Water levels have been on an upward trajectory for the past several years and so have the number of permits The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy's has approved for shoreline protection.
The Great Lakes have gone from record lows to record highs in record time — the result of the wettest one-, three- and five-year periods on record that have fed the largest 24-month rise in water levels since the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began keeping track more than 120 years ago.
EGLE's Water Resources Division staff review all Part 325 shoreline permits. While the permits also cover non-shoreline construction projects such as marina expansions, the overwhelming majority of permit applications in the past year were for structures such as seawalls, revetments or other methods to protect property from the impacts of high water and erosion.
In Fiscal Year 2020 (Oct. 1, 2019, to Sept. 30, 2020), EGLE approved 2,238 shoreline protection permits under its Part 325 authority, which covers Great Lakes bottomlands. That's a three-fold increase from the total number of permits for Fiscal Year 2019, which saw 730 approvals and a nearly 10-fold increase over Fiscal Year 2014, with 264 approvals.
"The recent high water levels are a critical situation for many shoreline property owners. Even though water levels have begun a normal season decline, we are definitely not out of the woods. The upcoming fall and winter weather will drive whether we see some relief or continued challenges," said Jerrod Sanders, assistant director of the Water Resources Division. "We have been expediting permits in situations where private property, critical infrastructure or public health are in jeopardy and our staff has been working diligently to recognize the urgent need of many of those living along the Great Lakes or inland lakes."
The permit process ensures a science-based balance between protecting property and Michigan's incredible coastal resources.
Property owners with questions about high water and erosion issues should contact EGLE's Environmental Assistance Center at 800-662-9278 between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, or by email to EGLE-Assist@Michigan.gov.
EGLE's high water webpage is a central location for information about permitting, water levels, inland lakes, list of contractors and recordings of public webinars.