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Sand Blasted 

A wealthy town develops its coast -- and washes away its neighbors

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A coastal resident for more than 20 years, Klco maintains his marina isn't to blame and that the vanishing beach is normal. Madison residents were told the marina would potentially protect their beaches against storms from the west, he says. "I don't know whether it will make them better," he explains. "If that prediction has been made, I don't know who made it.

"It depends on what Mother Nature is going to do," he adds. "I really believe if we had caused those problems, a lawsuit would have been filed already."

The government agencies carefully tiptoe around the question of responsibility. According to Jim Park, with ODNR's office of coastal management, weather has played a role in the erosion — particularly the recent high water levels caused by the wet spring. "Eight inches of water along a thin rocky beach will result in significant beach loss," he says. "This has been happening all up and down the lake this year. Higher water levels change beaches."

But this year's water levels don't explain last year's damage. And the radical miscalculation of sand accumulation invites the question of how the village's engineers could be so far off. "It was an error," Park admits. "That happens."

But there may be more than simple error at play. It's up in the air whether the study North Perry commissioned was even fit to accurately predict the problem. The document itself cops to its own limitations: a summary section obtained by Scene states the study was "intended to provide a good indication of trends in sand movements; it is not, however, a fully movable bed model and as such does not provide detailed predictions of beach slopes, transport rates, and long-term morphological changes. A fully movable bed model was beyond the scope of study."

Both ODNR and the Army Corps of Engineers maintain the study was properly vetted. "The village thought that was accurate, and we had no reason to think it wouldn't be," says Harold Keppner of the Army Corps' regulatory branch. "Obviously, the original prediction for volume was far exceeded in the first year." Nonetheless, the Army Corps has modified the village's permit to require that the marina be dredged multiple times a year, on North Perry's dime. The sand must be redistributed along the Madison shore.

Mayor Klco doesn't blame JJR for the gap between prediction and reality. In fact, although North Perry says Mother Nature's seasonal tango is responsible for the erosion to the east, the village claims the sand build-up to the west is the work of human hands. The theory is outlined in an annual monitoring study by JJR. After acknowledging the accumulation, the document spills considerable ink making the case that the sand resulted from dredging conducted seven miles up the coast in Fairport Harbor. Performed almost yearly to clear shipping lanes, this dredging is often large-scale: In 2009, 87,000 cubic yards were released east of the area near Painesville. JJR's report suggests that this amount found its way into the North Perry marina the following year, accounting for the excess. "That sand is definitely going into our harbor," the mayor confidently says.

That's news to Fairport Harbor. "You're the first time I've ever even heard about it, North Perry having a problem because of our dredging," Fairport Mayor Frank Sarosy tells Scene. "You're talking quite a distance." He adds: "Maybe they should have studied it a little bit more or had their engineers study it more if that was going to happen, but it has nothing to do [with the Fairport dredging]."

The Army Corps also isn't hot to jump aboard the village's explanation for the extra sand. "I've heard that allegation," Keppner says, "but certainly the Corps hasn't acknowledged that that's the cause of the material accumulating in North Perry."

BIGGER PLANS LOOMING

"The village certainly put a lot of pressure on everybody to get this approved," ODNR's Park says of the marina project.

But there was more muscle behind the marina than just a small village with a healthy tax base. North Perry footed the bill, and only its residents use the structure; Townline Park, however, is not a stand-alone project but part of a county-wide coastal rethink.

In 2005, Lake County released its Coastal Development Plan. The 51-page document, also created by JJR, was the brainchild of a committee of county heavyweights that spells out a big-picture plan for redesigning the coastline in ways that would create more public space and protect the area from erosion. Zeroing in on the North Perry-Madison coast, the document dreams up a renovation that begins in Townline Park and moves east, past the Madison properties, down the coast to Stanton Park. On paper, a chain of barrier walls stands between the two parks, shielding the fuller beaches that would result.

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