The Great Lakes and their shorelands are one of the most unique and precious environmental features in the world. In fact, the Great Lakes basin contains more than 20% of the world’s surface freshwater supply and supports a population of more than 30 million people.(1) That said, the nature of the shorelands vary not only within each state in the basin, but also from state to state. Furthermore, each state has a different way of regulating and managing the Lakes’ shorelands. As a result, the climate futures and growth management options discussed in this manual will need to be evaluated differently for environmental impacts depending on the state and local regulations for your community.

This section focuses on the natural shoreland features of Grand Haven and the regulations that are pertinent to Michigan. This chapter can serve as a guide for how to evaluate environmental impacts for your community.

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Michigan is home to nearly 3,300 miles of Great Lakes shoreline, with 36,000 miles of rivers and streams, and 11,000 inland lakes.(2) Yet in general, riparian and littoral lands throughout Michigan are not adequately protected from development pressures.(3) Coastal communities especially have an important role to play in protecting the Great Lakes. In 2001, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality – now known as the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) – acknowledged “fragmentation of coastal habitats, loss of agricultural and forestlands, increased impervious surfaces and resulting stormwater runoff, and the increased development in coastal hazard areas, wetlands, and Great Lakes Islands, could be improved through better coastal land use planning.”(4)

To effectively plan for coastal areas at the local level, it is critical that decision-makers are knowledgeable of local conditions, as well as state and federal regulations regarding these environmental features and understand how different scenarios could affect the natural landscape. 

This chapter explains the benefits of Michigan’s natural coastal features including wetlands and critical dunes, which are critical to mitigating flooding, providing natural habitats for numerous species, and serving as landmarks representing Michigan’s unique natural heritage. However, these features are being threatened by natural processes, elevated by climate change and development pressures. This chapter details Michigan’s regulations regarding these natural features and briefly discusses different methods to evaluate the impacts of different climate futures and growth management options on existing natural features. To effectively plan for coastal areas at the local level, it is critical that decision-makers are knowledgeable of local conditions, as well as state and federal regulations regarding these environmental features and understand how different scenarios could affect the natural landscape.

Works Cited

(1) Mackey, S. D., 2012: Great Lakes Nearshore and Coastal Systems. In: U.S. National Climate Assessment Midwest Technical Input Report. J. Winkler, J. Andresen, J. Hatfield, D. Bidwell, and D. Brown, coordinators.

(2) Ardizone, Katherina A. and Mark A. Wyckoff, FAICP. Filling the Gaps: Environmental Protection. Options for Local Governments, 2nd Edition. 2010.

(3) As cited by Norton 2007- Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. 2001. 309 Enhancement Grants Assessment/ Strategy. Lansing, MI:DEQ Coastal Management Program

(4) As cited by Norton 2007- Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. 2001. 309 Enhancement Grants Assessment/ Strategy. Lansing, MI:DEQ Coastal Management Program.