grooming group forms PAC
By Crystal Harmon
The Bay City Times
The fight by Save Our Shoreline Inc. to keep its members'
beaches from turning into wetlands will get a boost from
the formation of a political action committee.
The group, which has collected more than $460,000 in
funds from its hundreds of members, discussed successes
and future plans at its second annual meeting on Thursday
evening at John Glenn High School in Bangor Township.
State legislators from the area were in attendance to
praise the group's board of directors for help in crafting
legislation that became state law in May.
That law allows mechanical grooming and weed-removal
along shorelines in Saginaw and Grand Traverse bays.
State Sen. James A. Barcia, D-Bay City, classified the
water levels - down nearly four feet from the high water
of the late 1990s - as a "natural disaster."
"Our government is designed to respond to disasters,"
he said. "We are addressing public health and economic
Barcia said the state and federal government would do
better to target the real environmental culprits - cities
and industries that discharge sewage and industrial waste
into the rivers - than target homeowners along the lake.
"If you didn't love the environment, you wouldn't
be a property owner along the shoreline," he noted.
State Reps. Tom Meyer, R-Bad Axe; Dale Sheltrown, D-Gladwin;
and Jennifer Elkins, D-Lake, also vowed to continue supporting
legislation that favors property rights of lakefront residents.
Jay Graebner, of Au Gres, treasurer for SOS, updated
members on the legal and general funds, and urged donation
to the political action committee fund.
"This is a fight for our beaches, and none of us
can do it alone," he said.
SOS President Ernie Krygier introduced members in attendance
to Lansing lobbyist Patrick McCollough, a former state
"The struggle is with a bureaucracy that has lost
its focus, from going after the source of pollution to
going after those who face the consequences of the pollution,"
"The real battle is over your property rights. The
law has used old laws on dredging and turned them against
owners of a little slice of lakefront property,"
the lobbyist said.
Krygier said the group has hired lawyers in Grand Rapids
and Washington, D.C., and hopes to soon hire a lobbyist
The goal is to get Congress to approve legislation mirroring
Michigan's, which is less restrictive regarding what property
owners can do along lakefront property.
Krygier said he and others in the organization are urging
representatives who control funding of the U.S. Corps
of Engineers to pressure the agency into stop citing homeowners
for beach maintenance.
Terry Miller, chairman of the environmental group Lone
Tree Council, attended the meeting and was alarmed.
"They are clearly property rights activists with
a lot of clout," Miller said. "They've been
very successful. I was astonished by the amount of money
they've raised and the level of lobbyists they're able
"This represents a real threat to the environment.
What gets lost in the whole debate is the public benefits
of emergent wetlands," Miller said.
Environmental groups, with dozens of areas of concern,
will be hard pressed to compete with the single-issue
SOS, Miller said.
"There's some things that resonate with the public,"
Miller said. "They use the line, 'What if this was
your property and weeds were growing on it?' They've won
the rhetorical war early on. People don't like weeds.
Grooming weeds, how can you fight with that?"
Miller disputes the SOS claim that only 200 to 300 acres
would be affected by their goal of grooming residential
beachfront in the Saginaw Bay. U.S. Corps of Engineers
estimate the affected acreage to be 2,000 acres.
"We've got a fight on our hands, there's no question
about it," Miller said. "They want to open up
the Clean Water Act and increase private property privileges
to other Great Lakes states and the whole country."
Scientists say the benefits of coastal wetlands include
providing wildlife habitat, acting as a filter for pollutants
and controlling erosion.
Herb and Marion Kincaid, a Caseville couple who was sued
by the federal government after admitting to having their
beach graded, received a standing ovation from SOS members
The suit against them was dismissed in U.S. District
Court, and the Kincaids now are suing the U.S. Corps of
Engineers in an attempt to recoup some $150,000 in legal
Herb Kincaid lavished praise on the board members - 11
of the 12 men wore matching light blue shirts to the meeting
- for their support during the legal woes.
"If you had to go out and hire a board like this,
you couldn't afford it," he said.
SOS plans another meeting at 9:30 a.m. Saturday the Caseville
School Auditorium, 6609 Vine Street. About half of the
group's members live in the Caseville area.