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Great Lakes Article:

Huge chunk of land slides down Lake Michigan bluffs


By Associated Press
06/22/2002

   HARBOR SPRINGS -- A natural slough, or landslide, has claimed a sizable chunk of the Lake Michigan bluffs north of town.
   The separation and collapse of the rich, water-laden topsoil from the red clay beneath it took dozens of cedar, pine and birch trees and surrounding vegetation 150 feet down the bluff onto the beach.
   It left a clump of trees, some 50 feet in length and more than 75 years old, extending at all angles well out into Lake Michigan.
   A beach walker discovered the slough Tuesday. Dale Scott, who is the supervisor in Emmet County's Friendship Township, labeled it "another wake-up call."
   "Human activity, even with roads, is changing the way water flows from the uplands to the lakes, making the bluffs more unpredictable than they ever have been," Scott told the Petoskey News-Review for a story Friday.
   Emmet County planner Max Putters, who visited the site with civil counsel Kathleen Abbott and county controller Lyn Johnson, said the slide underscored the need for a standard to regulate development on the bluffs.
   "We're also trying to find alternative building sites to those along the bluffs for people who own property there," he said.
   Charles Glass, a Harbor Springs attorney and spokesman for the 565-member Emmet County Lakeshore Association, said after visiting the site Wednesday that the landslide was as bad as any he had seen in the 30 years he has lived in Readmond Township.
   "It's clear that what occurred was a slide," Glass said. "There was water underneath the topsoil and running over the clay. The water destabilizes the topsoil, which breaks away like an avalanche. The clay doesn't move but remains exposed, and as water trickles down over it, the clay is turned into a mushy gunk."
   Glass said water from the spring's sudden snow melt, augmented by heavy rains that followed, quickly soaked the topsoil, causing it to become unstable.
   It's the third major slide within a 300-yard span, he said.
   "To people who have been expressing doubt about the dangers to the bluff, this new slide demonstrates there's a major problem with building on or close to the bluffs," Glass said.
   The county planning commission is developing a steep slopes ordinance.
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