Environment Picture

Blatant bulldozing again puts Traverse City resort at epicenter of beach grooming furor

The blatant bulldozing of a Lake Michigan coastal wetland by a Traverse City resort has again focused public attention on the “beach grooming” controversy as the summer of 2007 approaches.

Cherry Tree Inn, located along Grand Traverse Bay, was busy again in the winter, bulldozing valuable ecological treasures in the name of “beach grooming.”

Bulldozers worked on the shoreline and in the near-shore waters, moving large quantities of sand and wet soils around. It was a far cry from grooming, which is defined by state law as raking, dragging, pushing or pulling metal teeth through the top four inches of soil to remove debris without disturbance or destruction to plant roots.

At press time, it was unclear whether state and federal regulators would bring the full weight of the law against Cherry Tree Inn, which under previous owners had an extensive history of wetlands law violations.

Beach maintenance and removal of vegetation significantly alters the chemical and physical conditions of near-shore waters, kills aquatic vegetation, increases the spread of invasive species, decreases the number of invertebrates (the source of food for fish) and reduces fish populations in the Great Lakes. Collectively, these impacts equal danger for Great Lakes coastal wetlands.

The Cherry Tree fiasco is just one more argument for improving and strengthening beach grooming polices and enforcement in Michigan. Permitted grooming and the lack of enforcement for violations by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) have significant impacts upon the health of the Great Lakes. The Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council and its allies, including the Michigan Environmental Council, seek stronger laws and enforcement to help protect these resources.

In the meantime, the DEQ has changed the permit requirements for shoreline management. The DEQ recently created a new General Permit category for certain shoreline management activities through an expedited permit process.

Activities that may qualify under the General Permit including:
  • Leveling and grooming of sand in areas free of vegetation;
  • Construction and maintenance of a temporary access walkway using on-site materials;
  • Limited mowing of vegetation for a pathway and certain recreation areas; and
  • Limited mowing for control of invasive or non-native species (such as Phragmites australis) in compliance with an invasive species control plan.
To protect the health of our coastal wetlands and Great Lakes, it is best to allow shoreline vegetation to remain untouched. If you do plan to conduct bottomland grooming this year, ensure that your activities are within the scope of state and federal law. Most activities also require a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
-Jennifer McKay, Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council
RELATED TOPICS: water protection
© Copyright Michigan Environmental Council, All rights reserved