A Bill Deregulating Beach Grooming Full of Environmental Concerns
Last week, the Michigan Legislature approved SB 1052, a bill that would eliminate state requirement for owners of certain beachfront properties to acquire a state permit before performing beach grooming and maintenance activities. The permits allowing a homeowner to groom a beach are granted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality at the federal and state levels, respectively.
SB 1052 eliminates the need for the state permit in areas that are mostly sand or rock. A permit from the Army Corps will still be required for most beach maintenance, but the federal agency has no regulations that monitor mowing on beach areas. This means that property owners will be allowed to mow plants that have sprouted as water levels have receded in recent years. Some individuals are concerned about the invasive phragmites and other plants they consider “unsightly.” However, the elimination of phragmites requires care and knowledge as many removal techniques will actually spread the plant.
The habitats created by coastal wetlands make great breeding grounds for some species of fish. By eliminating the necessity of a state permit, these breeding areas are becoming vulnerable to mowing by property owners that may not understand the environmental effects of their actions.
WMEAC and other environmental groups oppose this bill.
The House and Senate have concurred on the bill and it will soon be sent to the Governor for signature.
Legislature Looks to Limit Amount of State-Protected Land
Senate Bill 248 will cap the number of acres that the Department of Natural Resources can protect. Currently, the DNR owns the surface rights to 4,472,175 acres of Michigan land, a considerable portion of which is in the Upper Peninsula. SB 248 will limit the amount that the DNR can own to about 4.6 million acres, a number that the agency is quickly closing in on.
State-protected land is a major source for Michigan’s tourism industry. If the DNR wants to acquire land once it has reached the mandated land cap, it will have to sell off the rights to land it has deemed as the least valuable. This has the potential to move a large amount of land out of protection, creating both economic and environmental harm for the state.
In 2015, a permanent cap will be placed on DNR rights in the Upper Peninsula–this will be removed once the state legislature approves a land acquisition plan that will be required of the DNR under the bill.
The state Senate and House have approved SB 248, and the bill is being sent to the Governor for signature.