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E-M:/ Beach Maintenance or Coastal Destruction?

Enviro-Mich message from "Scott McEwen" <scott@watershedcouncil.org>

Beach Maintenance or Coastal Destruction?
Are You Buying Into These Myths?

The Great Lakes fluctuate regularly according to natural cycles about one
foot on an annual basis and as much as seven feet over longer time scales.
Climate change studies have shown that over the past 3,000 years,
fluctuations of 2.6 to 3 feet have occurred about every 150 years, and
fluctuations with a range of 1.6 to 2 feet every 30-33 years.  This is
natural, and the current period of low water is the first to occur since the

Many of the people who now want to plow and level the beach were not around
during this period to observe that this is a natural process of low water
levels.  There has been a great deal of misinformation released on whether
mechanized plowing, disking, and mowing should be allowed on Great Lakes
bottomlands temporarily exposed during this current period of low water.
Here are some of the inaccuracies that are being mentioned and the facts
behind the myths.

People can’t do anything on the bottomlands without getting in trouble with
Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) or the Army Corps of
Engineers (ACOE).

Fact - There are a wide variety of activities that property owners can
undertake without any permits or over-site from the ACOE or MDEQ.
·	Remove debris by hand
·	Hand shoveling/manually raking dead fish and zebra mussel shells
·	Hand shoveling/manually raking trash and dead vegetation
·	Manually burying debris such as dead fish, dead vegetation, and small
trash items
·	Wheel barrows and mechanized vehicles can be used to transport above
materials to uplands
·	Build sand castles
·	Hand shoveling and raking wind blown sand from home sites
·	Hand shoveling/manually pulling plants (does not authorize the taking of
threatened and endangered species), includes other hand tools
·	Bonfire building
·	Temporary tent building and camping by permission of the property owner
·	Beaching boats and seasonal storage of ice shanties

The ACOE and MDEQ rarely grant permits to shoreline property owners.

Fact - The ACOE and the MDEQ have a specifically designed expedited permit
to allow lakefront owners to access the water from their homes during low
lake levels.  This permit allows:
Path Building
·	6-foot wide path
·	Maximum length of 200 linear feet total of what you have filled, but can
be in sections
·	25 cubic yards of non-vegetated dredge material from below ordinary high
water mark (OHWM)
·	Seasonal, wooden walkways, 200 linear feet long, 6-foot wide
·	Corps: no permit required if mowing the vegetation does not disturb the
land below the OHWM or is done by non-mechanical means
·	DEQ: mowing is a regulated activity; the proposed permit-by-rule is to mow
up to 100 feet parallel to the shoreline, from OHWM to water’s edge, with no
soil disturbance (e.g., plowing or disking), unless in a designated
environmental area. Common tools include: lawnmowers, bush hogs,
sickle-barred mowers, riding mowers

Removing vegetation will not harm either my property or my neighbor’s

Fact -Vegetation Protects Your Shoreline During High Lake Levels.
Grooming the top 4 inches of sand is a danger to shoreline properties.  Much
of the rooting of the vegetation occurs near the surface, even though some
of the plants also have much deeper rhizomes (horizontal stems growing
deeper beneath the surface).  Grooming weakens or kills the plants and
allows surviving plants to be more easily eroded by wave action during
high-water periods.  This can have serious consequences for shoreline
property owners, resulting in the need for expensive shoreline armoring to
protect homes and adjacent upland property.

Not being able to “plow or disk” the exposed bottomland in front of my
property lowers my property values and lowers the local tax base.

Fact - There is no evidence that this occurs.  Indeed, research done in the
Saginaw Bay area shows that shoreline property values have increased at
times 37%, 18%, 93%, and 11% over SEV in 2002-2003.  Over the last 10 years,
data shows substantial growth in value of shoreline properties; whatever
benefits you have now you will be able to pass onto the next owner.
Likewise, there is no data showing that the exposed bottomlands and
resulting vegetation has impacted local tax bases.  Indeed, tax base
continues to go up with rising property values.

