Calling in reinforcements

Volunteers are needed to fill sandbags on Saturday to combat potential flooding at the Weko Beach House in Bridgman. City leaders are being proactive, anticipating that high water could threaten the structure yet this year and into next year.

BRIDGMAN — Bridgman officials are asking for volunteers to help put sandbags around the Weko Beach House on Saturday.

“The more, the better,” said Bridgman Parks and Recreation Director Milo Root. 

He said the city has received 1,000 sandbags from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that need to be filled with sand and placed along the western edge of the beach house.

Volunteers are asked to arrive at 10 a.m., and to bring gloves. He said some shovels will be available, but volunteers are encouraged to bring shovels.

For more information, email Root at mroot@bridgman.org.

On Tuesday afternoon Root estimated that the water’s edge was about 100 feet away from the structure. But he said that on windy days, the lake is much higher, throwing debris next to the beach house.

He said city workers have pulled all the debris away from the beach house in preparation for the sandbags.

Root showed where erosion has exposed sandbags that were placed around the beach house in the 1980s, the last time Lake Michigan was so high. Root was told that the beach house was also surrounded by sandbags during a high water event in the 1940s.

City Manager Juan Ganum said he was told that in the 1980s, officials waited until the water’s edge was lapping the beach house before they started putting down sandbags.

Root said they aren’t waiting that long this time.

“We’re trying to be proactive and get out ahead of the rising water levels and hope that the sandbags are not necessary,” Root said.

The structure was initially built in 1928 and reconstructed in 1991. Ganum said several upgrades have been made in the past few years, including adding air conditioning, putting down new flooring and placing large overhead doors between the community room and the cafe, so they can be separated if necessary. He said it’s an asset that the city wants to protect.

Treasurer Debbie Lambrix said that when she moved to Bridgman in 2012, the large caisson near the beach house that is connected to the city’s water system was surrounded by sand, with the water’s edge about 75 feet away. The concrete structure has been surrounded by water this year, and the water level shows no signs of decreasing.

Data from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Detroit District shows that the Great Lakes were at their highest in 1985 through 1987, since they started recording data in 1918. This summer, the level of Lake Michigan was only one inch below the highest recorded level in July.

Experts predict that near record high lake levels will continue through at least April. 

Contact: lwrege@TheHP.com, 932-0361, Twitter: @HPWrege