BRIDGMAN — The Lake Charter Township Board took a neutral stance on the eight local applications to the state (EGLE) requesting permits for protective revetments along the Lake Michigan shoreline during its Sept. 15 regular meeting with the following request — "in the event the Department grants a permit, the Township hereby requests such approval requires the use of methods and materials that do not harm neighboring lands."
The meeting included more than an hour of public comments on the issue, with attorney Scott Howard (representing the Lakefront Preservation Group and the Wildwood Homeowners Association) saying "Tonight we're asking you to oppose the eight revetment proposals within the township that are currently pending before EGLE, the State of Michigan regulatory body (the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes & Energy)."
He went on to say they were "extraordinarily concerned about permanent revetments and the resulting permanent damage to the beaches."
He asked the township to encourage EGLE to have solutions that are temporary and allow the beaches to regenerate.
Howard also introduced a series of local property owners who voiced opposition to permanent revetments and discussed subjects such as the negative impacts of such structures, the observations of people who would be directly impacted, an explanation of an alternative protective design known as geotubes, and more.
Howard noted that the township had until Sept. 25 to make its opinion known to EGLE.
"It's very much either speak now or forever hold your piece on behalf of the township," he said.
EGLE has scheduled its own public hearing on eight Lake Township revetment permit applications for 6 p.m. Oct. 7.
Later in the Sept. 15 Lake Township meeting attorney Ruth Skidmore (who said she is representing the nine homeowners seeking permits from EGLE to "preserve their homes by installing revetment structures along the shoreline) said that the structures are located entirely on private property and do not interfere with the ability of the general public to walk along the shoreline.
Concerns about septic systems on lakefront properties also were discussed during the meeting.
When water levels eventually recede she said the structures will be covered with sand.
Although most of those from the public speaking stated their opposition to permanent revetments, one of the homeowners seeking a revetment permit said their goal is to save their home and do the best they can by their neighbors and the beach, noting that a home that was once 208 feet from the water now has a cushion of just 33 feet.
During Township Board discussion (which included a explanation of Michigan's Critical Dune Act by Ben Zimont of EGLE and Nick Margaritis from the Berrien County Health Department discussing the rules covering septic systems), several members deferred to EGLE when it came to having expertise on the issue at hand.
Trustee Nancy Mensinger said she loves the beach and feels any alternatives to huge rocks would be great.
Trustee John Wilk said in his view he would like to see EGLE approve the least disruptive designs possible.
Treasurer Bob Clark also said he would prefer softer alternatives, adding that he thinks EGLE has the expertise to make determinations on what's best.
"I'm not a revetment expert, I'm not an erosion expert," he added.
Clerk Gloria Payne said she feels "unqualified to make any decision on this … I wish to remain neutral."
Trustee Jim Stine noted that trustees are charged with trying to accomplish the greatest good for the greatest many, adding that that all but one of the many emails he's received had been against revetments. He said allowing the revetments may be substituting one problem for others down the shore.
"If lake levels are declining what is the big rush?: Stine asked. "I just hate to see us do something that forever may effect the pristine value of what we so much cherish in this community."
ultimately defer to what EGLE thinks
The following resolution was passed unanimously by the Township Board:
RESOLUTION CONCERNING PROPOSED PRIVATE REVETMENT IMPROVEMENTS ALONG THE SHORELINE OF LAKE MIClllGAN
WHEREAS, Lake Michigan is at a record high water level and has caused damage, and is expected to cause further damage to lake front properties this fall;
WHEREAS, private landowners have applied to the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (the "Department" ) for required perm its to install certain improvements along the shoreline of Lake Michigan located in the Township in effort to slow erosion (the "Applications");
WHEREAS, the Township intends to remain neutral as to the Applications and to encourage only such efforts that do not harm the shoreline;
WHEREAS, the Township has been asked by residents to oppose the Applications;
WHEREAS, the Township prefers revetment methods and materials that minimize impact on the shoreline be utilized;
WHEREAS, this resolution is intended by the Township to be interpreted as an expression of its neutral position as to the Applications, and its preference that, in the event the Department approves any or all of the Applications, such approval is limited to methods and materials designed to minimize negative impact on neighboring lands; and
WHEREAS, the Department has the resources and sophistication to review these matters appropriately, and is charged with the duties of protect ing the environment and Great Lakes .
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED AS FOLLOWS:
1. The Township hereby expresses its intent to remain neutral as to the Applications, but in the event the Department grants a permit, the Township hereby requests such approval requires the use of methods and materials that do not harm neighboring lands.
2. That all resolutions or parts of resolutions, inconsistent with the foregoing are hereby, and the same shall be, rescinded.