High Risk Erosion Areas: Program and Maps

Contact: Kate Lederle 517-284-5564

The shorelands of the Great Lakes are a dynamic and quickly changing environment. Lake levels may fluctuate dramatically in response to weather and climate. Wave action, storms, wind, ground water seepage, surface water runoff, and frost are contributing factors to changing and reshaping the shoreline. During periods of low water property owners are often lulled into believing homes may be safely built closer to the water's edge. Yet longtime residents have many stories about high water levels, the subsequent erosion of the Great Lakes shoreline and the homes that have fallen into the lake as their foundations have been compromised. This destruction has resulted in severe financial loss to property owners. Public losses to recreation facilities, roads and other public works have also occurred. Structures threatened by erosion may be moved landward, protected by costly shore protection or lost.

The purpose of the High Risk Erosion Area program is to prevent structural property loss in an area of the shoreland that is determined by the department, on the basis of studies and surveys, to be subject to erosion as required by Part 323 of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act, 1994  PA 451 as amended (NREPA) and the corresponding Administrative Rules.  High risk erosion areas are those shorelands of the Great Lakes where recession of the landward edge of active erosion has been occurring at a long-term average rate of one foot or more per year, over a minimum period of 15 years.  DEQ staff conducted the initial recession rate research of coastal counties between 1980 and 1986; during that time they identified high risk erosion areas in 36 of 41 coastal counties.  Recession rates change over time as water levels fluctuate and coastal conditions change. The recession rate research is ongoing and often results in changes to the locations of high risk erosion areas along the shoreline.

The high risk erosion area program increases consumer awareness of the danger of shore erosion and allows staff to provide advice and technical assistance to many citizens living with the dynamic Great Lakes shorelines.  Presently about 7,500 individual property owners are affected by setback requirements. All citizens benefit from the program's efforts to reduce the need for public disaster assistance, promote consumer protection, and reduce the loss of natural resources.

Studying the Shoreline

The rates of recession are determined by comparing the location of the erosion hazard line of the shoreline on historical and modern aerial photographs. Depending on the availability of historical aerial photos the studies typically cover the longest possible time period to capture the widest range of water levels and shoreline fluctuations. Additional information from fieldwork, shoreline photos, and online resources, such as the 2012 USACE Great Lakes Oblique Imagery, is used to aid in the determination of the erosion hazard line.  The recession rate data are used to calculate the appropriate setback distances for construction.  Setbacks are determined for the projected recession of the shoreline 30 years and 60 years into the future.  The 30 year setback distance (feet) is for those structures considered readily moveable as defined in Rule R 281.21 (k). If the structure was threatened by erosion it could be moved landward before loss of the structure occurred. The 60 year distance is for non-readily moveable structures such as a septic system. These structures are too large, or not possible, to move. Once a recession rate study is complete the property owners, and their local officials, in the proposed high risk erosion areas are notified and given the opportunity to comment on the proposed designations before they become effective.

Permitting

A DEQ permit is required prior to construction on a parcel in a high risk erosion area regardless of where the structure is proposed on the parcel. Any person or local governmental agency proposing to erect, install, move, or enlarge a permanent structure on a parcel must obtain a permit prior to the commencement of construction. The projects requiring a permit include the construction of a house, garage or addition, substantial reconstruction or restoration of an existing home, the installation or upgrade of a septic system or a commercial building. During the permit application review the proposed location of the structure will be compared to the required setback distance for the site. Depending on the site the setback may be measured from the top of the bluff or the erosion hazard line. The permit application and associated fees are found online as is the ability to track applications.  Beginning August 17, 2015, application processing moved into MiWaters

Local units of government may adopt a zoning ordinance for high risk erosion areas to assume regulatory authority under Part 323 of NREPA which, if approved by the Department, replaces the need for a state high risk erosion area permit. Other state permits such as those required for critical dune areas, wetlands or shore protection may still be necessary from the Department. The Department then monitors the performance of the community and provides technical assistance.  Some local units of government adopt zoning ordinances which regulate setbacks but do not assume the authority of Part 323 of NREPA.  In those communities a permit is required from the Department and from the local community for construction in a high risk erosion area.

Maps

Currently approximately 250 miles of shoreline are designated as high risk erosion areas along the shorelines of Lakes Michigan, Superior and Huron. Township maps show the locations and setbacks for each of the areas.

Local township clerks have lists of the property tax identification numbers available at the time of the high risk erosion area designation.  Due to parcel splits the identification numbers may change yet the designation runs with the land so the resulting parcels are also designated and will require a permit for regulated structures.

