Put-in-Bay Sinking – 2 New Studies Conclude South Bass Island Sinking Into Lake Erie
For the last 5 years or so, Put-in-Bay residents have battled high water levels that have wreaked havoc on local roads, marinas & docks and caused hundreds of dreds of thousands of dollars in damages.
The high water levels at Put-in-Bay had long been attributed to the water levels of Lake Erie and North Easterly’s strong winds forcing water into the Western Basin. These water levels on occasion have actually divided the island into two parcels separated by water.
Local Ferry boat operators were forced to construct new sea walls, and elevate walkways to allow safe passage on and off the boats. Waterfront businesses often found water creeping into their dining areas and sandbags, pumps, and daily clean-up efforts became the norm. Local public docks were often underwater resulting in a dangerous combination with shore power electrical cords and difficult docking.
Ferry Boat operators have had numerous difficulties getting passengers on and off the island safely and without having to wade thru knee-deep water at times. Now, two new studies suggest Put-in-Bay Sinking is the cause of these high water events and the ongoing problems the island faces.
Army Core Of Engineers & Ohio State University Stone Laboratory Release Results Of Testing
18 months of studying the geological makeup of South Bass Island has determined the island is sinking into Lake Erie at a rate of approximately 3.8 inches per annum. The report documents 3 main factors that are responsible for Put-in-Bay Sinking but offers no concrete method to combat, slow, or stop the sinking. The joint effort was conducted under the supervision of the United States Geological Service branch of the Federal Government with funding from the Ohio Means Jobs Fund & private donations.
The two groups began the study after the high water events of 2018 caused major flooding on the island rendering Eastpoint separated by a lake that reached depths of over 7 feet deep. Roads along the waterfront on much of the island became impassable for several days as the high water prevented passage. Local sewer systems were overwhelmed with the floodwaters and numerous cars and motor vehicles were flooded and stalled attempting to cross the flooding streets. Numerous Put-in-Bay Golf Cart Rentals were reported to have flooded from the high water stranding passengers and causing engine damage.
3 Main Factors Contributing to Put-in-Bay Sinking
Underground tunnels & caves collapsing –
Visitors to Ohio’s Put-in-Bay likely have visited and toured at least one of two popular caves open to the public. The Crystal Cave is known worldwide for having the world’s largest underground Geode and Perrys Cave which played a historical role in the Battle Of Lake Erie. What many do not know is that there are literally hundreds of caves large & small, known and unknown that encompass South Bass Island.
According to geologists from Ohio State University, these caves over time have eroded and grown in size reducing the density of cavern walls. The weakened structures in many cases have collapsed causing small sinkholes which are permitting above-ground water runoff to enter the caves causing additional damage. Many of these caves are connected by tunnels that were used during prohibition to conceal, transport, and produce bootleg liquor.
As these caves grow in size, the water flow from the currents of Lake Erie increase in volume and speed causing more erosion each year. As cavern walls collapse, they join other smaller caverns further undermining the island’s substructure.
History Of Excessive Quarry Mining Of Stone –
For many years, stone & gravel products needed for the construction and manufacturing of concrete on the island were mined from the local quarry on the island. This was a more cost-efficient method than trucking materials from the mainland via the freight ferry. Over time, the depth of the quarry surpassed the mean water table density for the island’s aquifer resulting in negative pressure on the island as a whole and causing shifts in the island’s substrata.
The resulting geological damage to the inner core of the island, basically a mountain in lake Erie has caused erosion of the island’s elevated areas resulting in the collapse of the substrata. While this damage is not reversible, the quarry has ceased operation to prevent any further degradation. Geologists are at odds as to whether to fill in the quarry to attempt to stabilize the walls or to attempt to fill it with Lake Erie Water to exert pressure on the sidewalls and add support.
Commercial Developments Cutting Away At Glacial Rock –
Over the years, extensive commercial developments have utilized modern excavation equipment that has systematically ground away at Glacial Grove buried under the topsoil. Often found 4 to 6 feet below thus surface, this super hard rock must be ground away using a diamond-tipped belt driver machine. As the foundation of the surface is ground away, what is left is a softer limestone rock which is easily eroded by water. Scientists believe this is a principal reason that we have an issue with Put-in-Bay Sinking.
Local officials are contemplating prohibiting basements in new construction and requiring engineers of new buildings to incorporate the existing Glacial Rock into the foundation’s footers rather than removing it. Larger developments such as local Put-in-Bay Hotels & Resorts would have to be constructed at two stories or less to reduce vertical pressures. Representatives from the Army Core Of Engineers believe this will prevent further Put-in-Bay Sinking by the erosion of the core of the island’s composition.
Put-in-Bay Sinking – Long Term Outlook
At the current rates, and unless a solution is reached to slow or stop the 3.8 inches per year decline, the South Bass Island’s highest point could be underwater in less than 20 years. Even more concerning is the effect that the large wave action could have on the island from high winds long before reaching that point. It’s common for waves to reach 8 to 10 feet during severe wind conditions.
Already, water conditions are dangerously high when winds from nor easterly storms and fronts pass thru the Lake Erie Islands. Over the last few years, high waves have further eroded the shoreline of the island causing hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages to residents’ seawalls and building foundations. Supporters of the Lake Erie Islands are urged to write or call your local congressperson, senator, or Governor Dewine and request additional funds and resources be allocated to researching and stemming the effects of this serious issue. Copies of the reports may be obtained by contacting the Army Core Of Engineer offices.