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Michigan's Resilient Coast: Living on the nation's longest freshwater coastline

A view of the Great Lakes from SeaWiFS
Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy

Michigan's Resilient Coast: Living on the nation's longest freshwater coastline

Michigan is surrounded by four of the five Great Lakes and we are the stewards of the nation’s longest freshwater coastline (e.g., 3,288 linear miles). Michigan’s coast accounts for approximately 62% of the total coastline of the Great Lakes basin (8 US states and 2 Canadian provinces).

Our coast is highly diverse, including warm sandy beaches and dunes, rocky cliffs and bluffs, and vast coastal wetlands. Michigan’s coastal communities need creative and adaptive solutions when addressing the challenges associated with the unpredictability of the Great Lakes water levels, increased storm intensities and frequency as result of climate change.

Community resilience is defined as the sustained ability of a community to understand and use available resources to respond to, withstand, and recover from adverse situations.

The Michigan Coastal Management Program  (MCMP) is helping coastal communities become more resilient to the dynamic conditions that come with living, working, and playing on the shores of the Great Lakes. Through resilient planning, a coastal community can prepare itself to absorb and adapt to changes in Great Lakes water levels, coastal storms and floods; manage social and environmental changes; and build a better and more reliable local economy. A resilient community provides space for beach and dunes to migrate naturally, so they can continue to serve the community, which includes functioning to absorb erosion and flooding impacts.

Local Officials Role

Michigan has approximately 387 coastal communities that border the coast. State regulatory authorities help to reduce impacts to the shoreline and state designated sensitive areas such as high-risk erosion areas, wetlands, critical dunes and environmental areas, yet local efforts are essential for a healthy coast.

Resilient Coastal Communities

Resilient Communities are those that are prepared to withstand and recover from Great Lakes coastal erosion and flooding events. The goal is to protect coastal properties and infrastructure through accommodation, adaptation, and protect/retreat strategies while preserving the natural beaches and dunes so vital to our state’s tourism economy. 


The following resources include data, tools, and training to help communities advance coastal resiliency within their communities:

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