High water levels in Lake Michigan have accelerated erosion of the system that protects the Point Betsie Lighthouse. If the structure in front of the lighthouse is compromised, Lake Michigan would likely tear up the beach in front of the lighthouse and ultimately will destroy the lighthouse.
The Point Betsie Light Station shoreline is approximately 900 feet(ft) in length and is located within an extended system of sand dunes, classified as critical barrier dunes by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR). The Point Betsie Light Station shoreline is protected by structures comprised of two connecting segments as shown in the picture below : 1) a crib wall (inner and outer steel sheet pile walls) and seven steel sheet pile groins; and 2) a steel sheet pile wall/stone revetment on the north end.
The structures were last upgraded in 1979 with a repair to the concrete apron, and their condition has since severely deteriorated due to decades of exposure to Lake Michigan waves, water levels, ice, and currents.
When the lighthouse was originally built, the shoreline was in a different place. Over time the shoreline has shifted and made it more difficult to protect the lighthouse from the lake. Here is a picture of the shoreline protection system in about 1890.
The pictures below show the development of the protection system from 1858 until the present complex system.
In 1947 the lighthouse experienced problems with the shoreline protection system much like the problems that we see today. Here is a picture of the system from August 1947.
As we indicated above, Lake Michigan keeps moving the sand and disrupting the protection system. Here is a side-by-side aerial view of the shoreline from 1955 and 2012. You can see that the shape of the shoreline has changed significantly.
The high water levels of lake Michigan last summer caused extensive damage to the protection system. Below are some pictures showing broken concrete and torn steel.
Fortunately, technology has advanced since the first days of Point Betsie Lighthouse. Today, engineers can create a protection system that is far superior to the efforts from 100 years ago. The Friends of Point Betsie are actively engaged in developing cost effective solutions that will stand up to Lake Michigan.
Please help us to save our local and iconic treasure and give generously. Thank you!