Lake’s high water level threatens cottages.

April 28, 2020

Cottages on School Section Lake near Walkerville are surrounded by high water.

Lake’s high water level threatens cottages.

By Allison Scarbrough, Editor.

COLFAX TOWNSHIP — Several cottages on School Section Lake near Walkerville are threatened by high water levels, but owners are hopeful their summer homes will survive.

The Great Lakes and surrounding inland lakes are experiencing record-high levels.

Mark Boertman, who owns two next-door cottages on the south side of the lake, said the lake level has not been this high since the 1980s. The crawl space to one of his cottages flooded and had to be filled with sand.

Area house mover Phil Jonassen moved one of the cottages back during the high water levels of the 1980s, Boertman said, and lifted the other cottage up higher.

Right now, one of the cottages is on an “island” surrounded by water, he said.

He has been watching the water level steadily rise over the last three years he has owned the first cottage (he bought the second one last year). “Just this year, it breached the banks over the winter.”

He may have to save his yard with fill dirt to make it higher. “If it doesn’t recede, I will have to use yard fill.”

Boertman is hoping that as the trees bud, the water level will decrease. “The roots pull it up,” he said. But if heavy rains plague the area like they did last spring, the water level could become an even more serious problem.

Last summer, the water level decreased on the lake by just 1 inch, he said, compared to the previous summer of 8 inches.

“Mother Nature is trying to reclaim her lost ground,” he said. “It’s almost May – it might go down.”

Although his homes are inhabitable, he feels like he’s in limbo. He can’t put his dock in the water unless he wants to wade out to it because his yard is now submerged in water.

Boertman’s neighbor, Jim Kersjes, is in the same boat — so to speak. “I’m surrounded by water,” Kersjes said. “All three sides of the cottage right now are all under water. The yard is submerged.”

His shed is also below water, but fortunately his garage is above the water level. “The shed has water in it, but hopefully there is not a lot of damage.”

Kersjes also has water in his cottage’s crawl space.

“I am not sure if there is anything I can do,” he said. “The cottage is usable – the water is not hitting the floor. I’m hoping for a little dry spell.”

Kersjes said he is concerned about mold — particularly while the air is cold and the windows stay closed — due to a lack of ventilation.

Kersjes, who lives in Grand Rapids, said he said bought the cottage 10 years ago and has observed the water steadily rise over the last decade. His beach has vanished.

Although concerned with the flooding issues, Kersjes said he is relieved there has not been any major damage.

“It could be worse,” he said.

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