Shoreline protection: SB1052 would set the Great Lakes back
~ 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 email@example.com. Photos provided by Bob Russel (top) and the GT Watershed Center.
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