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Michigan Senate scraps DEQ permit for beach grooming

Rebecca Williams
Michigan Radio

Let’s say you own a beach house. You might want to pull out some plants or mow them or smooth out the sand to make it look nice.

At the moment, if you want to do any of these things, you need a permit from both the state and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Maggie Cox is with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. She says her department has to make sure everyone can walk on the beaches, and she says sensitive wetlands need to be protected.

"Your property line is down to the water’s edge – but the state also holds in trust for the public the land up to ordinary high water mark."

Last week, the Michigan Senate passed legislation that would eliminate the state permit for beach maintenance.

Several environmental groups are opposed to that.  (You can check out this Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council brochureon beach grooming.)

The DEQ’s Maggie Cox says her agency will still have oversight of beach maintenance in wetland areas.

"In areas that are mostly sand or mostly rock, you no longer have to get a permit from the department. But in areas that are wet or coastal wetlands, made up mostly of bulrush or other vegetation, you’re going to have to still come to the department and the Army Corps for a permit."

But the Army Corps does not regulate mowing on beach areas. So if the state permit requirement goes away, property owners would be able to mow plants on sandy beach areas without any oversight. Environmental groups say that’s a problem.

But Ernie Krygier disagrees. He’s the president of Save Our Shoreline. That’s a group of property owners that wants to preserve the right to groom beaches.

"We’re not about people going out into the lake with bulldozers. In fact, the DEQ still does have the ability to police the shoreline. If some goofball wants to take a fence down to the water’s edge to stop people from walking down the beach, they have the ability to come in and make him remove it."

Krygier says his biggest concern is an invasive plant called phragmitesthat he wants to be able to remove from his beachfront property.

The legislation now moves to the state House.

Rebecca Williams is senior editor in the newsroom, where she edits stories and helps guide news coverage.