Officials, residents, researchers look for answers to beach erosion

During a recent City Council meeting in the pavilion at the Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk, dozens of people trudged to and from a strip of National Lakeshore beach directly west.

A few miles to the east, thousands of men and women worked on ships and barges and in steel- and agriculture-related jobs at the Port of Indiana Burns Harbor for companies that pay Porter County almost $4 million a year in property taxes.

"We don't have all the sand we used to have," Combs said. "The Port of Indiana was built, and the port blocks the littoral flow of sand which nourishes our beach. There's absolutely no beach in some places in front of Shore Drive."

Throughout the years, the state, through its Department of Natural Resources, has intervened, at times, helping to build sheet metal walls on properties to protect against the lake's battering waves or allowing large rocks, called toe protection, to be piled up in front of houses to dissipate the energy of high waves.

However it's done, moving more sand onto eroding beaches helps, Davis said.

"You're basically extending the life of the beach nourishment by putting it up on the beach," he said. "If you put sand in the lake, 100 percent can move down drift, but if you put it on the beach, that sand is available to absorb wave energy into the Portage lakefront beach for a long period of time."

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