Lakeshore property owners will have more freedom to properly maintain their beaches under legislation expected to be signed soon by the governor, said Sen. John Proos.
“Southwest Michigan is blessed with miles of beautiful sandy beaches that attract millions of visitors and are key to a tourist industry that supports thousands of families and local small businesses,” said Proos, R-St. Joseph. “Removing costly government interference – that only inhibits the maintenance of our beaches – is a victory for everyone. It will enhance private property rights and result in beaches that are cleaner and safer for families and tourists to enjoy.”
Low water levels in 1999 exposed many Great Lakes beaches, which were quickly overrun with invasive plants and other weeds. State policy at the time was to prevent landowners from grooming their beaches to remove plants or prevent them from growing without a permit.
Senate Bill 1052 would eliminate certain Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (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, although some activities may still be subject to federal regulation.
“Allowing landowners to maintain their beaches will help increase outdoor activities and protect a vibrant tourism industry,” Proos said. “I supported this common-sense reform because it also achieves a balance between recreation and conservation. Eliminating unnecessary restrictions on property owners will enable them to keep their beaches sandy and open for use while enlisting their aid in stopping invasive species from taking hold in Michigan.”
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. Construction projects and digging of channels or dredging below the ordinary high-water mark would still be subject to a state permit.
“This will not affect a beachgoer’s ability to walk along the beach between the high-water line and the water’s edge,” Proos said. “In fact, it will improve that freedom by allowing landowners to maintain and clean that area of the beach.”