Lighthouses are holding up, despite shoreline erosion.

December 7, 2019

Lighthouses are holding up, despite shoreline erosion.

By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief.

LUDINGTON — Recent storms and high water levels have caused major damage to the Lake Michigan shoreline and homes along that shoreline. Many social media postings have expressed concerns about the future of local lighthouses. Peter Manting, executive director of Sable Point Lighthouse Keepers Association, which owns the lighthouse, said the speculation has gotten “way out of proportion.”

He said the recent storms have caused the deterioration of the dune north of the lighthouse, but the lighthouse itself is holding up. The SPLKA lighthouses, which include White River Light Station near Montague, Little Sable Point Lighthouse in Silver Lake State Park, Ludington North Breakwater Lighthouse, and Big Sable Point Lighthouse in Ludington State Park, are all fine.

Recent images of Little Sable Point Lighthouse

“Many people are wondering how the lighthouses that SPLKA manages are faring with the high water levels on Lake Michigan,” Manting said. “Well, rest assured that all of them are doing fine.  Our maintenance department checks on each lighthouse weekly to ensure that all is well. There has been some erosion due to the storms and waves but there are no structural issues with the lighthouses that have been caused by the waves.

“White River is far enough away from the lake to not be impacted.  Little Sable has a concrete barrier wall on the lake side with rip rap all around the tower protecting it. The Ludington breakwater is designed to withstand the harsh conditions a half mile out on the lake. Big Sable has had the most concerning issues with the sea wall taking a beating around the lighthouse. We were getting water in the basement but with the addition of a sump pump down there it is now dry. The state and SPLKA are working together to ensure the lighthouse is protected and safe.”

Manting said the lighthouse keepers association members have had conversations with the Silver Lake State Park Manager Jody Johnston recently about the condition of Little Point Sable. He said Johnson was being questioned by several officials in Lansing about the status of the lighthouse.

“We have both determined that the only course of action that we might take is to throw a little more rip rap out in front of the light on the northwest side,” Manting said.

Manting added the State of Michigan has hired engineers to look at buildings being threatened by the water levels. Those engineers have looked at Big Sable. “Because there are no 1867 drawings of how Big Sable was built they said they would assume that it was built very similar to Little Sable. If that was the case they would have no concern for the tower at Big Sable even if the water was lapping right up to it. They seemed only concerned with the keepers quarters which is where we are experiencing problems with water in the basement.”

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