Human Response to Coastal Erosion: Thunder Bay, Lake Superior


  • Robert S. Dilley
  • Harun Rasid


Coastal erosion, coastal management, coastal protection, natural hazards


Human awareness of erosion is high among residents along the north shore of Lake Superior around Thunder Bay, Ontario. Two-thirds of shoreline owners had suffered from the effects of erosion of their property over the last five years, and most perceive this erosion to be increasing. Political response is not seen to be very useful, and no respondents had made use of an Ontario provincial assistance program. Many would like the lake level lowered, by increasing outflow at Sault Ste Marie and limiting diversions into the lake, despite evidence that human intervention has little effect. So far the human reaction has been to tolerate the erosion or to rely on inexpensive physical shore protection measures. Although respondents recognize that combinations of defences are likely to be most effective, nearly half of those who have taken action have done so by simply adding fill as beach nourishment. A majority of shoreline residents would like the federal or provincial governments to pay some of the cost, but are generally willing to share the expense. Altogether the population appears to be tolerant of erosion as a natural process, willing to take simple mitigation measures, and mildly hopeful that someone else might help pay for it.