We are still awaiting a letter from Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality detailing their decision on the proposed Padnos marina channel: a 1600’ long, 200’ wide, 14’ deep trench that would remove nearly 200,000 tons of sand from within Michigan’s Critical Dune Boundary surrounded by publicly-funded natural areas that are home to endangered species and globally-imperiled interdunal wetlands. The DEQ remains concerned about the threat of contaminants at the old Broward Marine site being dumped on the beach as ‘nourishment.’ The DEQ is also concerned about the impact to threatened and endangered species, such as the Piping Plover and Pitcher’s Thistle.
The Army Corps of Engineers has been in conversation with the Padnos development team and lawyer, Carl Gabrielse, regarding the proposed process for an archaeological survey of the historic site of Singapore. The first proposed process by the Padnos team was considered insufficient.
The Oil & Gas Division of the DEQ is still considering whether the proposal for removing 200,000 tons of sand constitutes sand dune mining.
Sand Dune Mining within Michigan’s Critical Dune boundary was outlawed in 1998. The law does allow the one-time removal of 3,000 tons, or less, which is about the size of a basement. Again, Padnos is proposing the removal of 200,000 tons.
The Padnos lawyer, Carl Gabrielse, claims the removal of sand is for recreation purposes and is not for a ‘commercial or industrial’ purpose prohibited under the law. We don’t see recreation and commercial purposes as mutually exclusive. In Michigan, according to the Outdoor Recreation Association, we have a $26.6 billion a year outdoor recreation industry. Certainly, removing sand to create a boat basin has commercial value on many levels. We remain confident the DEQ Oil & Gas Division will recognize the removal of 200,000 tons of sand from within Michigan’s Critical Dune boundary as a sand dune mining operation and will prohibit it.
The Coastal Alliance heard from Judge Cronin that we must file an appeal with the Saugatuck Township Zoning Board of Appeals before appealing the Township approval of the proposed Padnos marina to Allegan County Circuit Court. The ZBA refused to hear the merits of our appeal stating the Coastal Alliance did not have standing. Strangely, the ZBA referenced a previous ruling and development when deliberating on our standing rather than the current situation. Two ZBA members voted against and one voted for standing. Last Friday the Coastal Alliance appealed the ZBA decision back to Judge Cronin.
We want to thank everyone who has signed our petition asking the DEQ to deny the marina permit, or submitted a letter, or spoken at the public hearings. This is democracy is action. Our community has been at this for over 40 years – trying to protect the Saugatuck Dunes from inappropriate development schemes.
We remain committed to ensuring local and state laws protecting the Saugatuck Dunes are enforced, especially our local anti-funneling law that clearly states, ‘in no event shall a canal or channel be excavated for the purpose of increasing the Water Frontage required by this section.”