rules a chance to work
Detroit Free Press
Published June 7, 2004
Now that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has finally
simplified the permit process for resort beach grooming
along exposed bottomland in Grand Traverse and Saginaw
bays, everyone needs to give it a chance to work.
The Corps' standard still seems too generous, allowing
resorts to rout out a path and play area up to 100 feet
wide or a quarter of their shoreline, whichever is smaller.
Unfortunately, it fits with past Corps practices. Lt.
Col. Thomas Magness, Detroit district commander, said
a review of a dozen previous permits showed that the Corps
ended up approving roughly a 100-foot width even with
more rigorous review. A stricter rule may be in order,
but the Corps apparently doesn't have the history to back
Nonetheless, the Corps has remained the best line of
defense as the Great Lakes bottomlands became exposed,
and this regional plan is still superior to a state law
rushed through last year. Lawmakers only belatedly have
begun to grasp the importance of letting natural actions
proceed, as the exposed bottomland transforms itself into
a landscape of undulations filled with native plants.
That serves many purposes -- including one of huge interest
to owners: anchoring the soil so a return of high water
won't trigger erosion and threaten their upland investment.
After last month's appeals court ruling that gives lakeside
owners exclusive use of exposed bottomland, some have
suggested the state and Corps no longer have oversight.
But the bottomlands remain in the public trust, and regulations
apply. Many people rely on the lakes -- for drinking water,
for fish, for navigation and recreation -- and have a
fervent stake in ensuring that the bottomland is not abused.