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As Lake Michigan pushes into yards, DNR expedites process for homeowners to block it

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Joe Bohaccek says he used to have a large beach in his back yard, but he’s lost quite a bit in the last three years.

“Probably about 150 feet,” Bohaccek said.

Joseph Plewka lost six feet off the bluff in his back yard, sitting more than 30 feet above the beach, in the past few months. He's watched his house get closer to the edge as Lake Michigan remains near a record high level.

“My neighbor had to tear down their garage just because they didn’t want it falling in there,” Plewka said.

His other neighbor’s home was demolished in November, after it made national news for teetering over the edge of the bluff.

“With enough time, it will happen to everyone along the coast,” Plewka said.

Many people try to build barriers along the coast to slow the water, or at least break up the waves to prevent them from smacking into the bluff at full force. But until now, the DNR had made them wait for a biologist to inspect the project first, in order to obtain a permit.

Now, residents looking to fight back against Mother Nature can fill out a one page form and start building while they await approval, provided barriers meet DNR standards.

“When people are experiencing an emergency, we don’t want to wait while damage is occurring," Wisconsin DNR Deputy Watershed Management Bureau Director Robert Rosenberger said. "We believe that [inspection is] an important process, however, we want to expedite it as quickly as possible.”

Bohaccek says that’s great news, and he will apply for one of those permits next week.

“Hope to get started, right way, even with something just to slow it down.”

While several in his neighborhood have moved away, he’s not giving up.

“I know my wife wants to leave," Bohaccek laughed. "I won’t let her. I’m not doing it.”

The Wisconsin DNR does recommend consulting a professional before building any lake barriers.

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