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Parking washed away by Lake Michigan; road, homes and utilities now at risk

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BEVERLY SHORES — A section of pavement along the town's Lake Front Drive was washed away overnight by brutal waves, which now threaten at least two separate sections of the lakefront road, gas and water lines, and nearby homes.

Rangers with the Indiana Dunes National Park stood guard Thursday morning at a sharp cliff overlooking Lake Michigan that was once parking for the Lakeview Beach site.

The washed out area is immediately west of the Lakeview Beach pavilion area, which remains opens.

Large waves continued to batter the shoreline Thursday morning, exposing a sewer line connecting the park's restroom facilities in the area, said Beverly Shores Town Council President Geof Benson.

The erosion was working its way south under Lake Front Drive. In its path along the south side of the two-lane roadway is a NIPSCO gas line, town water line and two homes, one of which has now had its access cut off by the damaged and closed roadway, he said.

A section of roadway west of that location has been closed for the past month, Benson said.

The combination of high lake levels and strong waves also forced the closure Thursday morning of another section of Lake Front Drive to the east, six blocks beyond the intersection with Broadway, Benson said.

Bruce Rowe, supervisory park ranger for the IDNP, said Thursday morning rangers were still assessing the damage caused by the overnight storm, but acknowledged a "significant piece of pavement was lost."

"I do want to mention that erosion from spring storms is normal, although intensified due to the current high lake levels, but that beaches always build back up during the summer," he said. "The extent of that buildup will vary greatly dependent upon the lake's height."

The town, in the meantime, is attempting to borrow $5 million to further protect its shoreline and combat the worsening problem of erosion, Benson said.

Watch raw video of strong waves battering the shoreline at the Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk.

The town also continues to call on the state to declare an emergency in the area so federal funding can be freed up, he said.

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb issued an executive order in late February directing state agencies to take steps to mitigate the significant erosion of the Lake Michigan shoreline in Northwest Indiana, but the Republican stopped short of declaring it a state disaster area.

The order directs the Indiana Department of Natural Resources to continue expediting emergency repairs sought by shoreline property owners and requires the Department of Homeland Security to seek federal grants for short- and long-term mitigation projects.

It also authorizes the Homeland Security director to coordinate the local public safety response when necessary and appropriate, and to quantify damages to the affected areas for inclusion in a possible future disaster declaration that potentially could unlock federal aid to the Region.

Benson said Thursday the town has been in touch with state and federal officials about the developments overnight.

David Hosick, director of public affairs for the Indiana Department of Homeland Security, said his agency immediately sent a member of its mitigation team to assess the situation after being informed Thursday.

"The agency will continue to closely monitor the erosion, as it has done across the past several months, and provide any assistance it can to the Department of Natural Resources, the lead agency on all waterway and erosion issues," he said.

Hosick said a state emergency declaration would be no guarantee of federal funding.

Gallery: Waves batter lakefront amid high waves, record-high lake levels


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Porter/LaPorte County Courts and Social Justice Reporter

Bob is a 23-year veteran of The Times. He covers county government and courts in Porter County, federal courts, police news and regional issues. He also created the Vegan in the Region blog, is an Indiana University grad and lifelong region resident.

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