Public Access on Lakes
State lawmakers in Michigan are reopening the argument over public access versus private property rights on lakes. A two-bill package would require the state to issue permits allowing seasonal docks or marinas where public roads end at the water's edge. Provided local governments want them there. Townships would have to pass ordinances regulating them.
The legislation, seeking to reverse a 2006 Michigan Court of Appeals decision, was sent to the House floor from its Tourism, Outdoor Recreation and Natural Resources Committee.
Until now, the issue appeared somewhat settled. Appeals Court judges ruled that local governments couldn’t allow overnight boat mooring hoists. Judges have invited lawmakers to resolve the issue, which has wound in and out of state and local courts since at least the 1880s.
Many battles have been fought at heavily developed Higgins and Houghton lakes. Higgins alone has 94 such road ends. But the proposed legal changes would affect all inland lakes, with thousands of public accesses, and is opposed by the Department of Environmental Quality.
The DEQ believes the bill would interfere with the DEQ's ability to protect the rights of all residents, instead allowing small groups such as the back-lotters to take over lake access points. The docks would block other uses, such as swimming.
May 3, 2007 9:54 AM | Category: Piers