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EGLE to expedite shoreline permits for those affected by high lake levels, take other steps to help with waterfront issues

Erosion showing fallen tree.

The number of shoreline protection permits the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy has issued through September to help property owners deal with the effects of high water levels and erosion is up nearly three times from five years ago.

This past fiscal year, EGLE issued 730 shoreline permits, up from 636 for the same period a year ago. For fiscal year 2015, just 264 permits were issued. Levels in Lakes Superior, Erie, and St. Clair set records this past summer with Lakes Michigan and Huron just inches below their historic highs. The effect is growing concern among property owners around the state that they'll lose land, docks, decks, or even their homes to the water.

Michigan's Great Lakes touch more than 3,000 miles of shoreline, dynamically shaping our state geographically and environmentally. EGLE protects, preserves, and restores the Great Lakes through regulatory oversight with programs including the permitting of shore protection structures. Excessive or poorly designed structures and materials can increase damage to neighboring properties and disrupt the natural processes that create Michigan's unique coastal dunes, shorelines, and bluffs.

The permitting process ensures a balance between protecting property and protecting shorelines. The process can normally take up to 90 days after a permit is submitted through EGLE's MIWaters online application process. However, with the growing impact of high water levels, EGLE will be expediting applications for shoreline property owners whose homes are threatened. In some cases, permits can be issued in a matter of days.

Also, EGLE will divert resources from other programs to assist property owners, local governments and technical professionals in processing permits; prioritize response activities based on the risk to public health and safety; and find appropriate solutions that protect people and the environment.

EGLE is making it easier to find answers or begin the permitting process by setting up the High Water website, where property owners can search for the latest information, find links to helpful topics, and begin the permitting process, and search a list of contractors as well as find tips for selecting a contractor who can perform the intended work.

Property owners can also call EGLE's Environmental Assistance Center at 800-662-9278 (tell the operator you need information about erosion issues), or send an email to with questions about permits and erosion.

If property is not yet affected by high water levels, but may be in the future, check with a local contractor first to find out when they may be available to perform the proposed work. Then, begin the permitting process with EGLE and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which also must issue permits for placing materials along the waterline or in the water. Possible solutions worth considering include permanent shoreline armoring, temporary erosion protection, or even moving homes and other structures away from the line of erosion.

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