group is trying to rally lakefront owners to oppose state
and federal beach mandates
Traverse City Record-Eagle
08/25/02 ACME - More than 400 concerned property owners
showed up here Sunday to hear members of the Saginaw-based
citizen group Save Our Shoreline discuss riparian rights,
property values and problems with Michigan Department of
Environmental Quality and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Members of SOS were in Acme to recruit
northern Michigan property owners in their battle with the
state and Army Corps over ownership of the Great Lakes shoreline.
Waterfront property values in the Saginaw
Bay area are dropping sharply due to Army Corps and DEQ
regulations, group members warned, and the same could happen
in northern Michigan, they said.
A former Michigan Department of Natural
Resources Shoreline Division chief, though, said the group
members are off base and the Army Corps and DEQ rules are
SOS was founded last year after the
Army Corps sued three Saginaw Bay waterfront residents for
mechanically grooming their beaches to remove vegetation
that was visible due to low water levels.
While two of those property owners
settled with the Army Corps - agreeing to a $1,000 fine
and restrictions on grooming the beaches in front of their
homes - the third property owner is fighting back.
SOS has established a legal fund to
help and the effects will be far-reaching, not just to residents
on Saginaw Bay, but the waterfront property owners throughout
the state, SOS board members said.
"This is not just a local issue. This
is an issue that stretches throughout the state," SOS president
Ernest Krygier Jr., said.
Grooming the beaches is necessary to
keep property values high and to allow for enjoyment of
the beaches, Krygier said.
A study of property values in the Saginaw
Bay area showed a 65 percent drop in the value of waterfront
property - from $4,333 per front foot to $1,558 - when beaches
weren't groomed and weeds were allowed to grow freely instead
of pulled up and replaced with sand, he said.
Krygier said the DEQ and Army Corps
are claiming the public owns the land between the ordinary
high watermark and the actual shoreline on all property
that borders the Great Lakes and its tributaries.
Because of that public ownership, the
Army Corps can tell waterfront property owners not to groom
their beaches when water levels are low and the shoreline
is pushed back.
Members of SOS say a Michigan Supreme
Court ruling from 1930 sets property lines for waterfront
property at the shoreline, whether the water levels are
high or low.
"We in Michigan own to the water's
edge and that's what SOS is fighting for," board member
Pete Frauson said.
Former Department of Natural Resources
Shoreline Division Chief Chris Shafer, however, said the
state does indeed own the lake bottom beneath the ordinary
high water mark and the Army Corps is correct in telling
property owners not to groom their beaches.
Shafer, who now teaches law at Thomas
Cooley law School in Lansing, said a U.S. Supreme Court
decision from the 1800s puts the Great Lakes bottom lands
in trust for the people of the state.
"For years, the law has been clear.
When the water is low, like it is now, there is state-owned
bottomland exposed," Shafer said.
It is important to allow plants to
grow on shore during times of low water levels, Shafer said,
in order to allow the ecosystem of the lake to recover from
times of higher water levels.
"This is almost a priceless time in
terms of healing the shoreline. These areas are of tremendous
ecological value," Shafer said.
About 3,100 flyers were mailed to Grand
Traverse-area waterfront property owners inviting them to
attend Sunday's meeting at the Grand Traverse Resort and
SOS members said they hope to raise
$700,000 to help fight for waterfront property owners rights.
So far, they have raised $222,000, group treasurer Robert
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