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Plan to ram road through sand dune sanctuary first test of law weakening Critical Dunes Act

MEC to speak at public hearing tonight in West Michigan
Apr 15, 2013
A proposal to carve a road through a West Michigan township sand dune sanctuary – up for a public hearing tonight – is the first high profile public test of state legislation that weakened Michigan’s Critical Dunes Act protections last year.

The Michigan Environmental Council (MEC) will speak in opposition to the 1,000-foot road through White River Township’s Barrier Dunes Sanctuary at the hearing, which begins at 6 p.m. tonight at Montague High School.

The development proposal is the fallout from the 2012 state law that repealed parts of decades-old protections for Michigan’s protected sand dunes. The new law – signed by Gov. Rick Snyder – allows developers to construct driveways on rare and vulnerable lakeshore sand dunes “by right” with few or no restrictions.

In White River Township, developers are trying to use the law to justify a nearly quarter-mile long road to a private residence atop a steep and shifting Lake Michigan dune. They have labeled the road a “driveway” in an attempt to circumvent the intent of the new law.

The road would run through the middle of the publicly-owned dune sanctuary, where developers contend an easement allows the private road on public property.

“Michigan’s Critical Dunes laws have protected the state’s most striking and globally rare freshwater dunes for decades,” said James Clift, MEC policy director. “Now lawmakers have chopped some of those protections at the urging of a handful of developers who didn’t want to play by the rules. This is the result – a rush to jam a road into a steeply sloped dune and through a beloved public park.”

(MEC’s analysis of the proposal is on our Michigan Distilled blog, www.michigandistilled.org)

James Clift: 517-256-0553
Hugh McDiarmid Jr.: 248-660-4300
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