In March 2012, a new law was passed to define access rights at public roads that terminate at the water's edge. The statute permits a single seasonal public dock authorized by the local government. Violations of the new law carry criminal penalties.
The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality ("DEQ") recently issued public notices providing the public with an opportunity to comment on proposed changes to the DEQ's general and minor permit categories for certain activities, including standards for road end docks. If adopted, the DEQ would be permitted to issue permits for road end docks without site-specific input from affected riparian owners or other local residents.
The DEQ has proposed the following:
4. A single seasonal public dock at a public road end to facilitate launching and loading of boats, that meets the following:
- The structure cannot be used for mooring or docking of a vessel between 12 midnight and sunrise.
- The dock is authorized by the local unit of government.
- The structure will not unreasonably interfere with the navigability or boatability of the water involved or interfere with the riparian rights or use of the waters by others.
- The structure shall be a linear single pier with no perpendicular extensions.
- The structure shall not have roofs, elevated sides, platforms, or decks.
- The structure shall allow for the flowage of littoral materials and water.
- The structure shall be placed in the center of the property or at least 1.5 times the dock length from any property lines, unless it is not feasible based on site conditions.
- For Great Lakes and Section 10 waters under the federal Rivers and Harbors Act, the length or size of the proposed structure is not greater than the length or size of similar structures in the vicinity and on the waterbody, whichever is the minimum necessary. The structure shall not exceed a width of 4 feet unless the applicant demonstrates their need for construction of a wider dock.
Because there is the need to balance the impact on neighbors, the boating public, and also to consider limitations unique to the site, it is unfortunate that those who will be directly impacted by a proposed dock will have no opportunity to be heard at the time a permit is sought. If you believe that is unfair or otherwise inappropriate, you have until June 21, 2012 to submit your comments to:
Mr. Todd Losee
Department of Environmental Quality
Water Resources Division
P.O. Box 30458
Lansing, Michigan 48909-7958
It may be your only chance to be heard on this important issue.© 2013 Varnum LLP