OKEMOS, Mich. (WOOD) — The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is expected to ban swimming at state beaches during dangerous water conditions at its September meeting.
The DNR Commission discussed the proposed red flag swim ban during its meeting in Okemos, near Lansing, on Thursday, at which point the DNR director said he would defer taking any action until September. The director is expected to enforce the ban at that meeting.
The deferral, a DNR spokesperson said, it so give the public more time to go over the changes and provide feedback.
The idea behind the proposed ban is to keep people out of the water when conditions are dangerous to prevent drownings and unnecessary rescues. It would allow the DNR to ticket people who ignore dangerous conditions — generally indicated by red flags — and get in the water at state-run beaches anyway.
Those dangerous conditions could include high waves, contamination or hazardous debris washing ashore.
The civil infraction would be punishable by a fine of up to $500.
The order does make an exception for surfers. It also states that surfers who do enter the water do so at their own risk.
According to data from the National Weather Service, there were 51 rescues and 28 drownings last year on the Great Lakes, specifically because of dangerous currents and strong waves. Most of those happened on the West Michigan lakeshore because it’s prone to rip currents and has many popular tourist destinations.