Public Comments Invited on the Shoreline Protection System Project at Point Betsie Lighthouse
United States Army Corps of Engineers
The United States Army Corps of Engineers is inviting public comments, through June 19, on plans to restore and strengthen the crumbling “shoreline protection system” at the Point Betsie Lighthouse on Lake Michigan in Benzie County.
The existing steel and concrete barriers on the Lake Michigan shore were installed in the 1940s and last upgraded in the 1970s. Structural analysis during a recent period of high water found that the system had deteriorated over the decades and was in danger of failing.
The project, slated for construction in 2024, is designed to provide long-term protection for the 1858 Point Betsie Lighthouse and other historic structures on the site. Plan drawings by Minneapolis-based Barr Engineering Co. show that the lighthouse and other buildings on the site will not be altered.
Engineering plans take into account the periodic changes in Lake Michigan water levels, as well as potential wave energy generated by storms. Work will involve a new and higher seawall, a revetment of large stones extending to the lakebed, a rebuilt concrete “apron” extending from the seawall to the base of the light tower, and relocation of some sand to restore eroded shoreline adjacent to the site.
The lighthouse complex is owned by Benzie County and managed by the non-profit Friends of Point Betsie Lighthouse. The buildings and adjacent Point Betsie Beach remain open as usual for the summer of 2023.
The shoreline restoration is expected to cost more than $6 million. The state of Michigan, Benzie County, and Lake Township have all committed some funding, as have many private donors. Additional private funding may be needed, when final costs are known.
Because of the site’s historical significance and its location on the Great Lakes, the shoreline protection work requires approval from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE), the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) and the Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). EGLE is expected to announce a separate public comment period.
The USACE file number for the project is LRE-2014-00744-56-S23. Comments are accepted until June 19. The complete public notice and information on how to submit comments can be viewed on the agency’s website at: https://www.lre.usace.army.mil/Missions/Regulatory-Program-and-Permits/Public-Notices/
Contact: Richard Taylor; firstname.lastname@example.org
Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy
The permit from the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) is also inviting public comment. The permit and platform to make comment can be found at the link below:
The “Documents” tab allows the user to download the permit application package. The “Add Comment” tab is a form to fill out for public comment. The public comment period is open until 6/26/23.
Local Funding Secured for SPS Project
Benzie County Commissioners and the Lake Township board have both announced monetary support for the Friends of Point Betsie Lighthouse and their Shoreline Protection System (SPS) Project. The Board of Directors of the Friends of Point Betsie Lighthouse greatly appreciates the $250,000 allocated by Benzie County and the $100,000 from Lake Township. These public funds are instrumental in securing further donations as they demonstrate local government support. We extend our gratitude to the Benzie County Commissioners and the Lake Township Board.
$5.1 million grant for SPS
The Board of Directors of the Friends of PBLH is thrilled and honored to announce that in the most recent State of Michigan budget, a grant of $5.1million has been awarded to Point Betsie Lighthouse, intended for repairs to the crumbling Shoreline Protection System. Senator Curt VanderWall was instrumental in helping our cause, and we extend to him our most sincere thanks.
Not until a construction contract awarded will the total cost of the project be known, but it is expected to exceed funds raised to-date, including this substantial award from the State. Please continue to give generously to help us complete these urgently needed repairs. (Updated 06/10/2023).
Questions can be directed to SPS Committee Representative Richard Taylor at email@example.com
The ongoing wear from years of storms, waves, and high water level have made repairs to the Shoreline Protection System (SPS) increasingly urgent. The last major work was done in 1944, so improvements are substantially overdue. The Board of Directors of the Friends of PBLH in 2019 initiated a preliminary evaluation of the condition of the SPS, which resulted in a rough estimate of the cost of repairs in the $950,000 – $1 million range. A subsequent Capital Campaign raised about $1.3 million. The next step was to hire a marine engineering firm to amend the existing Historic Structures Report. Baird Engineering was chosen, and their report has been shared with relevant regulators – The State Historic Preservation Office, and the Army Corps of Engineers – in order to bring them into the process early, and to try to avoid wasting planning time and effort on a project that would not win approval. This firm was also responsible for designing several options for the lighthouse on how to address the issue. It was in this design phase where it was concluded that the initial estimate of $ 1 million was not near enough to address the issue, instead it would fall in the $ 6-10 million range.
The chosen design option was put out in a Request For Proposal from potentially interested marine contracting firms, and Barr Engineering was selected in fall of 2021. Geologic and hydrologic studies are necessary to ensure that there will be sufficient support for the proposed new seawall, apron, and offshore rock revetment, and studies of the existing seawall and apron structure will inform the approach to repairs. Fortuitous early November weather enabled Barr to initiate some work, but most needed to wait for spring of 2022. This engineering study allowed Barr to refine the selected plan and seek permits for the projected project. The plan must be approved by The State Historic Preservation Office, Army Corps of Engineers, the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy and other regulatory offices. These permits are now open to public comment. (Updated 06/10/2023)
Barr’s engineering report has provided the basis for another Request For Proposal from interested marine contractors for the actual construction work. This is anticipated to happen in summer 2023. Only after those bids are received, and a winner chosen, will the final cost of the project be known, presumably late summer in 2023. If further fundraising will be required, as expected, it can begin in late 2023 and perhaps into 2024. If all of these complexities line up, actual construction may commence in the spring/summer of 2024. Please continue to check our website often for future updates. (Updated 06/10/2023)