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Lakeshore homeowners call on state to take action on erosion

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has said she remains committed to mobilizing necessary resources.

OTTAWA COUNTY, Mich. — The howling of the wind and the crashing of the waves are now sounds that many lakeshore homeowners associate with a new kind of fear. 

"We just don't know from day to day what destruction we are going to meet when we wake up," said Janice Hoexum, who has lived on Lake Michigan since the 1990s. 

The waves were high Sunday, but Hoexum and her husband said they pale in comparison to the waves that ultimately snapped their deck in November. 

"I wish we could have caught it sooner, really, but we have never had a problem and we've lived here now since '94," Hoexum said. "We just never thought it would happen. And when it happens, it happens very fast."

Credit: Hoexum's
A photo from 2011 of what the beach behind the Hoexum's home used to look like.

The couple applied for the permit to build a barrier after the second big storm last fall, but it took weeks for it to be approved. Michigan's Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy has since been expediting most lakeshore permits

Then, they found that there would be no way for heavy machinery to access the beach. 

"And in the meantime your land is eroding away and pretty soon it is so scary that you wonder if you can even save it," Hoexum said. "You wonder when is there a no return on this whole thing? That's a very gut wrenching feeling."

They've finally found a solution to get the work done and are hoping to have work on an embankment start this week, which they think will give them some peace of mind. They know they could be next of their neighbors to have to abandon their home. 

"We'd love the governor to declare a state of emergency to help all the neighbors. It's not just this one little street," said Hoexum. 

Read more: More Michigan lawmakers call for state of emergency over beach erosion

The Hoexum's say they've lost at least 150 feet of beach easily, and other neighbors have lost even more than that. 

Governor Gretchen Whitmer has yet to declare a state of emergency, which could open up more resources for lakeshore homeowners. Whitmer's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment Sunday evening. Below is her most recent comment regarding erosion concerns on Dec. 20. 

“Governor Whitmer remains committed to mobilizing the resources of state government to help residents mitigate the effects of shoreline erosion. The administration is working closely with is working with the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy, the Department of Natural Resources, and the Michigan State Police to monitor the situation and coordinate governmental assets in response. The Michigan State Police remains ready, eager, and willing to respond to all county requests for state resources as permitted under law and has remained in frequent contact with county emergency managers along the lakeshore.”

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► Emma Nicolas is a multimedia journalist. Have a news tip or question for Emma? Get in touch by email, Facebook or Twitter.

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