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Great Lakes Article:

Scientists study impact of state shoreline law
Detroit Free Press
Published May 13, 2004

LANSING -- A state law adopted last year may be contributing to shoreline erosion and the destruction of vital wetlands in Michigan, researchers say.

The law, signed by Gov. Jennifer Granholm in June, was designed to make it easier for owners of Great Lakes shoreline property to remove weeds and debris from former lake bottom exposed by near-record low water levels.

But on Tuesday, in a Senate Natural Resources Committee hearing called to assess the effectiveness of the law, government and university scientists said plant growth that results from low water levels is vital to the health of the lakes.

That's especially true, they said, in shallow protected areas such as Grand Traverse and Saginaw bays.

"This is a wetland, not a beach," said Douglas Wilcox, a coastal ecologist for the U.S. Geological Survey, who showed photos of weeds along Saginaw Bay as the water receded. "This is Mother Nature doing its thing."

Wilcox and others said they didn't ask to speak against the legislation last year because they assumed it had no chance of passage.

"What you heard today, you should have heard a year and a half ago," said Wilfred Cwikiel, program director for the Top of the Mitt Watershed Council in Petoskey.

Some committee members agreed.

"I thought when we passed this legislation it was a good compromise," said state Sen. Ray Basham, D-Taylor. "Had I heard this discussion a year ago, it would have probably influenced my decision."

Added Sen. Gerald Van Woerkom, R-Muskegon: "I was surprised and troubled by what I heard today."


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