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Settlement Reached in Cedar River Lawsuit

Another citizen victory

May 1, 1998 | By Keith Schneider
Great Lakes Bulletin News Service

The Friends of the Cedar River Watershed and Shanty Creek Resort have settled a path-breaking lawsuit brought by the Friends that opposed the resort's plan to pump large amounts of water from the river for snow-making and irrigation, and to use the river as a golf course water hazard.

The case, which ended on March 16, was the first in Michigan to challenge a resort's attempt to develop and damage a public river that passes through its property for its own private financial gain.

On October 7, 1997, anticipating that the Department of Environmental Quality would approve Shanty Creek's expansion plan, Friends of the Cedar River filed suit. They argued that the Michigan Environmental Protection Act and the Inland Lakes and Streams Act required Shanty Creek to avoid environmental damage, and to seek prudent and feasible alternatives for its expansion.

The Friends said Shanty Creek could dig new wells to supply its water, and that there was plenty of room to build an attractive golf course without crossing the river.

In mid-October, as expected, the DEQ issued Shanty Creek permits to divert 2,600 gallons per minute from the Cedar, and to build two golf cart bridges across the river. But three weeks later, Antrim County Circuit Judge Thomas Power issued a preliminary injunction and a temporary restraining order that halted the resort's expansion plan pending a full trial. The settlement was reached just as the trial was set to begin.

Under the terms of the settlement, Shanty Creek will:
• Change the design of its new golf course so that two holes which were set to cross the river now will run on the high ground along the river's west bank and be compatible with the natural shoreline.
• Drill two new water wells to supply most of its water needs.
• Limit the amount of water it withdraws from the river, following a court-sanctioned schedule. The resort
can take up to 1,800 gallons per minute during November, December and January until the year 2000. From 2000 to 2004 it can take 800 gallons per minute year-round. After 2004, it can withdraw 300 gallons per minute only during November, December, and January.
• Install mechanical devices in the intake pipes to prevent water withdrawals above the agreed-upon limits.
• Control erosion and sedimentation under a plan approved by the Antrim County Soil Erosion Control Officer.
• Minimize the use of fungicides, pesticides, and herbicides and prevent runoff from the golf course, under a turf management program prepared by Michigan State University.

"The Friends applaud Shanty Creek's willingness to explore different options for protecting the river," said Larry Rochon, vice president. "Working together, we can be far more effective stewards of this watershed than we ever could have been as opponents."

The Friends of the Cedar River's lawsuit underscored the resolve of northern Michigan's environmental community to seek partnerships while pursuing economic and environmental goals. The Institute supported the effort by writing articles for the Great Lakes Bulletin, the Detroit Free Press and the Traverse City Record Eagle, and by helping the Friends develop strategy, strengthen their internal management, and raise funds.

CONTACT:Larry Rochon, Friends of the Cedar River Watershed, 616-347-1721.

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