Home > Ecological Design, Economics, Editorial, Green Streets, Guest Writer, Parks and Recreation > Shoreline protection: SB1052 would set the Great Lakes back

Shoreline protection: SB1052 would set the Great Lakes back

…the goal is to raise $10 today. 


Shoreline protection

~ Guest post by John Nelson and Andy Knott. They argue against Senate Bill 1052 which would remove DEQ oversight of beach grooming along Lake Michigan shoreline. 

“Maintenance” and “grooming” — these words connote benign, positive activities. Make no mistake, however, when used to describe activities on our shared Great Lakes shoreline it means mechanized removal of critical plants. Make way for the bulldozers and tractors! Remember the Cherry Tree Inn (RE) and the destruction of vital Great Lakes coastal marsh in attempt to create a “sandy” beach?”

Senate Bill 1052 would allow these activities on the Michigan’s Great Lakes shoreline without any state review was approved by the Michigan Senate and is moving to the House.

No one advocates denying property owners reasonable use of their frontage on the Great Lakes. For three years, environmental groups, state and federal agencies, and property groups including Save our Shoreline (SOS) worked to reach a compromise allowing some activities under a general permit at low-cost and effort. Senate Bill 1052 (MI-GOV) repeals that compromise which SOS has praised. SOS said this in their January newsletter: “For the most part the (SOS) membership did not have any issues with the D.E.Q. or the Army Corp of Engineers. This is great news…” Over the past 5 years, DEQ has denied only 4 general permits for beach grooming; this is hardly an onerous program.

The shoreline of the Great Lakes is a diverse, fragile ecosystem.

Along Grand Traverse Bay, naturally sandy beaches are rare. Most of the shoreline is a mix of cobble, vegetated cobble, cobble sand mix and marshes. The narrow, protective strip of vegetation along the water’s edge helps clean runoff before it gets to the lakes. And it becomes a fish nursery when the water levels rise just a few inches; 90 percent of Great Lakes fish spend their first few years in nearshore areas.

Some legislators cite the need to control invasive phragmites as the rationale for removing DEQ oversight of the public interest in the shoreline. But the bill would allow the cutting and attempted removal of untreated phragmites. The very act of cutting phragmites roots increases spreading as each root segment can float for miles and sprout a new plant.

Proper treatment of phragmites uses limited and targeted approved herbicide under a DEQ permit. The Watershed Center has worked with several partners to control invasive phragmites with great success. Between 2010 and 2011, we reduced the amount of phragmites by 78 percent on Grand Traverse Bay in Grand Traverse County – down to 16 acres. This bill would jeopardize all that work and investment (Watershed Center).

The bill would allow removal of all plants including native. The removal of native vegetation along the shoreline enhances the growth of invasives because it creates a place for them to take hold and spread.

The bill has now passed the house and senate and is on Gov. Snyder’s desk. When running for Governor in 2010, Snyder pledged to protect the environment. Please contact Gov. Snyder now at RickSnyder@michigan.gov or 517-373-3400 and ask him to uphold his pledge and veto the bill.

~ John Nelson is Grand Traverse Baykeeper for the Watershed Center Grand Traverse Bay. Andy Knott is Executive Director of the Watershed Center. For more information, you can email him at aknott@gtbay.org. Photos provided by Bob Russel (top) and the GT Watershed Center. 


EDITOR’S NOTE: My Wheels are Turning is published with standard journalistic practice and ethics. The basics of which include: 1) All contributors, including commenters, seek to be accurate and inclusive in the coverage. 2) They treat all topics, viewpoints and individuals covered in a post with respect and dignity. 3) This is an editorial endeavor in that this online publication seeks to support and shift public perception of the value of public space, as well as pedestrian and bike culture. 4) All content is first & foremost the perspective & opinion of the author of that post and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the editor, other contributors, or underwriters.

  1. chrisbzdok
    June 27, 2012 at 10:30 am

    most of the activities this bill exempts from state permitting still require a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. In fact, until this bill takes effect, DEQ and the Corps use the same permit form. I looked for some mention of that fact in the article, but only saw “make way for bulldozers and tractors!”

    The bill also does not exempt shorelines designated high risk by DEQ. Since DEQ is neutral on the bill, there is essentially no chance of a veto.

    People can have principled differences of opinion on this subject. The above is simply meant to clarify and provide more info. Analyses of the bill can be found on the MI Legislature’s website.

  2. DeanForsythe
    June 27, 2012 at 3:32 pm

    This bill has taken to long to get done.. Get on with it!
    Traverse City prides itself on its shoreline and bay front. Of which neihter are really visiable or barely useable by the public due to all the “new” growth of trees and hodge-podge vegitation. The former city manager was too chicken to challenge the DEQ/DNR on grooming and controlling “our” bay front. Now you have a rock layden mess of bushes and trees. Mostly invasive vegitation. The entire bay front on West Bay from M22/72 to West End Beach should be re-scaped, and the sand pumped back from the out shore area to make way for a pleasing and compelling beach front! Same goes for public area and private land owners along the beach on both bays West and East.

    Lets be known for what we extoll ourselves to be.. the Bay Front City and all it’s half the pay for a view splendor.

    The governer can’t sign this bill fast enough. Lets get it done!

  3. June 28, 2012 at 7:06 pm

    Thanks for the perspective, Chris. In neither Andy & John’s post or comments do I see a reference to what I’ve heard the bill may establish regarding the redefining of the high-water mark. Not being fully abreast of the bill, I’m wondering if you or someone else with a legal mind for this sees an issue in what is feared by many of what would restrict public access to the shoreline. Mostly what I’ve read about it uses a “slippery slope” argument, but I’m wondering if there is more to it.

  4. chrisbzdok
    June 29, 2012 at 3:04 pm

    Hi Gary, the short answer is the bill will not restrict public access to Great Lakes shorelines.

    The longer answer is that the public’s right to walk the Great Lakes shorelines derives from the common law public trust doctrine, not from the Michigan Legislature. The public trust doctrine is a limitation on the powers of the sovereign requiring the sovereign to protect the public’s right to use certain resources that, by their nature, belong to the people: air, running water, the sea, and the shores of the sea. The public trust doctrine was formulated in the Roman Empire, exported to England with the Roman conquest, and reaffirmed in the Magna Carta. When the English king took dominion over the New World by right of conquest, he took title to the public trust resources subject to this doctrine. The doctrine was enshrined in the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, and when Michigan was created from a portion of the Northwest Territory, our state government took title to the public trust resources subject to this doctrine. The state can reasonably regulate the public’s use of these resources, but it cannot prohibit that use without a compelling need based on public health, safety, or welfare.

    It is true that many pro-grooming waterfront landowners are also anti-beach walking, but the two issues are separate and the grooming bill does not seek to restrict the public’s right to walk the beach.

  5. garyhepler
    July 1, 2012 at 12:41 am

    Groom the beaches and see a wonderful useable resource! I completely agree with Dean.

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