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The shorelands of the Great Lakes are adjacent to the water’s edge and beach. These areas are very dynamic as they respond to wind, waves, water levels, storms, and development. Proposed activities on the shorelands of the Great Lakes are regulated by several Michigan laws codified in the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act, 1994 Public Act 451, as amended (NREPA). Part 323, Shorelands Protection and Management, identifies the threats to people from the natural hazards of coastal erosion and flooding. Part 323 also protects specific areas of coastal wetlands known as environmental areas. Other NREPA laws which may regulate resources near shorelands include Part 325, Great Lakes Submerged Lands, and Part 353, Sand Dunes Protection and Management.
The shorelines of the Great Lakes are a dynamic and quickly changing environment. A high risk of losing a structure due to erosion has been identified on specific shorelines around the state.
How much Great Lake shoreline does Michigan have?
Michigan has 3,288 miles of Great Lake shoreline - the longest freshwater coastline in the world. Of this total, 1,056 miles are the shorelines of islands.
What are the different shoreline types?
Michigan’s coast is made up of several types of shorelines because of the local geology. Each shoreline type is home to a variety of natural communities, recreation opportunities, and scenic views.
Why do shorelines change?
One of the most interesting aspects of Michigan’s shorelands is that they are constantly changing. Waves, wind, currents, ice, and the actions of people are constantly moving sand, gravel, and clay soils onto and off the shoreline causing both buildup (accretion) and erosion. The water levels of the Great Lakes change over short and long periods of time. During a low water period large beaches form and wetland vegetation may expand, during high water periods beaches and dunes erode and bluffs may fall into the lake. By giving our coasts the space to change, we can protect our shorelands for generations to come.