Gov. Eric Holcomb has promised a Northwest Indiana lawmaker that he will visit the Region's Lake Michigan shoreline to personally see the impact of the record-high water level and the erosion caused by winter storms.
State Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon, D-Munster, said she received the visit pledge from the Republican governor after she pressed him last week on how the state plans to address the costly infrastructure damage suffered by numerous lakeshore municipalities.
"The governor hasn't visited communities along the lakeshore in nearly six months and a lot of damage has occurred in that time-frame," Candelaria Reardon said.
"I've urged him to come see for himself the severity of damage that these towns and cities are enduring along the lakeshore and I'm going to hold him to his promise he made to come visit these communities in the near future."
The governor's office confirmed that Holcomb has asked his staff to schedule a visit to the Northwest Indiana shoreline.
It did not say when the governor's visit will take place.
In the meantime, Indiana Department of Homeland Security Director Stephen Cox is continuing to communicate with local, state and federal officials, including Holcomb, about the lakeshore situation, according to Holcomb spokeswoman Rachel Hoffmeyer.
Candelaria Reardon said once Holcomb sees the significant erosion to the area around the Portage Lakefront Pavilion and infrastructure damage in Beverly Shores, he'll almost certainly have to declare an emergency — which potentially could unlock federal disaster assistance funds.
"I look forward to accompanying him to survey the damage that these communities have faced from the high-water levels due to an unusually warm winter and the lack of an ice shelf to act as a barrier to the shoreline," she said.
"Otherwise, these people will have to endure costly damage to key infrastructure that could take years to recover from."
Democratic Portage Mayor Sue Lynch agreed that Holcomb needs to "do the right thing" by personally inspecting the shoreline soon.
"The governor needs to come up here and see with his own eyes the level of destruction that we are facing in Portage and other communities along the lakeshore," Lynch said.
"Someone cannot sit in an office in Indianapolis and even begin to imagine the magnitude of damage that we've experienced so far due to high water levels and other environmental factors. We need help."
Despite repeated pleas from state Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Ogden Dunes, and state Rep. Pat Boy, D-Michigan City, Holcomb so far has refused to declare a lakeshore emergency in Indiana, even though the Democratic governors of both Illinois and Wisconsin — facing similar damage to their Lake Michigan shorelines — recently have.