Senate panel approves beach grooming bil

A measure to clear up confusing and restrictive state regulations that limit shoreline owners’ ability to groom their beaches passed out of committee Thursday, said sponsor Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba.

“This proposal interjects some common sense into the regulatory process by removing duplicative regulation and protects the rights of property owners to clean up beachfronts on their property,” Casperson said.

Senate Bill 1052 proposes to get rid of restrictions implemented by the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) on how beach maintenance can be done. Under the legislation, property owners would no longer need to get a permit from the DEQ for beach grooming activities.

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 and some restrictions will still be imposed by federal regulations.

“Although there are still some restrictions on property owners that I believe to be unnecessary, this is not only a big step in the right direction, but an opportunity for us to demonstrate just how unreasonable those remaining restrictions are,” said Casperson.

“Michigan shoreline property owners are not interested in stopping the citizens of Michigan or other states from walking our beaches and enjoying this most wonderful asset,” said James Hansen of Escanaba, who testified on the measure. “Our major concern has been to have the freedom to groom and maintain these beaches while at the same time eradicate invasive vegetation such as phragmites, thereby allowing property owners and citizens the ability to truly enjoy the shores of the Great Lakes.”

Casperson agreed.

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

SB 1052 passed out of the Senate Natural Resources, Environment and Great Lakes Committee. The measure now advances to the full Senate for further consideration.