WMU News

Shoreline erosion research gets federal funds

Dec. 1, 2000

KALAMAZOO -- Western Michigan University research aimed at "de-watering" eroding shoreline bluffs on Lake Michigan is one of three projects to receive funding from a $2 million federal appropriation recently signed by President Clinton.

Dr. Ronald B. Chase, WMU professor of geosciences, and Dr. Alan Kehew, chairperson of the WMU Department of Geosciences, will receive funding from money set aside for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in an energy and water appropriations bill for 2001. The bill allocates $2 million for the Corps' National Shoreline Erosion Control Development and Demonstration Program.

WMU's project, which will involve attempting to stop the movement of existing landslides on shoreline bluffs between South Haven and Saugatuck, will receive an unspecified amount from the allocation. Because some of the best exposed and most unstable soil slopes in the U.S. exist along the Great Lakes shoreline, the WMU project was one of three designated by the Corps as having "Priority 1" status; the other two are in New Jersey and Texas.

According to Kehew, the researchers will use a variety of technologies, including vertical and horizontal wells, to attempt to draw water from the bluff soil. During the last three years, a team led by Chase and Kehew and funded by the U.S. Army Research Office's Terrestrial Sciences Program documented the significant role ground water plays in causing shoreline erosion. The researchers determined that removal of the water from the ground could be a more effective and less costly and environmentally intrusive method of stopping erosion than methods currently being used. If the research is successful, it will have far-reaching effects, as it could provide an effective mitigation technique that can be used elsewhere.

"Getting this funding means we will be able to complete the work we started with the Army Research Office and take it to a new level," says Kehew. "More importantly, however, it will hopefully lead to decreasing the bluff recession rate along Lake Michigan and the other Great Lakes.

Chase and Kehew are in the process of submitting a budget to the Army Corps of Engineers that will determine the amount of funding they will receive for the project. The researchers expect that amount to be between $200,000 and $400,000. They will also be meeting with the corps during the next few months to develop a detailed design for the de-watering project.

Media contact: Marie Lee, 616 387-8400, marie.lee@wmich.edu

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