Michigan Dune Pipeline Proposal Dead
A mining company that sought to send a pipeline through an ancient sand dune won't appeal a ruling upholding Michigan's sand dune protection law, signaling an end to six years of controversy.
The decision by Nugent Sand subsidiary, Dune Harbor Estates, is hailed as a victory for sand dune protection in that state by the Alliance for the Great Lakes and Muskegon Save Our Shoreline.
Ingham County Circuit Court Judge William Collette in August upheld an earlier ruling by Steven Chester, director of Michigan's Department of Environmental Quality, in which Chester found the pipeline would violate the state's Sand Dune Protection Act.
"Judge Collette's decision resulted in the elimination of a serious threat to the health and vitality of one of Michigan's most fragile and unique ecosystems -- its vast sand dunes," said Alliance board member Ben Mills, a Grand Rapids lawyer serving as legal counsel on behalf of the Alliance and Muskegon SOS.
"The critical dunes near Nugent's mining operations are now protected from the unnecessary and destructive impact that would have been caused by the proposed pipeline," said Mills, who helped the Alliance and Muskegon SOS file an amicus curiae -- or "friend of the court" - brief in the case. "Not only did the decision protect this particular dune area, but it also set valuable precedent for the continued protection of Michigan's dunes."
Dune Harbor Estates had sought environmental permits to build a 600-foot discharge pipe through a 4,000-year-old barrier sand dune from its Norton Shores mine site near Muskegon.
The pipeline was intended to dump up to 8 million gallons daily of treated mine wastewater into Lake Michigan as a means of regulating the levels of two inland lakes created by the company's activities -- thereby maximizing acreage for residential development around the lakes.
The "critical" status of the Lake Michigan dune affords it protection under state law, however, and requires a permit for anyone seeking to alter or build upon it.
Sand dune proponents came out in force against the pipeline proposal, waging a campaign that included thousands of petitions, letters and postcards to the DEQ.
Darlene DeHudy, president of Muskegon SOS, thanked Alliance outreach manager Jamie Morton for her "years of work to protect the sand dunes."
"After hearing today that Nugent will not appeal the Ingham County Circuit Court ruling, I can tell you that thousands of people are grateful," DeHudy said. "Your leadership helped enforce Michigan's laws and stop a terrible industrial precedent. Thank you for protecting Muskegon's greatest assets, our people, our future, Lake Michigan and the sand dunes."
In 1999 the Alliance produced an investigative report, "Vanishing Lake Michigan Sand Dunes: Threats from Mining." The report found that the area permitted for mining in Michigan had grown nearly 50 percent since the act was passed in 1989.
For more information see http://www.greatlakes.org/news/091306.asp