An estimated image showing where the Lake Erie shoreline will be in 50 and 100 years. (Photo via Zuzek Inc.)

Erosion posing a threat to CK shoreline

Chatham-Kent is getting an in-depth look at the concerning challenges facing shorelines in the municipality — specifically along Lake Erie.

A geoscientist with Zuzek Inc., Peter Zuzek, presented the latest findings from a Chatham-Kent Lake Erie shoreline study to council Monday night.

The study is being produced through Canada’s Climate Change Adaptation Platform, with support from Natural Resources Canada and a collaboration of groups including the municipality, the Lower Thames Valley Conservation Authority (LTVCA), the provincial and federal governments, and the International Joint Commission.

Experts in shoreline hazards, meteorology, climate change and coastal engineering design are undertaking the detailed two-phase study, which looks at the Lake Erie shoreline from Wheatley to Clear Creek. The LTVCA is assisting with the study by collecting data and providing insights into threats facing the shoreline. Phase one of the study included an investigation into the magnitude of storms on Lake Erie and the effect that climate change has on the shoreline.

Predictions for shoreline erosion were grim.

Zuzek said he estimates if nothing is done to stop the natural forces currently underway, the shoreline will decrease by 60 metres in the next 50 years, and another 60 metres by the year 2118, essentially wiping out parts of Talbot Trail.

According to Zuzek, one of the impacts that global warming may have on the shoreline is that warmer temperatures will result in less ice coverage on the lake during the winter, too. He said less ice coverage would expose the shoreline to more coastal storms and higher erosion rates.

“This is putting tremendous stress on the road, even after 50 years,” said Zuzek. “There’s also other development that is being threatened by this ongoing erosion.”

Wheatley farmer Chris Renwick told Blackburn News that his farm is constantly losing acreage due to erosion, which reduces the amount of land he can farm. He said he fears he will lose a large piece of land in his lifetime.

Renwick’s concerns and frustrations can be seen in an online documentary where Renwick’s grandfather speaks about how much more land the family farm had when he was a kid.

Water Management Supervisor with the LTVCA, Jason Wintermute, said although some shoreline erosion can be expected over time, the estimates presented in the study were a little bit more troubling than they were anticipating.

“There are definitely issues. Having to relocate a road is an extremely expensive endeavour for the municipality. There are potential repercussions to other budget areas. It’s very significant for people who live along the buff who may have to move their home,” said Wintermute. “It is a significant threat. Can the community deal with it? I’m sure we can. But there are definitely challenges.”

The next phase of the study is set to begin shortly and will focus on community engagement and the development of solutions. A survey regarding what challenges residents are facing from shoreline erosion will be available in the next few months. In March, public meetings will be held to provide more information to residents on the study’s findings and look at how the municipality can become resilient against these challenges.

“Hopefully get some ideas provided by the public and the consultants about things that we may be able to do to help out in certain areas,” said Wintermute. “We hope that it’ll inform us on how to deal with these issues.”