Shoreline Protection

Because shore protection structures can have negative effects on natural resources and other shoreline properties, shore protection structures should only be installed when they are needed to address erosion problems and the type of shore protection used should be carefully considered.  Near shore shallow waters provide habitat for a greater variety of organisms than all other aquatic zones and are essential in the life cycles of many of Michigan's fish and wildlife.  Northern pike, bluegill, bass and other fish spawn in shallow shoreline areas.  Loons, ducks, geese, water birds, songbirds, and wildlife such as amphibians, reptiles and insects live along near shore areas. 

Shoreline hardening that occurs with the construction of vertical walls (seawalls) has significant adverse effects on the fishery, wildlife and the overall water quality of a lake.   Where vertical walls are built the gradual transition from shallow water to upland is destroyed, wave reflection off vertical walls causes bottom scour to occur, stirs bottom sediments, increases water turbidity, and impacts spawning areas and aquatic vegetation.  Vertical faces block access to and from the water for turtles, frogs, and other fauna that need access to the uplands to feed, rest, and nest.  Seawalls damage or destroy these important habitat areas and weaken the ecosystem. 

Because of these negative effects of vertical walls the DEQ recommends the use of natural shoreline treatments.  New shoreline hardening should be avoided where alternate approaches such as plantings and natural stone can be used to protect property from erosion.  The purpose and benefits of plantings/stone are to provide a natural transition between the open water and upland, while providing habitat.

Many problems can be avoided with proper placement of structures to minimize loss of natural vegetation and changes to topography.   Leaving a natural transitional area or adding deep rooted plants, including natural (unmowed) vegetation, can minimize the effects of waves, ice and fluctuating water levels.  In order to prevent ongoing erosion your property may benefit from the addition of deeper rooted plants such as shrubs and trees.  A natural, vegetated shoreline is less expensive to construct, absorbs and disperses the energy of waves, provides habitat and tends to be self healing. 

Construction of any type of shore stabilization structure such as a sea wall, bulkhead, revetment, bioengineering. at or below the ordinary high water mark of a lake or stream requires a permit. 


The Water's Edge

Inland Lakes and Streams Permits

List of the Michigan Natural Shoreline Partnership's Certified Natural Shoreline Professionals

Natural Shorelines for Inland Lakes 

Waters Edge Brochure cover   Natural Shorelines Brochure cover