EGLE project brings hope to lakeshore homeowners

Rising Waters

HOLLAND, Mich. (WOOD) — The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) is working to streamline permitting processes to protect homeowners at the lake shore.

Currently along Lake Michigan, there are piles of driftwood, fallen trees, and severely eroded dunes that line lakefront properties. The damage is a result of high lake levels and intense storm systems throughout the year.

“Other than protect our property and hope that the neighbors are doing the same thing, there’s really nothing we can do,” Holland homeowner Chris Vanden Bosch said.

Vanden Bosch bought a home in the Lakes Edge neighborhood earlier this year. After several months spent remodeling the home, the dune in the backyard began to quickly erode in October. 

“Our understanding was that a lot of money and effort went into this property, so we wouldn’t have to worry about erosion,” he said. “Well, mother nature had a different idea.”

Vanden Bosch says things were steady until the fall storms rolled in and destroyed the dune. Now his irrigation system and drains are exposed. 

“(Our) greatest fear is that it will keep coming and we’ll have to put more and more money into blocking the water and preserving the dune,” Vanden Bosch said.

Many homeowners have added large boulders or steel walls to keep erosion at bay. Because the issue is affecting so many, homeowners say it’s difficult to find a contractor who can do the work in a short time frame. They also say it’s expensive. 

As a result, some homeowners have resorted to a temporary fix of sandbags, but until now getting permits for the bags could take two to three months.

EGLE is now adding a minor project category to expedite the permitting process. They’re also lowering the permit fee and waiving the public notice requirement, so homeowners can get sand bags in place as soon as possible. The new permitting process is expected to only take a few days.

Homeowners say they’re relieved they’ll be able to act quickly when severe weather hits again.

“I do think it’s our responsibility. We chose to live on the lake, and we need to be able to defend our property,” Vanden Bosch said. 

EGLE says the sand bags are not a long-term fix and still recommend the installation of riprap, boulders or moving homes further inland. 

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