What’s next for Lake Michigan home collapsed over bluff?


WHITE RIVER TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — The clock is ticking as contractors decide the best way to clean up the mess left behind after a lakeshore home in Muskegon County crashed off the top of a bluff on New Year’s Eve.

The home west of Montague came crashing down as a result of aggressive erosion that has been eating away at the Lake Michigan shore.

Officials say the homeowner Tish Gancer did everything she could to prevent her White River Township home from falling over. Nevertheless, it’s up to her to figure out and finance the demolition. 

Contractor David Callender told News 8 he has never seen anything like this happen on the lakeshore.

“This is the first for me,” Callender said. “I have been doing it for 48 years, and I have never had a call like this.”

A house near Montague fell from the top of a bluff along Lake Michigan. (Jan. 2, 2020)
A house near Montague fell from the top of a bluff along Lake Michigan. (Jan. 2, 2020)

Callender said he had been working with Tish for months to prevent this from happening, but ultimately the rising waters and strong winds had them beat. 

“When your house is hanging out, and then you have a swirl with the wind, it just takes the sand right out underneath the house,” Callender said Thursday while assessing the house. 

Gancer knows the house is a total loss, but still sent family members to the scene in hopes of salvaging keepsakes that withstood the fall.

“It has some walls cracked and broke up. It’s not salvageable. The house is gone,” Callender said. 

 Callender is one of two contractors Gancer is considering hiring for the demolition. 

If hired, Callender said they would plan to approach the demolition from above, opposed to tackling it from the shore.

A house near Montague fell from the top of a bluff along Lake Michigan. (Jan. 2, 2020)
A house near Montague fell from the top of a bluff along Lake Michigan. (Jan. 2, 2020)

“We have equipment where we’ll reach right over with cables and pull that thing back up on top, smash it down and put it in dumpsters,” Callender said. 

It seems everyone agrees that time is of the essence.

County officials say the more time that passes, the more likely the house could be swallowed whole by Lake Michigan — an environmental nightmare they are hoping to avoid. 

Gancer will decide when and how the home will be demolished since she is footing the bill.

Although Gancer is in contact with her insurance company, it’s unlikely it will cover the cost since the incident is a result of erosion. 

Callender’s rough estimate for how much this will cost Gancer was $10,000, adding it would be a shame to see her stuck with the bill as she did everything possible to prevent this from happening.

“That’s sad,” he said. “You would think that somebody or the government would step in and help these people.” 

News 8 asked Callender what advice he has for other battling erosion on the lakeshore.

“People can’t wait until it comes up against your house to decide ‘I got to do something,’ they need experts in right away,” he said. 

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