Squabble erupts over Lake Erie
Conservation groups say some lakefront property owners
By James Drew
COLUMBUS - A coalition of five conservation groups yesterday
accused some lakefront property owners of "misleading"
legislators to gain support for a bill that critics say
would restrict public access to Lake Erie's 262-mile shore.
"State lawmakers should form public policy based
on fact, not fiction, " said Jack Shaner, a lobbyist
with the Ohio Environmental Council. "But our record
reveals that the property owners are not telling the truth,
the whole truth, and nothing but the truth."
Members of the Ohio Lakefront Group - which has battled
the state over property rights - rejected the charge.
"It is a pretty disgusting tactic," said David
Carek, the group's chairman. "Instead of providing
credible legal evidence to support their claim, they have
to go and attack people who testify in a public forum."
By a 75-20 vote Dec. 10, the Ohio House of Representatives
approved a bill that would redefine the southern boundary
of Lake Erie "public trust lands" from the ordinary
high water mark set by the federal government to "where
the waters .?.?. make contact with the land" in Ohio.
The bill, which a Senate committee is reviewing, is in
response to complaints from several private property owners
that the state has asserted control over private land
by using the ordinary high water mark - a surveying point
set by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers - as a property
But the coalition of conservation groups - which includes
Audubon Ohio and the League of Ohio Sportsmen - says the
bill would allow a "radical land grab" by lakefront
Those groups assert that a doctrine called the "public
trust" allows the state to regulate Lake Erie waters
from the boundary with Canada to where the high-water
mark intersects the natural shoreline. It also allows
the public to use that area for fishing, swimming, boating,
and walking along the shore.
Mr. Shaner said on Sept. 17, 2003, Cherry Peirce of Marblehead
told a House committtee:"I've already lost the sale
on one property, and that property's value has plummeted.
I'll soon lose another, along with my house. Both are
casualties of the current [state] Coastal Management Program."
On Oct. 10, 2003, Ms. Peirce sold her commercial property
to Perrysburg-based Lake Shore Development, Inc. for $2
million when Ottawa County auditor records showed the
land had an appraised value of $657,140, Mr. Shaner said.
Ms. Peirce yesterday denied that she misled legislators.
She said after paying off loans, she made only a $38,000
"I spent four years of my life not making a penny
on the land," she said.
The Ohio Lakefront Group, with 4,000 members, has complained
about a state requirement that they say gives the state
legal control over often-submerged land to get a permit
to erect erosion-control walls or replace docks.