[Date Prev][Date Next][Date Index]

E-M:/ story and pics on elk rapids wetland case

Enviro-Mich message from "Dave Dempsey" <davemec@voyager.net>


by Greg Reisig
Gazing North Publications

In a region of the state where environmental groups are springing up like
wildflowers, a twenty-acre wetland flowing directly into Grand Traverse Bay
has been filled with clay dredged from the Elk Rapids Harbor for a new
development known as the Elk Rapids Preserve.

The wetlands filling was permitted by the Department of Environmental
Quality, despite violations of both state and federal laws at the
development. This is the largest wetlands fill in Antrim County in the last
20 years.

The project has been temporarily halted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
because the Village of Elk Rapids violated a Corps permit that does not
allow the clay fill to be used at the development site. Groups like the Tip
of the Mitt Watershed Council, Michigan Environmental Council, Northern
Michigan Environmental Action Council, Three Lakes Association, Elk-Skegemog
Lakes Association plus many others scattered up and down Antrim County's
famed Chain of Lakes, are all concerned the Corps may issue an amended
permit allowing the wetland fill to resume. The Environmental Protection
Agency is monitoring the situation and may take jurisdiction.

State erosion control laws are being violated at the site as clay sediment
runoff washes out into Grand Traverse Bay through a ditch over
privately-owned property. The Grand Traverse Band of Chippewa and Ottawa
Indians has expressed concern about the destruction of fish habitat from
sedimentation of the bay and wetland destruction in Elk Rapids.
Questions have also been raised concerning future dredging of the harbor
under current permits and where the clay would be moved as well as potential
contaminents in the clay and how water quality would be impacted from the

In December of 2001, the Antrim County Board of Commissioners adopted the
strictest wetland ordinance in the State of Michigan. The ordinance calls
for "no net loss of wetlands in Antrim County" and hopes for a gain of at
least ten percent. Enforcement of the new ordinance has been questioned. The
intent of the new ordinance is to protect the county's vast water resources
and the Elk River-Chain of Lakes system that acts as the main tributary to
Grand Traverse Bay. Over 300 million gallons of water per day flow into the
bay in Elk Rapids from the fourteen-lake chain primarily fed by groundwater.

The Village of Elk Rapids' master plan, drafted in 1997, identifies this
area as a wetland and states that "protecting lakes and streams was
identified as a top priority of village residents." The plan further states,
"lakes, creeks and wetlands are important for surface drainage, groundwater
recharge and wildlife haitat. Alterations to the water features can
contribute to flooding, poor water quality, and loss of valuable wildlife
habitat...the combination of increasing impervious surfaces and the filling
of wetlands will result in increased volumes of stormwater runoff while
reducing the natural stormwater retention areas. It is essential that any
future development consider the varied characteristics of the natural
environment, in order to preserve the unique character of Elk Rapids and yet
realize the economic benefits of the tourism and recreation business."

The wetland fill in Elk Rapids has both regional and statewide significance
and is being watched closely. If the Corps of Engineers allows the fill to
continue or stand as is, it will ignite a whole new round of wetland filling
that has not been seen in Northern Michigan since the 1950s. All in an area
of the state known to have the greatest number of environmental
organizations and human resources to protect land and water.

For more information on this important story, email Greg Reisig at

Photos can be downloaded from


ENVIRO-MICH:  Internet List and Forum for Michigan Environmental
and Conservation Issues and Michigan-based Citizen Action.   Archives at

Postings to:  enviro-mich@great-lakes.net      For info, send email to
majordomo@great-lakes.net  with a one-line message body of  "info enviro-mich"