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Shoreline Protection

Inland Lake shoreline showing a bio-engineered shoreline
Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy

Shoreline Protection

Contact: Eric Calabro, 517-243-5584

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.

HIDDEN: An interactive tool that lets you swipe to see visual differences in two photos of a shoreline.

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

Preview image of the shoreline protection story map.
Preview image of the shoreline protection story map.

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. 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.

Inland lake shoreline energy assessment

A shallow inland lake, sparkling under bright sun and blue sky, surrounded by lush greenery and pine trees in the background

The purpose of the Inland Lake Shoreline Energy Assessment is to provide a standardized approach to evaluate the erosive potential of an inland lake shoreline and to educate the public on important inland lake shoreline characteristics.

Once the online assessment is submitted, a report is automatically emailed to the address provided. The report contains the estimated wave height classifications, pictures, and assessment responses on the energy that a site may experience. One of the goals of creating this assessment is to assist in designing appropriate shoreline protection that minimizes impacts to inland lakes.

The report that is generated can be uploaded into MiEnviro as part of inland lake shoreline protection permit applications and can be used by shoreline contractors, consultants, homeowners, and agency staff when designing or reviewing shoreline protection projects. The report can also be used to compare the energy level of an inland lake property to the sites included in EGLE’s Bioengineering Story Map.

Best Management Practice factsheets

Low Energy Bioengineering

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 (Higher-Energy)

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 Plants

Native aquatic plant preservation and restoration is a best management practice for Michigan's Inland Lakes.

Shoreline Woody Structure

Shoreline woody structure is a best management practice in which woody habitat is retained or restored in lake nearshore areas.

Soil Lifts

Encapsulated soil lifts ae a best management practice that are used as a bioengineered shoreline erosion control strategy.

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.

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.