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Great Lakes Article:

Lakefront owners call leasing changes 'window dressing'
Molly Kavanaugh
Ohio Plain Dealer

New changes in the state's coastal management program will do little to ease the headaches of property owners who build or repair a dock or other structure on Lake Erie, critics say.

"It's kind of window dressing, basically," said David Carek, chairman of the Ohio Lakefront Group, a grassroots effort pushing for major reform of the 5-year-old program.

Currently, shoreline property owners are required to get submerged-lands leases for existing and new docks, breakwalls, stone revetments and other erosion control and recreational structures in the lake.

The state, charged with protecting the public waters of Lake Erie, says the boundary is the high water mark set by the Army Corps of Engineers.

The lakefront group argues that property owners should not have to lease property they already own. Group members have been trying to get the boundary changed to the low water mark, a difference that could be 50 feet.

On Wednesday, State Rep. J. Tom Lendrum of Huron introduced a bill to change the boundary to the low water mark. It was the same day that state officials announced they were reviewing the water level boundary issue.

Sam Speck, director of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, said that the agency has been considering changes for two years and that the timing of his announcement was coincidental.

Speck said he was waiting for a recommendation from the Coastal Resources Advisory Council before making a decision about water level boundaries.

The agency has decided, however, that property owners are no longer required to buy liability insurance and, for certain projects, no longer required to hire professional engineers.

Staffing for the program is being reorganized, and all 12 employees will be based in the same office, in Sandusky, so they can offer property owners one-stop service.

Carek said the state is just throwing a few bones their way. The lakefront group's annual meeting will be at 7 p.m. Thursday at Avon Lake High School, and members are being urged to contact legislators.

"We need to change the law," Carek said.

A total of 580 property owners have leases with the state. The leases generate $575,000 annually, half of which is returned to lakefront communities.

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