Michigan creates way to use sandbags against surging lakes

Leonard N. Fleming
The Detroit News

State officials have created a streamlined permitting process to place sandbags along lake shore property to slow down beach erosion due to record-high lake levels.

The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy established a new permitting process to get temporary use of sandbags "as immediate stabilization measures to protect homes and other critical infrastructure," according to the state.

Detroit city employees and neighbors place sandbags around a residence on Klenk St. to stop canal flooding on Klenk Island, in Detroit, May 1, 2019.

The new so-called Minor Project category makes way for a faster-permitting process and a reduced $100 fee. Homeowners will no longer need a public notice for stabilization projects under this category.

Due to the record-high levels in the Great Lakes and the bays and rivers linked to them, certain parts of beaches and shorelines disappeared all over Michigan during the summer. It included 37 state parks.

"Great Lakes water levels have been rising for the past six years; in 2013, we had record low lake levels. Above-average rain and snow that are intensified by climate change and below-average evaporation have led to record or near-record water elevations on all of Michigan’s Great Lakes," said Nick Assendelft, a spokesman for the state environmental department.

Water levels on lakes Erie and Superior had set records for four months straight going into the fall. Lake St. Clair also set all-time highs for several consecutive months.

State officials have said that sandbags used for beach erosion are not permanent solutions but that homeowners who use them still need to file a permanent application through Environment, Great Lakes and Energy department's website.

So far, state officials have approved more than 100 shoreline protection permits around Michigan, with at least 60% of them issued within three days of a completed application.

The state has set up a website — www.Michigan.gov/HighWater — with the latest information, a permitting portal, a list of contractors and other information.


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