FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date: June 20, 2023
219-879-3564 ext. 122
Save the Dunes Challenges State Approval of an Armor Stone Revetment Along the Lake Michigan Shoreline for Violating the Public Trust
(Ogden Dunes, IN)- Save the Dunes filed an administrative appeal on Monday with the Indiana Natural Resources Commission. The appeal challenges the Indiana Department of Natural Resources’ (“DNR”) approval of the Town of Ogden Dunes’ proposal to build a 2,970-foot-long, 10-foot-wide, armor stone revetment along the Lake Michigan shoreline. Save the Dunes is represented in the case by the Conservation Law Center, a public interest environmental law firm that also runs the Conservation Law Clinic at Indiana University Mauer School of Law.
Save the Dunes is concerned about the revetment because, when shorelines are hardened with such structures, public access along the Lakeshore can become artificially restricted. And shoreline hardening often leads to more shoreline hardening, because sea walls, jetties, and revetments impede the natural accumulation of sand, perpetuating erosion farther and farther down the beach. These structures can also contribute to the degradation of water quality and disrupt the natural dunes ecosystem along the Lake with adverse impacts to wildlife, including threatened and endangered species.
Save the Dunes Executive Director Betsy Maher explains the importance of pursuing alternatives to shoreline hardening along Lake Michigan’s southern shoreline, “Indiana’s few remaining stretches of natural Lake Michigan Shoreline host incredible biodiversity and beauty. Save the Dunes advocates for the protection of these precious resources so that both current and future generations can continue to enjoy them.”
The Indiana Supreme Court has recognized that the beaches and waters of Lake Michigan are held in trust by the State for the benefit of all Hoosiers to use and enjoy. The Court also made clear that DNR must consider these public trust rights and avoid or compensate for any infringement on them when issuing permits for construction projects along Lake Michigan. State law also requires that DNR evaluate impacts to the environment, neighboring properties, and coastal resources including shoreline erosion and accretion.
Save the Dunes’ administrative petition contends that DNR approved the half-mile stone revetment without evaluating these potential, serious threats—a failure that is especially concerning given the fact that the National Park Service and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service have both come out in opposition to the revetment due to its likely adverse effect on the Indiana Dunes National Park that is adjacent to and surrounds Ogden Dunes.
“The shoreline is owned by the people of Indiana, and everyone has a right to enjoy it,” said Christian Freitag, director of Conservation Law Center, adding “Indiana citizens need to understand how DNR is applying the State’s public trust laws and regulations to decisions impacting these shared public resources.”
Save the Dunes and Conservation Law Center are sympathetic to the complex challenges faced by private beachfront homeowners and are requesting that DNR follow the recommendation of the National Park Service’s Shoreline Restoration and Management Plan for the Lake Michigan shoreline in Indiana. After a thorough evaluation of the significant erosion issues along the lakefront, the National Park Service recommends annual beach nourishment forthe Ogden Dunes’ stretch of beach. This would restore and maintain a natural sandy shoreline, protect homes, provide for recreational use, and preserve neighboring national park and public trust resources. The revetment approved by DNR is not consistent with this carefully considered Plan.
In addition to approval from the DNR, the project requires a permit from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management and the United States the Army Corps of Engineers. Save the Dunes and Conservation Law Center have submitted comments detailing the groups’ concerns to these agencies.
About Save the Dunes:
Established in 1952, Save the Dunes protects and advocates for the Indiana dunes, Lake Michigan, and the surrounding natural areas for the health and vitality of the environment, and the people who live, work, and recreate in Northwest Indiana.
Save the Dunes creates collaborative partnerships across the aisles, across sectors, and across the Northwest Indiana lakeshore to protect and defend the Indiana dunes from a variety of threats. We work to enhance and protect the incredible biodiversity of our natural spaces through our work in Advocacy, Conservation, and Community Engagement.
You can visit Save the Dunes website at https://savedunes.org, and on follow them on Facebook at facebook.com/savedunes.
About Conservation Law Center:
Conservation Law Center is a public interest environmental law firm established in 2005, offering pro bono legal services to nonprofit organizations in Indiana and around the country on issues related to water quality, freshwater ecosystems, land conservation, and endangered species. Visit conservationlawcenter.org for more information. You can also follow Conservation Law Center’s work on Facebook and Instagram @conservlawcentr.