If further information is needed regarding whether or not a parcel is regulated contact the person at the top of this page with the property tax identification number and location information including county, township, and address.

 

Alger County

  Burt Township           

 

 

Allegan County

  Casco Township

 

  City of Douglas

 

  Ganges Township

 

  Laketown Township 

 

  City of Saugatuck

 

  Saugatuck Township

 

 

Antrim County

  Banks Township

 

  City of Elk Rapids

 

  Elk Rapids Township

 

  Milton Township

 

  Torch Lake Township

 

 

Baraga County

  Arvon Township

 

  Baraga Township

 

  L'Anse Township

 

 

Bay County

  Bangor Township

 

 

Benzie County

  Blaine Township

 

  Crystal Lake Township

 

  Village of Elberta

 

  City of Frankfort

 

  Gilmore Township

 

  Lake Township 

 

 

Berrien County

  Benton Township

 

  City of Bridgman

 

  Chikaming Township

 

  Village of Grand Beach

 

  Hagar Township

 

  Lake Township (Berrien)

 

  Lincoln Township

 

  City of New Buffalo

 

  New Buffalo Township

 

  St. Joseph Township and City of St. Joseph

 

  Village of Shoreham

 

 

Chippewa County

  Bay Mills Township

 

  Soo Township

 

  Whitefish Township - northwest portion

 

  Whitefish Township - north central portion

 

  Whitefish Township - Whitefish Point

 

  Whitefish Township - Tahquamenon River mouth

 

 

Delta County

  Ensign Township

 

  Escanaba Township and City of Gladstone

 

  Ford River Township

 

  Masonville Township

 

  Wells Township

 

 

Emmet County

  Bear Creek Township

 

  Bliss Township

 

  Cross Village Township

 

  City of Petoskey

 

  Readmond Township

 

  Resort Township

 

  West Traverse Township

 

 

Gogebic County

  Ironwood Township

 

 

Grand Traverse County

  Acme Township

 

  Garfield Township

 

  Peninsula Township

 

  City of Traverse City

 

 

Houghton County

  Calumet Township

 

  Hancock Township

 

  Schoolcraft Township

 

  Stanton Township

 

  Torch Lake Township

 

 

Huron County

  Caseville Township

 

  Lake Township

 

  Port Austin Township and Village of Port Austin

 

 

Iosco County

  Alabaster Township

 

  Au Sable Township

 

  Baldwin & Tawas Townships, Cities of Tawas and East Tawas

 

  Oscoda Township

 

 

Keweenaw County

  Allouez Township

 

  Eagle Harbor Township

 

  Grant Township

 

  Houghton Township

 

 

Leelanau County

  Bingham Township

 

  Empire Township

 

  Glen Arbor Township

 

  Leelanau Township

 

  Leland Township

 

  Suttons Bay Township

 

 

Luce County

  McMillan Township

 

 

Mackinac County

  Garfield Township

 

  Moran Township

 

  Newton Township

 

 

Manistee County

  Arcadia Township

 

  Filer Township

 

  City of Manistee

 

  Manistee Township

 

  Onekama Township

 

 

Mason County

  Grant Township

 

  Hamlin Township

 

  City of Ludington

 

  Pere Marquette Township

 

  Summit Township

 

 

Menominee County

  Cedarville Township

 

  Ingallston Township 

 

  Menominee Township and City of Menominee

 

 

Muskegon County

  Fruitland Township

 

  Laketon Township

 

  City of Muskegon

 

  City of Norton Shores

 

  White River Township 

 

 

Oceana County

  Benona Township

 

  Claybanks Township

 

  Golden Township

 

  Village of Pentwater

 

  Pentwater Township

 

 

Ottawa County

  City of Ferrysburg

 

  City of Grand Haven

 

  Grand Haven Township

 

  Park Township

 

  Port Sheldon Township

 

  Spring Lake Township

 

 

St. Clair County

  Burtchville Township

 

  City of Port Huron

 

  Fort Gratiot Township

 

 

Sanilac County

  Delaware Township

 

  Forester Township

 

  Village of Forestville

 

  Village of Lexington

 

  Lexington Township

 

  Village of Port Sanliac

 

  Sanilac Township

 

  Worth Township

 

 

Schoolcraft County

  Thompson Township

          

 

Van Buren County

  Covert Township

 

  City of South Haven

 

  South Haven Township