Bd. votes no to easing shoreline permits
By Amy Hubbell
Published June 17, 2004
Riparian owners of property along Grand Traverse Bay
may have to seek a state permit to more intensely groom
The county Board of Commissioners voted 4-2 Tuesday to
turn down a request from the Save Our Shoreline (SOS)
organization to apply to the state for a general
permit for grooming.
The one permit for all option was allowed
in a state law signed one year ago.
Under the law, property owners no longer need a state
Department of Environmental Quality permit to mow bottomland
vegetation to a height of not less than two inches. However,
they may not disturb soil or plant roots. Other permissible
maintenance includes raking the top four inches of bottomland
soil to remove trash, shells and dead fish; leveling bottomland
lacking vegetation; and building temporary pathways to
The law was aimed at making it easier for property owners
to maintain bottomlands that were exposed by near-record
low water levels in the Great Lakes. However, property
owners complained of excessive paperwork involved in the
application process, and asked commissioners to intercede
on their behalf.
The permit process is frustrating, said Omena
resident Bob Devroux. The DEQ doesnt tell
you what you can doonly what you cant.
Commissioners voted 4-2 at their June 8 meeting to recommend
approval of the request. The vote was reversed however,
after board members received phone calls and letters from
constituents questioning long-term affects of disturbing
Commissioners Mary P. Tonneberger and Thomas F. Evans
Tuesday maintained their position that the issue could
be better addressed by the four townships bordering West
Grand Traverse Bay. They were joined Tuesday in their
opposition by chairman Bob Hawley and District No. 7 commissioner
Melinda C. Lautner, both of whom supported the measure
at the committee level.
I supported this at the executive level to keep
the process alive so we could get feedback, Hawley
said. In the time between, Ive had several
conversations with those involved in the field
biggest concern is that we are going to have to create
an enormous amount of bureaucracy to administer this.
Lautner, a staunch supporter of private property rights,
reversed her earlier position after receiving a number
of calls on the issue.
All the calls were opposed to this
me, she said. While I dont want to vote
no, I dont feel comfortable voting on
this tonight given the input from our staff members.
In a 1-page memo to board members, drain commissioner
Steven R. Christensen, urged the elected officials to
be exceedingly cautious when contemplating
any disturbance of sensitive areas near the county shoreline.
Nearly all of these bottomland permits also require
a (soil erosion control) permit
, he wrote
commissioners. A large amount of disturbance of
the bottomlands would potentially lead to significant
environmental problems in West Bay.
Commissioner Jean I. Watkoski and Richard A. Schmuckal,
whose jurisdictions include West Grand Traverse Bay, supported
county application for the general permit.
If we can shorten the process to assist these people
with the taxes they are paying
the people speaking
in opposition havent given the riparian owners enough
credit, Watkoski said. They are going to do
anything detrimental to their beach areas.
The decision to turn down the request came after a motion
by Schmuckal to table the issue failed by a deadlocked
3-3 vote. Commissioner Mark Walter remains on duty with
the Army Reserve at Guantanamo Naval base in Cuba. Schmuckal,
Lautner and Watkoski supported tabling the request; Tonneberger,
Evans and Hawley were opposed.