LaSata tours SWMI shoreline erosion, talks legislation to overcome problem

LANSING, Mich. — State Sen. Kim LaSata recently joined leaders in New Buffalo and St. Joseph on a tour of local shoreline erosion that is affecting communities along the Lake Michigan coast.

“Beach erosion caused by rising water levels has washed away yards of beachfront over the past two decades and has now reached a point of seriously threatening homes and infrastructure,” said LaSata, R-Bainbridge Township. “Property owners and local governments alike have been searching for solutions, but without proper permitting processes, they have been reluctant to proceed. The need and desire to protect and replenish natural shorelines are strong, and my legislation would help establish an official process to save our beaches, homes and infrastructure before it’s too late.”

LaSata said Senate Bill 974 would help establish a permit and regulatory process for so-called beach nourishment at state parks, state recreation areas, residential property locations and recreation areas owned by municipalities along Great Lakes shorelines experiencing heavy erosion.

According to the Army Corps of Engineers, beach nourishment describes the practice of adding sand onto or directly adjacent to an eroding beach, providing a soft structural response allowing sand to shift and move with waves and currents.

The bill also would require the state Department of Energy, Great Lakes and Environment to inspect potential sites where sand would be extracted and deposited to consider public health, safety, welfare and environmental risks, before issuing or denying a permit application.

“This legislation would be wonderful, and an answer to our prayers,” said New Buffalo Township Supervisor Michelle Heit. “It would help put the pieces of the puzzle together by establishing an official permitting process that will satisfy both EGLE and homeowners and local governments to pursue beach nourishment projects and overcome a horrible situation that’s been decades in the making.”

SB 974 was referred to the Senate Natural Resources Committee, where it awaits a hearing.

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Sen. Kim LaSata, R-Bainbridge Township, discusses beach erosion with Greg Weykamp from Edgewater Resources in St. Joseph during a recent tour.