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Michigan to expedite shoreline erosion permits for homes hit by high lake levels

Several homes have been evacuated or pulled off their foundations due to the erosion.

LANSING, Mich. — As historically high lake waters threaten Michigan homeowners, the state is expediting its shoreline erosion permit process. 

If a home or infrastructure is at risk, permits can be issued in a matter of days, according to the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE). 

"We will work with you," Land and Water Management supervisor Luis Saldivia told a crowd during a town hall meeting in Holland Wednesday night. "We have already put into place a process to expedite applications for shoreline property owners when your homes and critical infrastructure are threatened." 

EGLE will prioritize responses based on the risk to public health and safety, diverting resources from other programs to aid property owners and local governments in processing permits. 

Multiple agencies are coordinating response efforts to the erosion of the Lake Michigan shoreline, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said. 

"Together, we are focused on finding and implementing appropriate solutions that will protect Michiganders and our environment,” Whitmer said. 

RELATED: Erosion carves away dunes and threatens homes on Lake Michigan

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Property owners are having to make some hard decisions, said Nick Bonstell, director of emergency management for Ottawa County. 

"We've had houses that have been moved back off their foundation," Bonstell said. "We have some that will probably have to be demolished, previous to them subsiding or going over the edge."

High water levels are not going to subside for a while, said Liesl Clark, EGLE director. 

"We cannot control lake levels, but we can offer tools to help Michiganders protect their property while safeguarding our freshwater dunes and other shoreline resources," Clark said. 

At the town hall meeting Wednesday, Janet DeBoer said it's terrifying for those who live on the lakeshore because they have 20 feet before they fall in the water. 

"For the past three years, they have known this was going to be a problem and just now they are doing something about it," DeBoer said. 

EGLE launched a new web page Wednesday where property owners can begin the permitting process and seek contractors to assist them.

The shoreline permitting process avoids poorly designed structures that can damage neighboring properties and disrupt Michigan's coastal dunes, shorelines and bluffs, according to EGLE, which issued 730 shoreline protection permits this past fiscal year. 

"In the big picture, this is something we're going to be dealing with not just today or through October, it's going to be November through the winter and into the spring months," Bonstell said. 

Property owners can direct questions about erosion issues to EGLE’s Environmental Assistance Center at 800-662-9278 (tell the operator you need information about erosion issues) between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, or by email to EGLE-Assist@Michigan.gov.


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