Beginning in about 2013, Lake Erie water levels began a steady rise above the long-term average (LTA) lake level of 174.15 m, and as of July 2019, had risen almost one metre to 175.14 m, their highest levels ever recorded impacting both Bluff Trail and Talbot Trail. Increased lake levels have caused significant coastal erosion, bluff erosion, and coastal flooding in many locations along the 60 km stretch from Erieau to Leamington. Local roads and highways, and hundreds (if not thousands) of waterfront cottages, homes, estate homes, farms and tourist accommodations populate the waterfront, many of which are less than 2 m above the LTA lake levels.
Many factors were considered in the assessment phase. In addition to the rise of long-term average lake levels were land value and relocation costs, onshore winds and storm events, as well as ice shoves, that can magnify the impact of high water levels, and typical storm events and the seiche effect (from standing waves in enclosed bodies of water) that can elevate lake levels by more than 0.5m and accelerate erosion.
A first for the Canadian Great Lakes region, the Chatham-Kent Lake Erie Shoreline Study explores the influence of climate change on future coastal hazards due to changes in storms and ice cover and the associated challenges for the coastal communities of Chatham-Kent.
Lake Erie shoreline erosion and flooding hazards will present significant challenges to existing Chatham-Kent infrastructure and abutting landowners, and climate change is expected to make the hazards worse in the future.