Court upholds permit denial for private boat basin and channel on Long Lake

Citizen action and public engagement safeguards Michigan waters

Most everyone familiar with the beauty and majesty of Long Lake regard it as an exceptional example of the stunning natural features that are so abundant in Northwest Lower Michigan. The largest lake in Grand Traverse County and the headwaters of the Platte River, Long Lake harbors five exquisite islands that enhance every lakeshore view and vista.

Recently, the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) received an application for the construction of a boat storage basin that would significantly impair Long Lake’s ecology, shoreline, and wetlands. The proposed project would entail dredging 292 cubic yards of bottomland materials to create a private entrance channel 88 feet long and 33 feet wide.

The dredged channel would provide connecting access to the inland boat basin, requiring the excavation of more than 3,200 additional cubic yards of material landward of the ordinary high water mark. In addition, the proposed project would include a 40-foot-long by 5-foot-wide boardwalk, supported by helical piers, to be constructed across 200 feet of wetlands.

EGLE denied the permit based on those impacts, as well the determination that the dredging would disturb fish habitat and interfere with littoral currents. The permit applicant, the Carrie C. Barnes Trust, appealed, much to the consternation of neighboring lakefront property owners. EGLE’s administrative law judge (ALJ) affirmed the permit denial in every particular.

When the Barnes Trust appealed the ALJ’s decision to EGLE’s Environmental Permit Review Commission (EPRC), FLOW was asked to weigh in. After reviewing the extensive record, FLOW provided detailed comments on the facts and applicable law. The EPRC unanimously upheld the ALJ’s decision.

But the Carrie C. Barnes Trust wasn’t done. The trust filed yet another appeal to the 13th Circuit Court in Grand Traverse County.

The good news is that on Tuesday, April 9, Judge Charles M. Hamlyn affirmed EGLE’s permit denial.

As a result, a project that would have done significant, permanent harm to Long Lake has been averted. And the citizens who would have been most impacted successfully joined together in concerted action to maintain the health, character, and ecology of Long Lake. FLOW commends their efforts and is proud to have supported them.

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