A better water plan:
Holland, Laketown, others must work together toward intake
environmental disruption from a proposed water plant in
Saugatuck Dunes State Park could put plans for the facility
permanently on ice. Given the potential negatives, that's
probably best. The fragile park was never the ideal location
for a water intake. The
City of Holland and Laketown Township want to construct
nearly identical and separate water plants there. Instead,
they should work together to find an alternative. While
they're at it, the two should seek cooperation from other
governments. The growing need for water in Ottawa and Allegan
counties must be addressed on a broader scale.
The Grand Rapids Press
The threat to the state
park results from plans submitted to the state Department
of Natural Resources by Holland and Laketown. The governments
want to trade property they each own for a 35-acre parcel
in the park. They each propose using the land to build
a treatment plant, run a pipeline down to the lake and
build a pumping station by the water. There isn't room
for both, so if the DNR took one application, it would
have to deny the other.
Recently, the DNR's
Parks and Recreation Bureau recommended rejecting Laketown's
application. A letter from the bureau cited serious environmental
problems. Laketown has said it will revise its application
and try again, but given the DNR's sweeping concerns,
a workable plan is difficult to imagine. The pumping station
would be "detrimental to the natural resources," the letter
stated, adding, "The size, location and amount of space
and depth needed to construct a water intake system in
a fragile area will have significant and permanent negative
resource impact to this dune system." Large underground
pipes and an access road would "cause major damage to
the forested dune system."
Still pending before
the agency is Holland's separate but nearly identical
application for a Saugatuck Dunes water intake. Though
the agency hasn't ruled on Holland's proposal, the reservations
articulated about the Laketown plan seem to apply there
as well. That makes it unlikely that either proposal would
-- or should -- be approved.
Both governments can
make compelling cases that growth will demand new water
intake and filtration plants in the not-too-distant future.
Neither has made a convincing argument that its plant
needs to go in the middle of Saugatuck Dunes. The park
is a relatively small 900 acres.
The trails and beach
are intended for the quiet enjoyment of nature. The kind
of construction Holland and Laketown propose would seriously
disrupt that purpose. Other locations for a water pumping
and filtration plant need to be thoroughly explored.
In addition, Holland
and Laketown should be working cooperatively, instead
of at cross purposes. There is no good explanation for
the dueling applications the two have submitted, except
possibly ongoing tensions between Holland and surrounding
governments. The future promises more growth in Ottawa.
That argues for other governments joining this discussion.
Without collaboration, the lakeshore could easily become
a crisscrossing maze of pipes -- one each for every city
and township along its length.
Unlike some western
and eastern states, Michigan doesn't presently face a
The problem is how best
to reach this resource and how to prudently plan for the
future. Public parks like Saugatuck Dunes should be among
the last places governments look to accomplish that goal.
First on their agendas
should be minimizing the disruption of the lakeshore and
maximizing the ability to serve several locations at once.
Those standards should guide Holland and Laketown as they
© 2002 Grand Rapids
Press. Used with permission