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Erosion, record high water levels put lakefront homeowners in pricey, precarious situation

Posted at 5:01 PM, Jun 13, 2019

EUCLID, Ohio — They have lost their beaches and some are beginning to lose their properties. For those living along Lake Erie, record high water levels and continued erosion have forced them to seek out expensive and logistically-challenging solutions.

On a storm-filled day, the brisk wind brings relentless waves. The surges of freshwater crash on large stones, the seawall, piers and docks – anything in the water’s path. For Randy Keefe, the owner of a home in Edgecliff Drive in Euclid, Lake Erie bookends its beautiful views with a lingering problem.

“As individual property owners up and down the lake, we’re just into self-preservation, really,” Keefe said. “We’re really trying to find ways to protect ourselves from Mother Nature and Lake Erie.”

When Keefe and his family purchased their home in 2003, it was the realization of a longtime dream. Their Cape Cod style home sits atop a bluff overlooking the lake. Over the years, the family has invested time and money into the property, installing a two-tier deck with tempered glass railings.

“We actually had beach not only in this area behind our breakwall structure but we also had beach in front of the breakwall structure,” Keefe said.

The estimated 15 feet of beach now cease to exist. Installed by the previous homeowner, the breakwall, which consists of dozens of massive, three-ton stones, has started to fail. The record high water levels and the force the water generates have shifted or even broken some of the stones. Once one of the stones becomes dislodged, the rest of the stones become more vulnerable.

With a faltering breakwall, Keefe is concerned the relentless waves will eventually cause the seawall to collapse.

“There are homeowners along here who have lost parts of their sea wall. Once it gets through the seawall, its coming and starting to undermine the cliff that is your backyard,” Keefe said. “This has really come on in the last year, year and a half, where the lake level has come up so quickly. There are a lot of property owners along here who are having to move quickly to even get a temporary permit to do the work.”

That work isn’t cheap nor is it easy to do. In Keefe’s case, the homes along the lake in Euclid are too close for a piece of heavy machinery to come through. Instead, Keefe said contractors will have to re-build and add onto the breakwall by bringing in a barge fit with an excavator or crane. This process generally brings up the total cost of the project.

Keefe anticipates the erosion control project will cost $40,000.

“As individual property owners, this is sort of what we signed up for. When you buy and live on the lake, for most of us it was a dream. But at this point we’re just trying to find ways to protect our property and yet still enjoy the lake front,” Keefe said. “We love living on the lake. It’s a beautiful area here. There are a lot of wonderful days. Now with the lake level as it is with this higher elevation, you just have to take steps to protect your property.”

The damage isn’t just limited to Keefe’s property. Part of his next door neighbor’s pier is precariously close to being swept away. The seawall near the local beach club has also started to erode. Repairs are estimated to cost $100,000.

Keefe hopes to have a contractor begin working on his breakwall in the coming months.