State of the Beach/State Reports/MI

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Michigan has taken steps to improve their existing statewide water quality monitoring program. Development of a statewide inventory of shoreline structures and an accompanying program to monitor the effects of existing shoreline structures would be beneficial. Erosion information is plentiful as is shoreline access information. Approximately 300 miles of Michigan's Great Lakes shoreline is classified as high-risk erosion areas. Although 70% of the Michigan shoreline is privately owned, Michigan ranks fifth nationally in the number of acres of state-owned land available for recreation. This extensive public ownership provides tremendous recreational opportunities for the public. Michigan continues to acquire land and improve recreational facilities and programs in the coastal area.

Michigan Ratings


(+) In June 2015 Michigan's Office of the Great Lakes released a draft report Sustaining Michigan's Water Heritage. The report includes dozens of recommendations for protecting and improving the state's water health paired with timelines and performance measurements. The recommendations include reducing phosphorus in the western Lake Erie basin by 40 percent, reaffirming the state's role in enforcing the Clean Water Act, creating public access points every 5 miles on the Great Lakes, expanding real-time beach monitoring, and passing uniform statewide sanitary code and inspection requirements.

(+) Michigan's Office of the Great Lakes leads policy development and implements programs to protect, restore and sustain the state's most precious natural resource. The office collaborates with partners to support sustainable use of these coastal resources, coordinate restoration of severely degraded areas, manage water quality and quantity, prevent aquatic invasive species and engage in emerging issues. They are committed to their Great Lakes mission to ensure a healthy environment, strong economy and high quality of life. Here is the Michigan State of the Great Lakes report for 2014.

(+) The Great Lakes Commission (GLC), in partnership with LimnoTech and the Great Lakes states, has developed a free smartphone application that provides convenient, public access to swim advisories and other environmental conditions information for more than 1,800 beaches in the Great Lakes region. The myBeachCast application (app) retrieves locational and advisory data for Great Lakes in the eight Great Lakes states. The app also features real-time and forecasted weather and lake conditions (e.g., water temperature, wave heights, wind speed/direction) and nearshore marine forecasts, drawn from the Great Lakes Observing System (GLOS) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). myBeachCast allows users to discover local beaches based on the user’s location, view beaches and their status on a map, save favorite beaches, and get driving directions. To download myBeachCast, go to

(+) The Department of Environmental Quality increased funding for its Great Lakes beach monitoring program by almost $200,000, from $245,719 in 2008 to $437,986 in 2009. The extra money, from a state license plate fund and dollars for federal water quality monitoring, will go to county health departments and allow beaches throughout the state to be tested for 16 weeks this summer.

(+) The state Supreme Court ruled in July 2005 that the public has the right to walk anywhere between the water's edge and the ordinary high water mark along Michigan's 3,200 miles of Great Lakes shoreline.

(+) There are 118 designated Environmental Areas along the Great Lakes coastline to protect fish and wildlife habitats and approximately 300 miles of shoreline zoned as high risk erosion areas. All areas limit possible degradation by requiring a permit.

(+) The legislature has found that Critical Dune areas of the state are unique, irreplaceable, and fragile resources that provide significant recreational, economic, scientific, geological, scenic, botanical, educational, agricultural, and ecological benefits to the people of Michigan.

(+) $90 million has been allocated to the Clean Water Fund to implement a comprehensive statewide water quality-monitoring program.

(+) The Barry-Eaton District Health Department has a Time of Sale or Transfer (TOST) program to inspect water wells and septic systems. The report for the first three years of the TOST program was released in February 2011. In summary, nearly ¼ of inspected wells and septics were found to be failing. Corrections to these systems has prevented an estimated 26.7 million gallons of sewage from being discharged into local waterways. The photos accompanying the report are very informative (and terrifying).

(+) Michigan law requires that the MDEQ conduct erosion studies to document the long-term rate of shoreline movement.

(0) With coasts on four Great Lakes, Michigan has the world's largest freshwater coastline.

(-) In March 2017 the Trump administration proposed a 97% cut in funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

(-) Michigan is the only state in the U.S. without a uniform statewide code regulating septic tanks.

(-) 2012 Public Act 297 Amending Part 353, Sand Dunes Protection & Management weakened rules protecting critical sand dunes in Michigan by potentially allowing permits for structures lakeward of a dune crest and issuing permits for driveways on steep slopes.

(-) According to a report authored by Chad Fizzell at the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, Michigan has lost more than 4.2 million acres of wetlands to farming and development since European settlement began in the early 1800s.

(-) A bill repealing state restrictions on beach grooming, which moved through the House and Senate in May-June 2012, would allow home owners to mow vegetation on their lake front property in an area below the normal high water mark. More info.

(-) The giant Upper Rouge Tunnel combined sewer overflow control project was canceled in May 2009 by Detroit city officials worried about residents' ability to pay increased sewer fees to build the $1.2 billion project.

(-) Wastewater treatment plants in Bay City and Saginaw dumped more than 333 million gallons of sewage into the Saginaw River in March 2006. Perhaps because of the season, no health advisories were issued by the Bay County Health Department.

(-) Michigan law recommends that bathing-beach water be sampled and monitored, but it does not require local health departments to do it.

(-) 70% of the shoreline is privately owned.


Surfrider Foundation has a Lake Michigan Chapter based in Grand Haven. Contact them to get involved in protecting Michigan's beaches and aquatic resources.

To see all of Surfrider Foundation's coastal victories and campaigns, go here.

State of the Beach Report: Michigan
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