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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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From My Window

Issue Date: January 9, 2020

Jane Thibodeau Martin

Green Bay: Beloved Friend and Foe

What one Michigan Department of Natural Resources spokesperson called a "slow-moving emergency" has become inescapably visible in many of my beloved places. The lovely shore of Green Bay along scenic M-35 in Michigan and next to Highway Y between Peshtigo and Oconto is under assault. Favorite parks and wild areas like Red Arrow Beach; the iconic Menominee lighthouse drive; and Peshtigo Harbor are inaccessible and/or eroding. I have never seen water higher in the beautiful Menominee Marina. Even the roadway through Henes Park is being damaged.

The recent ice jam on the Oconto River backed water up in places that people don't recall ever suffering water intrusion before, putting them, unfortunately, in Wisconsin news. It is uncertain what impacts spring will bring; but what is certain is that according to the Army Corps of Engineers, the Great Lakes water levels have never before in recorded history been so high. (Records began in 1918; more than 100 years ago.) Yes, lake levels rise and lower over the years; but this is an extreme event " it would not be inaccurate to call it historic. Like most people my age, I remember a period of high bay levels in the past; but clearly the data says my memories do not measure up to what is occurring today.

It appears the current trend for the Midwest is for earlier springs, more snow because less of the Great Lakes surfaces are freezing over due to warmer water; and overall more rain in the summer and fall months. All of these things drive higher water levels in all five great lakes. If you prefer to believe this is not climate change, I accept that. But what we can all see, and I believe agree on, is that the current high water conditions, which experts say will persist for at least another year if not more, are wreaking havoc on our beloved shorelines.

There has already been damage to many of our waterside parks as well as river estuaries. Public roadways along the bay may have to be repaired, and the hard question to be answered is whether to repair in place, or hedge the bets and investment and relocate some sections of roads further away from the water, or raise the road beds higher. The cost will be borne by taxpayers or by insurance, if the county, city and townships carry insurance against floods " which I doubt.

These assets " parks; campgrounds, beaches, and boat launches, drive tourism in the area; but just as important, they are part of the joy of living near Green Bay for the lucky residents. Most businesses and residents benefit from them; not just those who reside along the shore. It is painful for me to think of the many wonderful walks I have enjoyed on Seagull bar with my ecstatic dogs over the years, and I wonder when I will be able to do so again. I bet almost everyone reading this has a similar memory of a special to you place now under siege by the bay.

There is significant community and financial impact from this situation. Yet, as I drove through Oconto a few weeks ago, my brain was not mulling that.

Instead, my heart was hurting for people. The people who live right on the shoreline, and in the "impact zone." Some of these people reside in large, new homes, with the water creeping toward their foundations. A tremendous monetary investment is at risk, and tough decisions loom beyond adding rock to armor their shorelines.

Others are simpler, older homes. They remind me of our first house as a married couple. It was a humble ranch, but I still love that place with a passion. It was not so much as the roof over our head, it was our lovely view of my beloved Menominee River that built the emotional attachment to that little house. Walking to the shore in the morning with my coffee was a glorious start to even a work day. I think of people who may have lived along Green Bay for decades, savoring their seabird views, the bay breeze, and the sight of tranquil white winter ice stretching all the way to Door County; and I can feel the pain they have as they worry about their situation.

And another group " those who have a bayside, seasonal use "camp/shack/cabin/cottage." The building is probably nothing special at all " the value of their property was probably more in the waterfront location than it was in the structure. Perhaps three or even four generations of a family have shared memories of swimming, boating, beach bonfires, Fourth of July gatherings or rainy days around a fireplace. Their little wooden signs are out front by the driveway entrance " Lazy Daze; Johnson's camp; Little Bit of Heaven. The family matriarch waded in the water there as a child and now watches her grandchildren splashing around in the same place. Maybe they drive by their place slowly this winter, or mush through the unplowed driveway snow to check it, hoping for less snowfall, a dry spring, and a slow thaw with little adverse wind.

Some of the people impacted have faces and names familiar to me. Some of you are beloved old neighbors. But I am thinking of all of you who have been impacted, whether I know you or not, and in a very small way I am sharing your worries. You are all in my prayers. This hurt is more than a question of finances, it is from the very real emotional attachment we get to those special places in our lives.

Song stuck in my head: "Rolling in the Deep." Adele is one of the truly spectacular voices of this age.

You can reach me for commentary, alternative viewpoints or ideas at this e-mail address: JanieTMartin@gmail.com.


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