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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.
Shoreline protection structures such as seawalls and steeply-sloped riprap can have negative effects on natural resources and shoreline property. The hard reflection of waves bouncing off of vertical walls can result in
- increased turbidity,
- bottomland scouring,
- damage to adjacent properties,
- decreased water quality,
- and proliferation of aquatic invasive species.
Because seawalls eliminate the natural energy dissipating capacity of a sloped, vegetated shoreline, negative impacts to water quality and shoreline habitat can be seen around inland lakes with many seawalls. Lower property values can be associated with lower water quality. Additionally, shoreline hardening:
- fragments the land water interface and interrupts reptile and amphibian life cycles,
- negatively impacts aquatic species' spawning, nursery, refuge, and feeding,
- and reduces habitat complexity.
Areas with turf grass directly up to the waters edge can also be impacted by soil slumping. Soil slumping is different from erosion, and occurs as a result of wet soil and a lack of deep rooting native plants. Sometimes just adding deeper-rooting native plants to your shoreline is all that's needed to fix soil slumping!
Complex habits with native shoreline and submerged aquatic plants and woody structure provide more habitat for more species. Increased shoreline vegetation and structure allows the lake ecosystem to better cope with stress and perpetuates the functions and values Michiganders enjoy.
Drag the arrows left and right over the images to see the impact!
Comparison images of a lake shoreline before and after the removal of a concrete seawall and installation of bioengineered shoreline protection; before shows crumbling, failed seawall, after shows the established bioengineered shoreline protected by appropriately-sized fieldstone and native plants.
Open the comparison images in another window
Shoreline Protection Story Map
EGLE recommends the use of natural shoreline treatments, or bioengineering, for shoreline protection. New shoreline hardening should be avoided where alternative approaches can be used to protect property from erosion. The purpose and benefits of bioengineering are to provide a natural transition between the open water and upland allowing for the dissipation of energy, not the hard reflection, and improve water quality, habitat, and property values. There are a wide variety of bioengineering designs that can suit a variety of property owner aesthetics while also protecting from shoreline erosion, and providing benefits to the lake. Many design considerations can be found on the Michigan Natural Shoreline partnership website. Current, on-the-ground projects can be viewed via the map.
Best Management Practice Fact Sheets
Bioengineering is a best management practice in which native Michigan plants are restored in lower-energy nearshore areas along a lake shoreline.
Biotechnical Erosion Control is a best management practice in which both structural and vegetative measures are used to protect high-energy shorelines from erosion.
Native aquatic plant preservation and restoration is a best management practice for Michigan's Inland Lakes.
Shoreline woody structure is a best management practice in which woody habitat is retained or restored in lake nearshore areas.
Illustrations and plans showing shoreline best management practices
Below are links to some illustrations and corresponding plans to some best management practices for shoreline protection and lake health.
Want to learn more about shoreline permitting?
Shoreline projects at or below the ordinary high water mark require a permit. Below are some additional links to different program pages, the steps to complete the MiEnviro application, and sample drawings.
- Resource Program Fact sheets
- Digital Joint Permit Application webinar
- Application information
- Wetlands information
- Inland Lake information
- District permitting staff map and contact information
- These are the staff for each county that are responsible for processing inland lake, stream and wetland permits.
- Pre-application meeting information
Want even more information about shoreline plants and natural shorelines?
The Michigan Natural Shoreline Partnership website is a great starting point and also has a lot of good resources, including a listing of certified shoreline contractors and a page that discusses various bioengineering options.
- Advancing inland lake stewardship through shoreline best management practices
- Basic Bioengineering Principles and Practices for Inland Lake Shorelines - Contractor Tip Sheet
- Smart Gardening for Shorelands
- The Water's Edge
- Natural Shorelines for Inland Lakes
- Michigan Native Plant Producers Association
- MI Nursery and Landscape Association
- Michigan Natural Shoreline Partnership-Certified contractor list
- Fish Sticks improving lake habitat with woody structure
- Wood is Good! Woody habitat in lakes for fish and more