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Shoreline Protection

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

Shoreline Protection

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.

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.

Open the Shoreline Protection Story Map

Want to learn more about bioengineering and other shoreline BMPs?  

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.  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.

Want even more information about shoreline plants and natural shorelines?