Senate approves beach maintenance bill

LANSING? Legislation to clear up confusing and restrictive state regulations that limit the ability of shoreline owners to maintain their beaches was approved by the Michigan Senate on Wednesday, said co-sponsor Sen. Darwin Booher.

“This reform is about eliminating unnecessary government regulations and fees and protecting the rights of lakefront property owners to maintain their beaches, just as any other homeowners are able to do in their backyard,” said Booher, R-Evart. “This is a common-sense balance between ensuring private property rights and protecting our state’s natural resources. By enabling property owners to maintain clean and healthy beaches, we are helping combat invasive species and keeping our beautiful beaches sandy and open for use.”

Low water levels in 1999 exposed beaches across the Great Lakes, which were quickly overrun with the invasive plant phragmites and other weeds. The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s (DEQ) policy at the time was to prevent landowners from responding by grooming their beaches to remove the plant or prevent it from growing in the first place. 

Senate Bill 1052 would eliminate certain DEQ restrictions about how beach maintenance can be done. Property owners with sandy beaches would no longer need to get a permit from the DEQ for beach grooming activities.

“Michigan has a proud history of outdoor recreation and our miles of beaches play a key role in our economy and outstanding quality of life,” Booher said. “This reform is about increasing outdoor activities by removing confusing and costly restrictions that inhibit the process of preserving our beachfronts. The result of this freedom will be cleaner beaches that are safer and more enjoyable for families and tourists.”

Under SB 1052, owners of sandy beaches would not need a DEQ permit to remove vegetation and debris on the section of their beaches between the normal high-water mark and the water’s edge. Certain non-beach-grooming activities like construction projects, digging of channels or dredging below the ordinary high-water mark would still be subject to a state permit, and some restrictions will still be imposed by federal regulations.

SB 1052 now advances to the House of Representatives for further consideration.