Posted: Dec 3, 2017

On Friday, the DEQ delivered a letter to the Padnos development team listing eleven issues that need to be addressed before the DEQ can consider a permit to remove 200,000 tons of sand and ‘convert approximately seven acres of critical dunes to open water.’ The issues include a hydrogeological study proving the proposed marina will not impact the globally-imperiled interdunal wetlands; an environmental site assessment to determine the extent of contamination from the former boat building facility; a comprehensive bird survey for the entire property in early spring, late spring and fall migration; a detailed plan showing where the 200,000 tons of sand would be placed (the Padnos development team no longer thinks it is wise to place it on the beach); a vegetation plan that does not include non-native invasive plants; a detailed plan for an archaeological survey, specifically where and how the excavation would occur; and consideration of an alternative conservation design that places boats in the river, not in the critical dunes.

The DEQ letter reflects the many studies, surveys, dissertations, field notes, bird lists, alternative plans, maps, photos, and detailed letters of concern submitted by articulate scientists and concerned citizens who have studied the Saugatuck Dunes for decades.

Attached and below is the complete letter from the DEQ.

Dear Mr. Padnos:
SUBJECT: Additional Information Request
Submission Numbers: 2R8-N9W4-J542 and 2PT-ZEK8-QK9H County: Allegan
Site Name: 03-3574 Dugout Road & 6500 135th Avenue-Saugatuck Project Names: North Shores of Saugatuck-Marina Basin and
Road, Community Buildings, Viewing Deck

The Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), Water Resources Division (WRD), has received and reviewed several documents and numerous comments related to the above permit applications. This information was received both, before, during and after the Public Hearing that was held on October 17, 2017, and all comments received are available in your permit application record in MiWaters. Based on our review, there are still a number of issues that need to be addressed:

1. The proposed marina basin would convert approximately 7 acres of critical dune area to open water and the associated marina facility. This equates to approximately 2% of the entire critical dune area within Saugatuck Township. This is a significant conversion of the critical dune habitat to another use. That area of the property would no longer function as a dune of any kind, and that area would not provide any habitat for the flora and fauna found in a critical dunes. How will this affect the other remaining critical dune areas on the North Shores property? How will the interdunal wetland areas that are on the property be protected long-term? The interdunal wetland natural community type is classified as S2 in Michigan, meaning that this natural community type is imperiled in the state because of rarity due to very restricted range, very few occurrences, steep declines, or other factors making it very vulnerable to extirpation in the state.

2. Provide a hydrogeological study that evaluates the potential impacts to the nearby interdunal wetlands as a result of the open-water marina basin’s proposed construction. It is widely held that interdunal wetlands hydrology is primarily from groundwater and the Great Lakes, in this case, Lake Michigan. The potential for significant impacts to these rare and imperiled wetlands has not been adequately addressed. It is understood that the proposed marina basin will not have an appreciable effect on the water levels of Lake Michigan or the Kalamazoo River; however, the potential for affecting the nearby wetlands by intercepting, lowering, mounding, or otherwise modifying the groundwater flow is believed to be present and must be accounted for. The hydrogeological review should look into the potential for raising or lowering the surface and subsurface water levels in and directly adjacent to the interdunal wetlands. The effects of nearby
proposed septic systems that will be required for each residence planned for the areas adjacent to the marina basin should also be considered.

3. The Phase II Environmental Site Assessment (Phase II ESA), conducted in 2005, is insufficient to determine whether there is soil or groundwater contamination from the previous site used by Broward Marine (and later commercial uses). The 8 subsurface tests that were conducted as part of that environmental review only tested the areas directly adjacent to the former building that occupied a small portion of the area to be excavated for the proposed marina basin (see Figure 2 in the Phase II ESA). Furthermore, significant changes have occurred in that area since this testing more than a decade ago; the building(s) were demolished, the former occupants of that building moved their operations elsewhere, the site was graded and onsite debris was moved offsite or otherwise disposed of, as well as other physical changes to the site. A comprehensive environmental review is required to fully establish the risk of exacerbating any contamination that may be present to other areas of the property.

4. The submitted 2017 bird surveys only focused on the late spring breeding bird time period and only covered the areas in the approximate footprint of the proposed marina basin and accompanying activities (“river cluster” and “harbor cluster”). A comprehensive survey covering the entire property for the early-spring (migratory) and late-spring (breeding/nesting) is necessary to address potential impacts to threatened and endangered bird species, specifically Prairie Warbler (Setophaga discolor). A fall migratory bird survey is also recommended as it would be helpful to assess the usage of portions of the property as potentially important stop-over habitat for other avian species during migrations.

5. Provide a more detailed plan showing how and where the excess sand will be placed outside of the critical dune area. This will include information on how such a large disturbed/filled area will be stabilized. As an alternative, provide a plan for the disposal of the sand excavated from the proposed marina basin on the south side of the mouth of the Kalamazoo River. This would follow the methodology typically used for projects within the critical dune area that create excess sand. It is understood that this would change the proposed construction sequence and the basin would be excavated (dredged) in the wet. Economic considerations may also be warranted for this alternative sand disposal plan.

6. Provide the documentation that outlines and details any restrictions to the 22 acres that are to be set aside as “open space” under the Planned Unit Development previously approved by Saugatuck Township.

7. Provide information on the future plans for the remainder of the property that is owned by North Shores. Will there be plans for impacts near or within the interdunal wetland areas? How are the undeveloped areas to be protected? There has been some discussion about setting aside some portion of the property from development, but no details have been provided.

8. Provide justification or alternative plans for the large amount of grading that is proposed for the areas directly adjacent to the proposed marina basin. It appears that the direct impact areas of the planned basin could be significantly reduced since the basin wouldbe excavated in the dry and in most of the areas there is a large buffer between the proposed access road and the basin.

9. The submitted vegetation assurance proposes a number of species that are non-native to the dune ecosystem, even invasive in certain situations. Please review and submit a revised revegetation plan, including any temporary stabilization/planting measures to ensure no non-native species are introduced to the critical dune area as a result of this proposed project.

10. Provide an update on what is planned for the archeological survey; specifically, where and what types and sizes of excavations are planned.

11. There appears to be other options to create boat mooring and additional river access for this project that would minimize the impacts to the critical dune area. We would like to meet with you to discuss these options as well as any other parts of this letter you may need clarification on.

The current permit decision deadline date under Part 301 and Part 353 for this permit application is December 5, 2017. As there are a number of outstanding issues to be addressed including those items listed above you may wish to request an extension of the processing deadline before December 5, 2017. The DEQ can extend the processing period by a full one year from the date the application was originally submitted (July 17, 2017).

If you have any questions regarding this letter or your application, please contact me at 269- 568-2680. Send the requested information to me at DEQ, WRD, Kalamazoo District Office, 7953 Adobe Road, Kalamazoo, Michigan 49009-5025. Please include Submission No: 2R8-N9W4-J542 in your response. The status of your application can be tracked online at