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MDEQ approves permit for marina in Saugatuck Dunes region

Site of proposed development on Singapore Dunes

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality has approved a permit for a new marina near Saugatuck.

It's slated to be part of a housing development on the shore of Lake Michigan.

David Swan is president of the Saugatuck Dunes Coastal Alliance. He says the marina will spoil an otherwise mostly pristine area.

"It is a 1600 foot long, 200 foot wide, 18 foot deep trench through Michigan's critical dunes," says Swan.  "(This area) is completely unique. The river mouth and the beaches are essentially undeveloped."

John Byha of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality says the project will have a very large impact in a critical dune area. But the state cannot legally restrict landowners from developing their properties, owning boats or building docks or marinas for them.

The agency also does not have the authority to limit the size of homes, Byha says. Some of the houses seeking permits are 7,000 square feet, although some are as small as 4,000 square feet.

But Byha says the permit for the marina includes several restrictions.  The marina must have a clay liner so nearby wetlands are not drained. Housing permits will also not permit owners to grow non-native plants such as lawn grass.

The development is not a done deal as of yet. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers also has to issue a permit.

David Swan says he still hopes to convince the developers to cut a deal with local environmental groups and philanthropists to protect the property from development.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Radio. She began her career at Michigan Radio as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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