Marina Construction Permit Program
Whether or not an activity or an ongoing use is considered a marina requiring a construction permit under Part 301 Inland Lakes and Streams of the NREPA, depends on the nature of the use. In addition to commercial businesses that provide docking or mooring as part of their services, the Department of Environmental Quality maintains that docking or mooring from riparian properties such as outlots, trailer parks, condominium and apartment developments, yacht clubs, and other commonly owned or controlled points of access function as and meet the definition of a marina under Part 301. Key definitions, found in the NREPA, are helpful in understanding the DEQ's position: Subsection 30101(j) of Part 301:"Marina" means a facility that is owned or operated by a person, extends into or over an inland lake or stream and offers service to the public or members of the marina for docking, loading, or other servicing of recreational watercraft.
Subsection 30101(t) of Part 301:"Seasonal structure" includes any type of dock, boat hoist, ramp, raft, or other recreational structure that is placed into an inland lake or stream and removed at the end of the boating season.
Subsection 30101(u) of Part 301:"Structure" includes a marina wharf, dock, pier, dam wier, stream deflector, breakwater, groin, jetty, sewer, pipeline, cable and bridge.
MCL 324.301 of the NREPA:"Person" means an individual, partnership, corporation, association, governmental entity, or other legal entity.
Section 30102 of Part 301: Except as provided in this act, a person without a permit from the department shall not:
(b) Construct, enlarge, extend, remove or place a structure on bottomland.
(c) Construct, reconfigure, or expand a marina.
Section 30103 of Part 301: a permit shall not be required for:
(b) A seasonal structure placed on bottomland to facilitate private noncommercial recreational use of the water if it does not unreasonably interfere with the use of the water by others entitled to use the water or interfere with flow.
Under Subsection 30102(c), the DEQ requires that a construction permit be secured for all projects that meet the definition of a marina as expressed in Subsection 30101(j). A reoccurring argument by persons notified of the requirement to apply for the appropriate permits is they are exempt from securing a permit under Subsection 30103(b). This response is typical of situations where apartment complexes install dock structures or moorings off outlots, easements or parks, and condominium associations that place dock structures or moorings off association owned property. The person(s) placing the structure(s) contend that they are exempt from permit requirements because the structure(s) is seasonal and for private use.
The statutory definition of a marina does not make distinction between commercial and private or residential docking or mooring facilities. It does not make a distinction of whether dock structures or moorings are permanent or seasonal. It only looks at the service being provided by a person to the public or "members of the marina". While "members of the marina" is not defined in Part 301, the DEQ has consistently interpreted this phrase to mean individuals or users of waterfront property where there is common interest in the property and docking, loading, or other servicing of recreation watercraft is being provided. Likewise, the DEQ has consistently interpreted "private noncommercial recreational use" as reasonable exercise of legitimate riparian rights associated with waterfront property zoned and used for single family residential use.
Subsections 30102(b) and 30102(c) require that permits be secured prior to marina construction. The application associated with these permits is called the Application For Permit. The Application For Permit requests authorization to perform construction activities. In waters also under jurisdiction of the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), a federal; construction permit must also be secured. The DEQ and the USACE have a joint permit process for such projects.
When the DEQ determines a proposed project meets statute criteria (found in Sections 30106 and 30106(A) and Administrative rules 9 and 4 of Part 301) and can be authorized, it issues a construction permit.