Beach grooming law adjusted

LANSING, Mich.—Confusing and restrictive state regulations that limit shoreline owners’ ability to groom their beaches would be clarified or removed entirely under a bill introduced last week by state Sen. Tom Casperson.

“This proposal interjects some common sense into the regulatory process and protects the rights of property owners to clean up beachfronts on their property,” said Casperson, R-Escanaba. “Property owners often share common frustrations with not being able to groom their beaches or the challenges they experience in figuring out unreasonable and incomprehensible regulations administered by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and the Army Corps of Engineers.”

Under the legislation, property owners would no longer need to get a permit from the DEQ for most beach grooming activities. Senate Bill 1052 proposes to get rid of restrictions on how beach maintenance can be done. For example, under the proposal, beach owners would be able to maintain their beaches manually or with equipment, remove vegetation without limitations, level sand, and mow. However, certain non-beach grooming activities like construction projects, digging of channels, or dredging below what is called the regulatory watermark in the legislation will still be subject to a permit from the DEQ.

“This bill gives shoreline owners more permanent protection against MDEQ overreaching,” said Ernie Krygier, Save Our Shoreline president. “In 1999, as water levels fell, that agency asserted the authority to bar all forms of mechanized beach grooming. The result was the unchecked proliferation of phragmites, a nonnative invasive plant which threatens fish and wildlife and diminishes the beauty and value of Michigan’s beautiful coastlines.”

Casperson agrees.

“The regulations contained in current law for beach grooming activities inhibit the property owner’s ability to enjoy and use their beaches,” said Casperson. “This legislation would seek a sensible balance between preservation of some coastal wetland areas and private property owners’ right to groom their beaches and help to control the spread of invasive species, including phragmites.”

Senate Bill 1052 has been referred to the Senate Natural Resources, Environment and Great Lakes Committee for consideration.