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12/2/2018 6:27:00 PM
Porter County tourism group to join in effort to battle Lake Michigan erosion

Joyce Russell, Times of Northwest Indiana

PORTER — Some 3 million tourists visit Porter County each year. Their primary destination is Lake Michigan and its beaches.

Lorelei Weimer, executive director of Indiana Dunes Tourism, said the continued erosion along Lake Michigan's shoreline is becoming a threat to Porter County tourism and the dollars it brings into the county.

Weimer was given authority by the group's board of directors this week to become actively involved in efforts to garner support to find solutions to the erosion issue. 

Weimer said erosion is affecting two primary areas along the shoreline, Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk and Central Avenue beach near Beverly Shores. However, while locals know those are only two of the multiple access areas along the Lake Michigan shoreline in Porter County, potential tourists don't. That, she said, could have an impact on whether those potential tourists decide to visit Porter County.

If they are hearing Porter County beaches are being affected by erosion and possibly closed, they might skip to a trip to the Region, not knowing there are alternative locations to visit the lake.

Weimer said she's been working with the National Parks Conservation Association on a video showing the shoreline and erosion. The video, which should be completed by year's end, will be used in local and statewide efforts to garner support to find a solution. 

The issue at both beaches is a combination of unusually high lake levels, sand starvation caused by structures blocking the normal drift of sand along the shoreline and the increasing number of extreme storms.

The answer for the Portage beach, which is owned by the National Park Service but operated by the city, is the completion of a study by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which would look at the root of the issue and outline remedies. However, that study must be funded through public money, and neither Portage nor adjacent Ogden Dunes have the funding necessary.

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