Rising Waters, Rising Concerns: Part 9

Lake Michigan has been dealing with record high water levels for much of the year.

They are better now, but relentless the high water is still doing damage.

This month’s Rising Waters, Rising Concerns shows how it’s impacting the Point Betsie Lighthouse.

“It’s a wonderful, historical site. It’s a beautiful, romantic site,” said Dick Taylor, Point Betsie Lighthouse president.

It’s one of Michigan’s most beloved lighthouses, standing defiant against Lake Michigan since 1858. 10 26 20 Rwrc Point Betsie Vo.mov

“If you look at a map, Lake Michigan is pretty much north-south from here down to Chicago. And from here to the Straits of Mackinac, it really turns and goes more diagonal and we are right at that pivot so this is a critical spot that ships pivoted around, historically,” explained Dick.

Because of that, the point gets pounded by the lake.

“You definitely see a lot of waves that come in from every direction. Whether it’s northern wind or southern wind, eastern winds or west winds, we get hit because we do jet out like that,” said Casey Ottinger, Point Betsie Lighthouse executive director. “So we have a concrete apron that sweeps out around to protect the lighthouse, but it does take the waves from every angle.

The apron is starting to show its age.

“Our current shoreline protection system dates back 75 years and it has not been a secret to us that we have needed to do some repairs to it. It’s been very sturdy and has lasted longer than we expected, but the erosion is relentless, the damage is ongoing, and the high water levels only tend to make that urgency that much worse and that much more obvious. It kind of forces our hand and we got to attack this problem sooner than later,” explained Dick.

And it’s not cheap.

“We’re still in the fundraising part because we are working with these regulatory boards. So we have historical structures report that is out to the state Historic Preservation Office and the Army Corps of Engineers. Then the next phase after that will be an engineering study and then we’ll look at the concrete details of what the plan will be about what we’re going to do,” said Casey.

Dick added, “Exactly how much will it target is going to be depends on these engineering studies, but it will be multiple millions and we need a lot of help, so please give generously.”

To help keep the most photographed lighthouse in Michigan standing tall and proud, click here.

“I don’t think we’re literally going to fall into the water today or tomorrow, but we will eventually, so let’s do this a year early rather than a day late,” said Dick.