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Resilient Michigan Collaborative offers new community sustainability tool

Today's MI Environment story by Ronda Wuycheck of EGLE and Matt Cowall of the Land Information Access Association is from the State of the Great Lakes report

Michigan’s Great Lakes coastal communities benefit from some of the most beautiful natural settings in the world. But coastal communities also face unique and complex challenges that are inherent to ever-changing shoreline conditions. The Resilient Michigan Collaborative (RMC) is a partnership between the Michigan Coastal Management Program (MCMP) and the nonprofit Land Information Access Association (LIAA) to help coastal communities become more resilient to the dynamic conditions that come with living, working and playing on the shores of the Great Lakes.

Lake Michigan coastal storm. (Photo courtesy of Michigan Sea Grant)

Lake Michigan coastal storm. (Photo courtesy of Michigan Sea Grant)


The recent record-high water levels on the Great Lakes starkly contrast a not-so-distant past of record lows that were recorded a mere seven years earlier. The natural cycling of lake levels is a prime example of the need for adaptability in coastal communities, which is best achieved by doing resiliency planning in advance. A coastal community can proactively prepare itself to 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 that is less susceptible to changes and shocks to the system.

In 2021, the RMC, through funding provided by the MCMP and LIAA, began providing matching mini grants to interested coastal communities to analyze local master plans and zoning ordinances using a Community Sustainability Assessment Tool. The tool helps communities think about and prioritize best practices to promote sustainability and resilience. The tool is divided into four main community systems: economic, social, coastal hazards and environmental. In total, there are 39 sustainability topics with 254 benchmarks. Once the benchmarks – and any gaps – are analyzed, communities have the information they need to take proactive steps toward increased resilience. These steps may include an update to the community Master Plan in its entirety or the addition of a chapter focused on resilience.

Since its inception in 2019, the RMC has worked with more than a dozen communities, ranging across the state from South Haven, Norton Shores and Emmet County on the west side to Fort Gratiot Township and the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments on the east side. More communities can get involved by visiting the Resilient Michigan website. A webinar was hosted in June 2021 and provides further background on the RMC.