Property owners urged to inspect coastal property for signs of erosion

October 28, 2012, storm off of Catawba. Photo by Donna Lueke October 28, 2012, storm off of Catawba. Photo by Donna Lueke

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) is reminding those who own or manage property along Lake Erie that early spring is a good time to inspect coastal property for signs of erosion or damage to existing shore protection structures. Heavy wind and wave action in the fall of 2012 combined with the effects of ice, as well as freezing and thawing during the winter may damage coastal property. 

“Routine monitoring and maintenance of shore structures is necessary and will, over time, save coastal property owners money,” said Office of Coastal Management Chief Scudder Mackey. “Smaller repairs performed more frequently will be less costly than major repairs or replacement. Yearly inspections and repairs can often increase how long a structure will be effective at controlling erosion.”

The ODNR Office of Coastal Management provides free technical assistance to coastal property owners or residents who are experiencing erosion or have damaged structures. Coastal staff will guide littoral owners through the permitting process for construction of new shore structures and modifications to existing shore structures.

Safety is of the utmost importance when inspecting shore structures and should be done from a safe location. This includes keeping a safe distance from bluff edges and downslope areas where falling material may be a hazard.

It is important to document observations made during each inspection with photos and notes since this information can be helpful in comparing changes over time. Things that coastal property owners should look for include:

  • Slumped areas of the bluff including areas above a revetment, seawall or unarmored shore;
  • Increased erosion of the bluff or bank along an unarmored shore or at the ends of a structure;
  • Significant changes to the beach, either at the site or along adjacent or nearby properties;
  • Cracked concrete or armor stone;
  • Armor stone that has moved down-slope (toward the water) from its original location;
  • Uneven settling of seawalls or retaining walls;
  • Seawalls, bulkheads or retaining walls that appear to be leaning; or
  • Corrosion or ice damage to steel sheet piling or cribbing.

If erosion issues or structural damage is observed, property owners should remember:

  • Proper permits need to be obtained at the federal, state and local level prior to the construction of new structures and prior to rehabilitation or improvement of existing structures.
  • Dumping material (rubble, yard waste, etc.) adds weight to the face of the bluff and can increase erosion. Leaves and grass clippings can become saturated with water and greatly increase the weight on the bank’s slope, directly causing slumping.
  • Concrete rubble is ineffective as shore protection because individual pieces of concrete rubble are too light to withstand wave forces and are easily dispersed into the nearshore zone. Exposed rebar from broken concrete rubble is a significant public health and safety hazard along the shore.
  • Any structures (concrete decks, stone walls) and heavy objects (vehicles or construction equipment) placed near the bank edge will increase the stress within the soil and can lead to slope failure. 

When possible, coastal property owners/residents should consider working with neighboring property owners to address erosion issues. This will generally save money and produce a more effective erosion control measure.

Residents, businesses and communities are encouraged to contact ODNR with concerns or questions regarding what they have observed. To speak with an ODNR Office of Coastal Management engineer or to schedule a site visit, contact the office at 419-626-7980 or by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

In addition to in-person assistance, the ODNR Office of Coastal Management has various resources available to assist coastal property owners, including:

  • Ohio’s Coastal Design Manual ( demonstrates how structures along the shore of Lake Erie should be designed and how coastal engineering principles are best applied;
  • The Lake Erie Shore Erosion Management Plan ( provides recommendations to help control erosion based on site conditions; and
  • Application and guidance materials for regulatory requirements ( 

ODNR ensures a balance between wise use and protection of our natural resources for the benefit of all. Visit the ODNR website at

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