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Historic Sleeping Bear Dunes lighthouse threatened by erosion

Courtesy: National Park Service, Sleeping Bear Dunes

LEELANAU COUNTY, Mich. (WPBN/WGTU)-- The historic Lighthouse Complex on South Manitou Island is in need of emergency shoreline stabilization due to erosion and strong waves, Sleeping Bear Dunes officials say.

The National Park Service is preparing a required environmental assessment for shoreline stabilization and rehabilitation at the South Manitou Island Lighthouse Complex. The public is invited to learn about the work needed on the island. Additionally, the window to provide comments or ideas for the beginning phases of this project ends June 9.

The lighthouse complex is located on the southeastern shoreline of Manitou Island. Park staff say the previously installed shoreline stabilization materials have been removed by wave and/or ice action, or they are in poor condition, with many foundational elements exposed and subject to additional damage/removal. Because of this, officials say action is needed to protect the historic structure.

Park staff say wave action throughout the winter of 2015-16 resulted in significant shoreline erosion east of the stabilization structures. The shoreline erosion extends about 300 feet and inland 60-80 ft. Around 200 linear feet of preexisting boardwalk was washed away during that time. The new shoreline in the eroded area consists of mostly sand banks that are unstable and could have further erosion.

"Shoreline stabilization failure and erosion to the east are a serious concern to the nationally significant lighthouse complex, which is a Historic Landmark District," stated the National Lakeshore in a press release.

Park staff say actions for shoreline stabilization would include "rehabilitation of the existing shoreline revetment with some modifications to adjust for the recent shoreline changes. This would involve the reuse of existing stone materials as bedding and core materials, installation of geotextile, and new, properly sized and placed armor stone. To the northeast of the existing bin wall, new shoreline protection measures and footprint may take place in response to the shoreline erosion that has occurred since 2015. A combination of stone structures and imported sand would be employed to restore a sandy shoreline where it has existed historically. It is hoped in time that the historic boardwalk would be restored and rehabilitated and incorporated into a universally accessible route to the Fog Whistle Building once the eroded shoreline has been reestablished."

If you would like to provide comment about this project, CLICK HERE.

The South Manitou Island Lighthouse, which is clearly visible from the mainland, is the most familiar landmark on the island. The 100 foot lighthouse tower, which was active from 1871 to 1958, was the only natural harbor between the island and Chicago. Ships used to take refuge on the island during storms and streamers stopped at the island to refuel with wood for their boilers.

You can get to North and South Manitou Islands by private boat or by passenger ferry service run by Manitou Island Transit. The ferry service operates from the Fishtown Dock located in Leland, MI. The ferry operators have been servicing the islands for many generations and the company is still run as a family business.

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