Great Lakes
Garret Ellison /

MI - A Submerged ‘High Water Mark’ Upends Michigan’s Control of the Beach

LANSING, MI — The “high water mark” along the Lake Michigan and Lake Huron coastline in the state of Michigan was underwater for more than a year and hardly anyone noticed.

Nope, that’s not a joke.

In April 2019, the waters of Lake Michigan and Lake Huron rose above what’s called the “statutory ordinary high water mark” — an invisible line in the sand, as it were, written into Michigan law as a numerical elevation in feet or meters above sea level to define the boundary of state authority to regulate shoreline development or construction.

For nineteen months, that invisible line was underwater. It resurfaced in November amid the lakes seasonal decline.

While submerged, Michigan’s ability to manage development along its freshwater coast was upended after an environmental consultant used its status to formally challenge the state’s authority to permit certain coastal projects.

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