Shoreline wetlands must be leveled or filled in to eliminate mosquito
habitat and the threat of West Nile Virus, which is greater in coastal

Fact - The species of mosquitoes known for carrying the West Nile virus is
more adapted to urban environments and forests and typically not as often
found in coastal wetland habitats.

Fact - Of the 403 current cases of West NileVirus found in humans in
Michigan in 2002, only two cases have been reported in the five-county
coastal wetland areas of the Saginaw Bay.  Most cases of the virus are
actually found in locations distant from coastal wetlands.  For example, 47
cases have been reported in Kent County and 149 cases have been reported in
Oakland County.

Fact - Local County Mosquito Control offices do not endorse or suggest
filling in wetlands to destroy mosquitoes but promote spraying of a
biological agent that works to destroy the larvae of mosquitoes, if found.

Fact - With recurring fluctuations in water levels along the coast, many
small pools of water found in the bottomland area are flushed our into the
lake along with any mosquito larva that are found in the pools.  Likewise,
the constant buffeting of these small exposed pools by the winds, and the
extensive natural predation of mosquito larvae in these pools, make them not
the preferred habitat for mosquitoes.

The vegetation growing in the exposed bottomlands is a new phenomenon.  This
is the first time that vegetation had to be removed from the shoreline.
Removal of algae from beaches was not necessary prior to the introduction of
the Zebra Mussel.

Fact - Historic newspapers document the recurrent nature of the
algae/vegetated wetlands:

“He reported a bulldozer is working daily in removing the two feet of
seaweed on the beach.”  (Bay City Times June 23, 1965)

“Legatz said the bay shoreline in many places is not only littered and
weed-choked, but dangerous because of broken glass…” (Bay City Times, April
19, 1966)

“...noted that even though the algae ‘is not pollution in the sense that it
will hurt anyone physically, it is definitely a mental hurdle for beach
users.’” (Bay City Times, June 27, 1967)

“Beach Grooming” is an environmentally harmless activity and vegetation
clearing and mechanized plowing and disking of Great Lakes bottomlands is
not harmful to the environment, but actually cleans up the environment.

Fact -
·	Great Lakes bottomlands provide habitat for more than 48 fish species and
two dozen waterfowl species
·	Great Lakes bottomlands provide nutrient pollution uptake from the water
·	Great Lakes bottomlands absorb wave action along the shoreline thus
reducing erosion and suspension of sediment
·	Undisturbed areas tend to provide for erosion protection, i.g., a beach
dune and vegetated wetland swale will dampen wave energy.  Disturbed
shorelines provide little in the way of wave energy dissipation.
·	The diverse natural vegetation provides habitat for a variety of species,
including birds and fish, which fuel a multi-million dollar addition to the
recreation industry.  Disturbed areas eliminate this habitat.
·	After beach grooming, exotic and invasive plant species tend to colonize
in the disturbed areas.  Mechanically disking or plowing bottomlands will
weaken and destroy the natural low-growing bulrush stands. One of the
easiest ways to encourage the establishment of high growing Phragmites and
other invasive plants is to disturb the soil by disking, or plowing.

The ACOE and the MDEQ do not have jurisdiction over activities on the newly
exposed bottomlands.

Fact -  Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899 requires a
Department of the Army (DA) permit for structures and/or work in or
affecting navigable waters of the U.S.

Fact -  Section 404 of the Clean Water Act requires a permit for the
discharge of dredged and/or fill material into the waters of the U.S.

Fact -  The MDEQ has legal authority over bottomland and wetland alteration
under Parts 303 and 325 of P.A. 451.


Tourism will suffer as open public beaches are turned into “wetlands”.

Fact - Waterfowl hunters, summer sport fisherman, ice fisherman,
bird-watcher, also tourists whose recreational pursuits and economies are
hurt by coastal bottomland destruction.  Public beaches, hotel and resort
owners, and private citizens often apply for and acquire permits to “groom”
their beaches.

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