City officials held a town hall meeting on Loyola’s Lake Shore Campus Monday to discuss the city’s lakefront erosion.
As water levels on Lake Michigan rise, concern has grown among Edgewater and Rogers Park residents. Attendees asked the panelists what the city is doing to prevent further infrastructure damage and erosion caused by the lake levels.
Rogers Park’s Juneway Beach is just one beach that has disappeared due to increasing lake levels, The Phoenix reported. Infrastructure, such as water retaining walls, crumbled and left a small, sandy patch where there was once a spacious beach.
The event was hosted by speakers 49th Ward Alderwoman Maria Hadden and 48th Ward Alderman Harry Osterman — covering Rogers Park and Edgewater, respectively.
Osterman told attendees the panelists are working with congressmen from around the city and state governments to secure better funding for solutions to issues surrounding rising lake levels.
Hadden told The Phoenix her staff has received a lot of questions, so the main purpose for this panel was so the community could get answers.
Another panelist was Michelle Kozak, the emergency manager for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Chicago District (USACE) — responsible for water resources development in Chicago through a variety of projects, including flood risk management and storm damage reduction.Sarah White, the lakefront planning coordinator for the Chicago Park District and Julia McCarthy, a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) representative, also attended. Vasil Jursek, a representative from the Chicago Department of Transportation, was also there.
The event was held in Loyola’s Galvin Auditorium in the Sullivan Center with about 100 people in attendance, officials said.
The Chicago Park District did some concrete patch work on Rogers Park beaches and installed permanent safety fencing at Juneway and South Side Beaches, according to White.
Jane Dyders, a resident of Rogers Park, said she’s been living in the neighborhood for 11 years and attended the panel to hear what USACE and aldermen had to say about lakefront erosion.
“I grew up on the South Side so I remember when it was high before in places like Grand Beach but this is much higher now,” Dyders said.
White announced the Park District has officially started the “Lakefront Strategic Planning Effort” in order to monitor the shoreline and decide the best plan of action.
The first phase is an analysis of the entirety of the shoreline from the city’s North to South Sides and how exactly it’s changing, White said.
Tom Heineman, an Edgewater resident and member of the community Park Advisory Council, said the council has been trying to get solutions to prevent flooding for a long time.
“Unfortunately, it takes serious damage for the Park District to get serious,” Heneman said. “I think we are feeling the effect of decades of neglect of Rogers Park beaches.”
Hadden said she hopes people remember Lake Michigan has always made Chicago unique.
“We are trying to bring that longer term perspective to the short term and hopefully prioritizing the fact that our shoreline is a defining feature,” Hadden said.