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Indiana Department of Natural Resources

Water > Lake Michigan > Beach Nourishment Beach Nourishment

An alternative method of reducing or temporarily stopping excessive erosion of the natural coast is to provide a "man-made" beach and dune-bluff. Feeding sand to a coast is referred to as "beach nourishment." Beach nourishment works by reducing sand-starved conditions by supplying sand needed for waves and currents to rebuild and maintain the natural protective beach and sand bar system.

Dune LakeThe supply of beach nourishment sand can come from many sources. When a coastal structure traps sand on one side, creating erosion problems on the downdrift side, the trapped sand can be dredged and moved (by-passed) around the structure. This mechanical by-passing of sand places the same sand on the downdrift shoreline that would have arrived there naturally if the structure was not present. Sand trapped by a structure can also be moved back updrift (back-passing) to the portion of the coast where it eroded. Sand can also be obtained from inland sources, like quarries, and trucked to the beach.

Beach nourishment sand must be free of contaminants that might be suspended or dissolved in the water as the sand is reworked by the storm waves. Testing for contaminants can be a costly procedure. Criteria for contaminate testing is not standardized and can be inconsistent among agencies responsible for requesting the test procedures.

Erosion and reworking of nourishment sand provides three important beneficial effects. First, beach nourishment sand directly protects the natural dune-bluffs from wave attack by serving as a sacrificial dune and beach buffer zone between the waves and the previously eroding natural coast. Second, beach nourishment reduces erosion on adjacent properties by supplying sand to the regional beach and sand bar system. Both the beach nourishment project site, and the adjacent shoreline benefit from the placement of nourishment sand. Third, beach nourishment creates beaches that can be used for recreation.

With time, beach nourishment sand is completely mobilized as it moves down the shoreline providing protection to downdrift property owners as new beaches and sand bars. When all the beach nourishment sand is carried downdrift, the project site must be "renourished."

Beach nourishment activities are encouraged through state statute. The "Sand Nourishment Fund" in IC 14-25-12 provides a mechanism to protect and increase sand in Indiana along Lake Michigan. Coastal communities can obtain funds through their local state legislators which can then be used for

  • the deposit of sand along the coast of Lake Michigan in Indiana;
  • the design and establishment of systems that cause sand to be deposited along the coast of Lake Michigan in Indiana; and
  • the prevention or reduction of the degradation of sand along the coast of Lake Michigan in Indiana.

Under another state statute, IC 14-29-3-2, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources is authorized to impose a royalty fee for the removal of dredge materials from the bed of Lake Michigan. As an incentive, the Natural Resources Commission has by rule determined this royalty fee should be waived if the person authorized to dredge agrees to place any suitable dredge materials along the Lake Michigan shoreline as beach nourishment for the beneficial use of the general public.

Recently, the Department of Natural Resources has taken further action to provide incentive for beach nourishment activities. A rule was recently adopted to establish a general authorization (sometimes called a "statewide permit") for beach nourishment from sources landward of Lake Michigan. A person who qualifies for the general authorization may place sand for beach nourishment, either within or outside the ordinary high watermark, without obtaining a navigable waterways fill permit under IC 14-29- 1-8. Instead, a letter is provided to the agency by the person wishing to use the general authorization. In the letter, the person provides information concerning the site of origin, the site of deposit, and other pertinent information, including any testing performed on the sand. Unless the Department of Natural Resources responds within 14 days to require full permitting or to impose conditions on the terms of the deposit, the general authorization is "deemed to have been approved and the person may proceed."

Nourishment sand is regularly provided by the dredging efforts of the Northern Indiana Public Service Company (NIPSCO). NIPSCO must dredge to keep its water intake at the Bailly Plant from being clogged by sand trapped updrift of the Port of Indiana. Seventy-five percent of the dredged sand is "by-passed" to Ogden Dunes and deposited on the outer sand bar. The other 25% is "back-passed" to Beverly Shores.

Two designed beach nourishment projects have been conducted in Indiana by the federal government. In 1974, 227,00 cubic yards of sand was placed in front of Mount Baldy. The second beach nourishment in 1981 was at the same Mount Baldy location using 80,000 cubic yards of sand. Two beach nourishment activities are currently taking place on the Indiana's shoreline near Mount Baldy. One is associated with the maintenance dredging of the Michigan City Harbor. The other activity will be completed as mitigation for erosion occurring as a result of the federally constructed breakwater at the Michigan City Harbor. The nourishment projects will be completed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.