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A Terrifying Interview About Lake Michigan

Earlier this month, waters from a January 11 storm tore up the lakefront path, temporarily shut down portions of Lake Shore Drive, and forced the permanent closure of three Rogers Park beaches, which will now be covered with protective riprap.

You Got To Try To See A Little Further

Edward McClelland of Chicago magazine reports:

In 2013, Lake Michigan reached its all-time recorded low, forcing ships to carry less cargo and leaving docks high and dry. Now, just seven years later, the lake is approaching its all-time high. Earlier this month, waters from a January 11 storm tore up the lakefront path, temporarily shut down portions of Lake Shore Drive, and forced the permanent closure of three Rogers Park beaches, which will now be covered with protective riprap.

Dan Egan, a Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reporter and author of The Death and Life of the Great Lakes, gave a talk at the Harold Washington Library four days after that storm. He spoke about climate change’s contribution to the lake’s rapid fall and rise, and why this is particularly threatening to low-lying Chicago. This week, I spoke with Egan about that same topic in more depth.

(click here to continue reading A Terrifying Interview About Lake Michigan | Chicago magazine | Politics & City Life January 2020.)

Preferential Treatment

Fascinating interview, worth a read. One snippet that has been haunting me a bit:

EM: Over the years, Chicago built its shoreline outward into Lake Michigan using thousands of acres of landfill. Would we still have these problems if we had our original, natural shoreline?

I think the problems would be worse. Chicago was kind of a sag. It was lowland. It was built up — that’s why Chicago is where it is. It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to put three more feet of water into that lake. Just think: we’ve been up six feet since 2013. What if we went up six feet from 2020?

EM: Then all the lakefront streets are underwater.

It would seem. But they already were when the storm came in a couple weeks ago.

EM: Could we end up back down six feet, if we don’t have a polar vortex and we go back to the evaporation we were having?

It could go down further than that. At five feet above the long-term average, we armor the coast, then all of a sudden it shrinks back ten feet. That riprap at Howard Beach, what’s that going to look like if the lake goes down? Do you go in and pull it out?

Yikes!

Your Confidence Might Be Shattered

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