitigation it wanted to engage in. Public agencies primarily address issues impacting public land, not private property, and this became a challenge for the task force, which includes many South Shore Drive condominium owners. 

With the help of elected and government agency representatives, the task force identified the federal program Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC), which aims to fund disaster prevention efforts, as a source for funds for projects to protect private land. The task force has started developing a proposal for those funds under the sponsorship of Ald. Greg Mitchell (7th). Applications are due this coming January, and successful proposals will be announced in June 2021.

In addition to describing recent erosion along the South Shore Golf Course lakefront, Gleason discussed CPD lakeshore erosion mitigation and protection efforts that have been completed or are in progress, including Morgan Shoal emergency revetment work (in collaboration with USACE, Chicago Department of Transportation, and the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District [MWRD]), Jackson Outer Harbor breakwater and bulkhead repair (in collaboration with Westrec Marinas), and ramp and deck repair at 57th Street Beach.

Gleason also announced that several efforts to obtain funding from FEMA and MWRD for lakeshore erosion abatement and repair on the South Side and other Chicago lakefront areas were unsuccessful.

Other government agencies and private organizations participating in the meeting included the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Smith Group, Chicago Department of Transportation, Black Chicago Water Council and Blacks In Green.

“This is the beginning of a conversation, not the end,” said Representative Tarver as he concluded the meeting. Tarver also stated that he would convene quarterly conversations on the lakefront erosion issues. About 70 people attended the virtual meeting.

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