Traverse City Record-Eagle

July 10, 2012

Forum: Grooming law brings balance

By Dan Wyant
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---- — The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality works to protect and restore Michigan's environment. The state's natural resources are our No. 1 priority, and we take that charge seriously.

The Traverse City Record Eagle editorial department's recent call on Gov. Rick Snyder to veto beach grooming legislation (he signed it the first week of July) ignored some key points that should be of interest to every Michigan resident who owns property and values our world-famous beaches.

The DEQ works to strike a balance — in this case, the balance between a beachfront landowner's desire to keep that beachfront from getting overgrown, and the state's strong interest and responsibility in protecting valuable wetland habitat along our Great Lakes coastline.

While the beach grooming bill was not legislation the DEQ initiated, we worked with constituent and environmental groups on both sides of the issue to develop legislation the governor could support that would address many of the concerns we heard.

The state retains its ability to protect our important coastal wetland habitat areas, which are critical to fish and wildlife populations and serve as natural filters for our water, but lakefront landowners now have the ability to perform limited beach maintenance without obtaining a state permit.

Importantly, language was removed that would have potentially impacted the public's ability to walk the beaches.

Landowners still will be required to get a permit through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for all beach maintenance except mowing. And landowners in wetland areas still will need to apply for permission from both the DEQ and Army Corps to do any work that disturbs those fragile ecosystems.

The state's natural resource protections are maintained, the public's right to walk Michigan's beaches is secured, and private property rights for beachfront owners are increased under the new beach grooming law. Far from being an effort to "gut the grooming law," this legislation offers a balanced approach to a complicated issue.

About the author: Dan Wyant is Director of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

About the forum: The forum is a periodic column of opinion written by Record-Eagle readers in their areas of interest or expertise. Submissions of 500 words or less may be made by e-mailing letters@record-eagle.com. Please include biographical information and a photo.