The bird’s-eye view.

A brief breather in yet another Busy Period, which means I will have to fit blogging into a schedule of actual paying work, as opposed to the make-work work I do for myself in the name of research. Like? Like flying, via Google Earth, over the coastline of Grosse Pointe Shores, to see the accretion.

The what? The accretion, the silt and vegetation buildup along the western Lake St. Clair shoreline. Not long after we moved here, someone told me the lake would make a lot more sense if I didn’t think of it as a lake at all, but rather a river delta, a very wide spot in a watery road between Lake Huron and Lake Erie. We have a map of the entire Great Lakes watershed in our living room now, and there’s a diagram showing the lakes in cutaway. Superior, Huron, Michigan area all deep trenches in the earth. Lake St. Clair is a dinner plate. It holds less water, so water moves through it faster. It’s also smack in the middle of a densely populated area, which means lots of recreational boaters, which means lots of docks. Some years ago, one of the Grosse Pointe municipal parks expanded their marina and blocked off their existing flow-throughs.

Well. If you’ve visited the water-play feature at a children’s science museum, you know what happens when you block moving water. It backs up. Gunk in the water settles. Thus, accretion. It’s the result of some natural phenomena — low water levels being the most obvious — but mostly that of the man-made sort. In fact, the longer it goes on, the more people look at it and say hmm, the more fingers point to a couple of specific construction projects in years past that started the problem and continue to aggravate it.

But here’s the thing. The accretion is happening in front of some of the area’s most expensive homes, in Grosse Pointe Shores. And so the local weekly is covering it and covering it and covering it, and printing letters from angry homeowners saying their property values are eroding (even as their property is, technically, expanding, which is sort of an interesting irony when you think about it) and they want it all dredged out. This will, of course, cost millions of dollars, and if the government won’t pay, then everyone in the community should pay (some say), because declining property values are everyone’s problem, etc. etc.

This creates more problems too boring for non-residents to give a fig about, so I’ll spare you. But another irony of this problem is that because this stretch of waterfront is entirely blocked from view by the expensive homes, if you don’t live there, you can’t even see it. (This could all be an elaborate plot to get ordinary taxpayers to finance what is, in actuality, a private waterfront theme park.) The chances of some plutocrat giving me a walking tour of his front lawn is unlikely, so I figured I’d fly in via Google Earth.

Google Earth is very cool. Download it today.

Because I’ve been wasting time on things other than web-surfing, only a single item of bloggage today, and that is A Thing I Will Regret On My Deathbed: That I didn’t spend 6/6/06 in Hell, Michigan.

Enjoy the heavenly day.

Posted at 9:18 am in Same ol' same ol' |

8 responses to “The bird’s-eye view.”

  1. alex said on June 7, 2006 at 10:44 am

    Earth to Google: Time to update your pictures. The view of my house predates my purchase of it more than a year and a half ago. Scared the bejeezus outta me seeing a white van in the driveway while I’m here at work helpless to do anything about burglars. Good thing I examined it closely before calling 911.

    Last year’s new flowerbeds and driveway turnaround were absent, and the neighbors’ former vehicles were parked in front of their house. And it looks like fall or winter.

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  2. Danny said on June 7, 2006 at 10:54 am

    Alex, I think you are confusing GoogleEarth with either NSAEarth or PatriotActEarth. I am not sure where one downloads those, but I hear they are up to date. Very up to date.

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  3. nancy said on June 7, 2006 at 11:08 am

    Should have made it clear: These are stored photos. And I think they are all from fall or winter, so the tree cover’s less obstructive.

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  4. MichaelG said on June 7, 2006 at 11:41 am

    Nance, the situation in your story about Grosse Pointe Fill in the Blank is very similar to the situation in Malibu. There the beach is owned by the State of California but all the property between the beach and the road (the vast majority of it anyway) is owned by MOVIE STARS and other RICH FOLK who don’t want the peasants in “their area”. Hence beach access in the neighborhood is always controversial. This is where the rubber really meets the road for all those limousine liberals who inhabit Hollywood. They espouse lots of causes that take only a few dollars donation, but when it comes to letting actual people near an actual State owned beach all their “not here, Buster” glands go into overtime. Just ask Barbra Streisand or David Geffen. By the way, I have a Malibu beach access project on my desk, but it doesn’t have funding as yet. The agency involved (California Coastal Conservancy) has plans for a rather ornate staircase to descend from Malibu Road down to the beach on a piece of property they own but is still groping in their pockets for the couple of mil it would take for construction. It would be perfect for Loretta Young to make one of her grand entries.
    Google Maps is great as well. Microsoft also has a terrific site. It’s has some astounding close ups in a lot of major metropolitan areas. If I can look at stuff this close imagine what the govvermint satellite recon folks can see. They can probably read the vin on your dash.

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  5. nancy said on June 7, 2006 at 2:06 pm

    I think everyone knows the Malibu beach access issue pretty well, Michael — thanks to the celebrities involved, it’s been covered extensively. I wish more of the coverage would focus more on the genius of American land use traditions when it comes to natural resources like these — the idea that lakes and rivers and oceans belong to all the people, and while you can own property adjacent to it, you can’t own the lake itself, nor ban people from using the shoreline.

    In Michigan, the general rule is the high-water mark, which protects Alan when he wades the river and sometimes needs to travel along the bank for a few feet because of some obstruction. It protects beach strollers on the Great Lakes. In England, when you say you fly-fish for trout or salmon, they ask, “What part of the river do you own?” Because if you don’t own the river, or part of it, you’re prohibited from wading in it.

    This is the good flip side to the policies that allow private parties to graze cattle on public lands, extract minerals and so forth.

    To be sure, though, the issue here isn’t access. The lakefront here has no beach to speak of, and the road meanders on and off the waterfront. But the accretion that we’re being told is a plague on the entire community really only directly affects a small part of it. I’m not entirely unsympathetic — if my lakefront mansion lost significant value because the shoreline has turned to swamp, I’d be pissed, too. But if there’s any talk of assessing the whole community to fix it, I want to make sure there’s some major proportionality involved.

    P.S. I think it’ll never get fixed. People talk about dredging like it’s the equivalent of sweeping the floor. It can be an environmental nightmare, especially in a lake that was once as polluted as this one.

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  6. alex said on June 7, 2006 at 4:48 pm

    A bit off subject, but it looks like the sale of the N-S is a done deal:

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  7. John said on June 7, 2006 at 5:00 pm

    Well Nancy, the N-S has been sold. Ogden Newspapers of West virgina. I hope the future is brighter but I have to think they bought it for the 75% of FW newspapers and the N-S yard sale is coming soon. And while theres been a good deal of bloodletting of talented folks there of late, I’m hoping for at least one more person to be shown the door. Any guesses?

    As for google earth it’s a blast. I’ve toured Pyongyang, North korea, virtually driven from my old state of NJ to Fort Wayne, and I use it sometimes at work to better visualize places I’m writing about or to make use of the measure tool.

    Did you know that geeks are now making buildings using google sketch up to add things built after the photos were taken, or to put 3-d detail on areas with no 3-d buildings. If I could master the sketch up program I’d build downtown Fort Wayne, or at least the big builders. Forgive me but I still call them the Summit bank building, the Fort Wayne National bank building, and the Lincoln National Bank building….

    At least i could try to build a 3-D Powers hamburgers.

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  8. deb said on June 7, 2006 at 5:01 pm

    nobody else is talking about this, but just let me say my favorite part of the hell, mich. story was the bit from the guy who said his wife’s always telling him to go to hell. so when he heard about the 6-6-06 celebration, he called her up … and she gave him directions. you can’t make stuff like that up.

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