Michigan has laws to regulate development and activity in our geologically unique shoreline dunes. The question for today is: are those laws working?
WMMT Kalamzoo has an interesting article/video on the dangers that development is posing for West Michigan’s Lake Michigan shoreline dunes.
In 1989, then-state representative Lynn Jondahl sponsored and passed Michigan’s Sand Dune Protection Act. Some 17 years later, he’s still surprised what’s being built.
“I’m seeing stuff and I’m thinking boy, I don’t know how that can happen. That looks new to me and doesn’t look right,” Jondahl told News 3.
The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality is charged with overseeing permitting (200 applications each year) and also keeping an eye on the 70,000 acres of critical dunes in Michigan. MDEQ Director Steven Chester says “We have limited staff and that means limited ability to really get people out in the field to inspect these areas.” He adds “I think there is some reason to be concerned about the aggregate impacts of development on the dunes.”
What do you think? Let us know in the comments!
More about Shoreline Dune Development
- What to sound smart? Pull out “aeolian geomorphology” in a conversation as in “Have a look at Calvin College’s excellent web site on the aeolian geomorphology of Lake Michigan coastal dunes“. It means landforms shaped by the wind and despite the $10 introduction, the site is an accessible and informative resource about one of Michigan’s most striking natural features.
- The Alliance for the Great Lakes says that Lake Michigan houses the largest concentration of freshwater sand dunes in the world, many of which are extremely rare habitats. Tons of dune ecology information.
- Michigan DEQ Sand Dune Protection has information about the laws and programs relating to Michigan’s sand dunes and maps of Critical Dune areas. Also see the DNR’s Coastal Dunes Page.
- Developing Our Coastlines (PDF) from the Michigan Environmental Council looks at the intricacies of coastal zoning and the challenges posed by Michigan’s patchwork planning & zoning laws.
- FOCUS: Freshwater Dunes; Battlelines Form on Michigan’s New Rules in the New York Times is a 1998 article from the time of the passage of Michigan regulations of shoreline dunes.
- In Experts plot strategy to save Lake Michigan dunes in the Traverse City Record-Eagle, John Flesher writes that although the Pigeon Hill dune towered 30 stories high above Muskegon and took thousands of years to form, it disappeared in three decades as its sand was mined for industrial use in the mid-20th century.
- Although an end to sand dune mining was envisioned with these laws, sand is still being mined, primarily for parts casting. You can learn more about this by reading Vanishing Lake Michigan Sand Dunes from the Alliance for the Great Lakes. There’s also an excerpt from the Ecology Center titled Undermining the Dunes that you may wish to read.
- How about a search for Michigan sand dune photos on Flickr?