State of the Beach/State Reports/MI/Beach Description

From Beachapedia

Home Beach Indicators Methodology Findings Beach Manifesto State Reports Chapters Perspectives Model Programs Bad and Rad Conclusion

Michigan Ratings
Indicator Type Information Status
Beach Access77
Water Quality66
Beach Erosion7-
Erosion Response-6
Beach Fill4-
Shoreline Structures4 3
Beach Ecology3-
Surfing Areas26
Coastal Development{{{19}}}{{{20}}}
Sea Level Rise{{{21}}}{{{22}}}


Michigan’s coastal boundary generally extends a minimum of 1,000 feet inland from the ordinary high water mark. The boundary extends further inland in some locations to encompass important coastal features such as lakes, bays, wetlands, dunes, urban areas, public recreational parks, and natural areas.

With coastline on four Great Lakes (Michigan, Huron, Erie and Superior), Michigan has the world's largest freshwater coastline. The unique mix of shore geography found on each of the Great Lakes’ shorelines provides an important habitat for numerous plant and animal species. Coastal waters supply municipal drinking water, recreational boating opportunities, and maritime shipping opportunities.

Contact Info for the Lead Coastal Zone Management Agency

Michigan Department of Environmental Quality
Environmental Science and Services Division
Chief: Amy Butler
P.O. Box 30457
Lansing, MI 48909-7957
Phone: (517) 241-0490
Fax: (517) 241-0858

Coastal Management Program
Cathie Cunningham Ballard
(517) 335-3168

Coastal Zone Management Program

With coasts on four Great Lakes, Michigan has the world's largest freshwater coastline. The state uses coastal management to encourage responsible growth and development along the coast, improve public access to the coast, and aid navigation. The program manages coastal activities such as shipwreck salvaging, building piers and marinas, development, and changes to the coast. The program is working creatively to find solutions to the loss of agricultural land and wildlife habitat to sprawling development. Tourism, recreational boating, sport fishing, commercial shipping, agriculture, and manufacturing are the state's largest coastal industries.

Michigan was among the first states to have its coastal program approved in 1978. The program is administered by the Administration Section in the Environmental Science and Services Division (ESSD). The program includes local pass through grants and administration of coastal related sections of the Natural Resource and Environmental Protection Act, 1994 PA 451. Review of federal agency activities for consistency with Michigan's approved program is performed by the Great Lakes Shorelands Section in the Land and Water Management Division (LWMD).

The Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) receives approximately $2.8 million per year which is matched 1:1 with state and local funds. The federal money is used by the ESSD and the LWMD to support the administration of several state programs, including Great Lakes Submerged Lands, Shorelands Protection and Management, Sand Dune Protection and Management, Inland Lakes and Streams, and Wetlands Protection. Currently 37 FTE's (staff positions) are supported in whole or in part by the federal grant within DEQ.

In addition, approximately one third of the grant is passed through each year to local communities and non-profit organizations located on the Great Lakes shoreline for a variety of projects. All of the approximately 300 shoreline communities that are located within the coastal boundary are eligible to participate in the program. Michigan's coastal zone boundary generally extends a minimum of 1,000 feet inland from the Ordinary High Water Mark of the Great Lakes and connecting channels, or further to include coastal lakes, river mouths and bays, floodplains, coastal wetlands, designated sand dune areas, public parks, recreation and natural areas and urban areas. Each year, ESSD sends a notice to each coastal community inviting them to apply for grants. An estimated 40 projects are approved for funding each year, ranging up to $50,000 of federal funding.

Section 306 and 306A of the CZMA are the two most common types of grants available through the Coastal Program and require match in an amount equal to the grant. Project selection is competitive and is based on how well each project meets Coastal Program objectives. The Coastal Program generally passes through approximately one third of the grant annually for coastal related projects.

Section 306 funds are used for planning activities, site design, engineering, feasibility and natural features studies, historic preservation projects, coastal education materials, developing portions of local zoning ordinances, master planning of coastal significance, and waterfront redevelopment studies.

Section 306A funds are used for low-cost construction projects such as resource protection, trails, boardwalks, scenic overlooks, education and/or interpretive displays, restoration of historic coastal structures, and barrier-free retrofitting.

Michigan has a legacy of managing and protecting its valuable Great Lakes coastal resources and benefits substantially through implementation of the Michigan Coastal Management Program. The coastal program has allowed the Department of Environmental Quality to improve the administration of state coastal regulatory programs and provide financial and technical assistance to local units of government to address shoreline issues and improve their coastal resources.

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.

NOAA's latest evaluation of Michigan's Coastal Management Program can be found here.


  1. Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.
  2. Bernd-Cohen, T. and M. Gordon. "State Coastal Program Effectiveness in Protecting Natural Beaches, Dunes, Bluffs, and Rock Shores." Coastal Management 27:187-217. 1999.

State of the Beach Report: Michigan
Michigan Home Beach Description Beach Access Water Quality Beach Erosion Erosion Response Beach Fill Shoreline Structures Beach Ecology Surfing Areas Website
2011 7 SOTB Banner Small.jpg