The continued assault on the dunes continues. PTD was founded to fight against illegal sand dune mining that had been illegally permitted by the DEQ. In recent years we have worked to improve enforcement of the sand dune protection and management act in regard to construction in the dunes.
Less than two weeks ago, we heard that the Michigan Senate passed a bill that would totally gut the sand dune regulations that have existed for the past 23 years.
The original bill had taken six years to negotiate and in the end was supported by members of both parties over the objections of the homebuilders and realtors. They had argued that the law would make most of the dunes undevelopable. That turned out to be a false prophecy. Yet, now they have come back with a stealth attack on the law.
When we heard about it, the bill was already scheduled to be brought before the House and was expected to be on the Governor’s desk for his signature within a week.
Many environmental groups, led by the Michigan Environmental Council, quickly began to organize an opposition. PTD along with others spread the word quickly and legislators were contacted. The governor raised some objections and after the house Natural Resources, Tourism and Outdoor Recreation Committee supported the bill over these protests, a month-long delay was negotiated.
MEC put together a list of issues to help concerned residents get up to speed on this fast-moving package of bills that would revise many key provisions of Michigan’s nearly 25-year old Critical Dunes protection law. Please take time to become informed about this complex issue and contact your local legislators and leaders this summer and protest the enactment of the bills.
1. Senate Bill 1130 and House Bill 5647 (identical bills) would be the most substantial changes ever proposed to this hallmark environmental law that has been in effect for nearly 25 years. Michigan legislators from both sides of the aisle recognized decades ago that Michigan’s largest, steepest and most picturesque lakeshore dunes needed additional protection in law
2. These proposed changes are being advanced without the benefit of scientific review, public engagement or thoughtful review of potential economic impacts to lakeshore communities or individuals who developed their property under the current standards.
3. While being promoted as a way to help the Michigan DEQ reduce its exposure to the financial risk of potential new “takings” legal cases, This issue could be resolved to everyone’s satisfaction with one or two minor changes to the law that would provide the DEQ the additional flexibility needed to deal with these specific, older parcels. It does not warrant a wholesale rewrite of the law.
4. The proposed legislation removes opportunities for local governments, conservation district resource experts and community members to be involved in the protection of the dunes in their community.
5. The bill undermines decades of precedent-setting development in the dunes that was undertaken by responsible landowners who minimized the extent of their driveways and endeavored to keep driveways and permanent structures away from the steepest and most fragile slopes and off the lakeward-facing foredune.
6. The bills would be unique in all of Michigan environmental law in that they shift the burden of proving the impacts of a project from the developer to the DEQ, and in suggesting that to be regulated the proposed project must be shown to negatively impact the entire dune system rather than just the specific site on which it is proposed.
7. The bills are on a super-fast track in the legislature – a sure sign that something is amiss.
What You Can Do
Let Your Legislators Know How You Feel
PLEASE email, write or call your State Representative and Senator. If you call, just give them your name and state that you strongly oppose Senate Bill 1130. They will probably ask for your address, so give your Michigan address if you have one.
If you decide to write or email, the previous article should give you some ideas to use in explaining why you oppose the bill.
Local legislators are listed here.
Reference Materials: The bill itself is available online at sosdunes.org/2012-SIB-1130.pdf. The current version of the law is at sosdunes.org/part_353.pdf. A detailed analysis of issues is available at sosdunes.org/SB1130-HB5647-PTDDetailReview.pdf The full MEC list of issues is at sosdunes.org/WhatBadBills.pdf
As soon as possible, please call, email or write your Representative and Senator stating your strong opposition.