Michigan Land Use Institute

Clean Energy / News & Views / Articles from 1995 to 2012 / DNR Schedules Natural Rivers Hearings

DNR Schedules Natural Rivers Hearings

Years of citizen efforts to save Pine and Upper Manistee trigger crucial public meetings

March 19, 2003 | By Andy Guy
Great Lakes Bulletin News Service

MLUI/Andy Guy
  The Pine River will retain its wild character if public hearings lead to permanent safeguards under the Michigan Natural River Act.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has announced a complete schedule of public hearings on a citizen-based plan to protect the Pine and Upper Manistee rivers.

Approval of the Natural Rivers plan for the Pine and Manistee, which northern Michigan conservationists, ecologists,  state scientists, and local leaders worked on for more than six years, would enable local governments to protect the two rivers from the steady march of new development. Both of these Blue Ribbon trout streams flow across the northern Lower Peninsula into Lake Michigan.

For the plan’s supporters, the public hearings present a long-awaited opportunity to highlight the risks confronting the Pine-Manistee river system and tout the lasting benefits of Natural Rivers protection. The hearings could also set the stage for a statewide revival of the Michigan Natural Rivers Act.

For opponents, the hearings offer a final chance to sink the safeguards proposed for the two still largely untouched streams. Private property rights activists have sought to kill both this specific plan and the state law, saying it systematically violates private property rights and usurps local control.

But water resource experts agree that the Natural Rivers Act is a fundamental strategy for safeguarding waterways and the Great Lakes that they replenish. The law was established in 1970 to keep riverbanks stable with native vegetation and protect places for birds, insects, fish, and other creatures.

A State-Local Partnership
It works by enabling local citizens and state officials to write conservation plans together that includes uniform zoning rules throughout a river corridor. The rules’ primary goals are maintaining shoreline trees and plants, and positioning new septic tanks and buildings back from the river's edge — two basic strategies for slowing erosion and limiting pollution.

Since the law was enacted 30 years ago it has kept 14 of Michigan’s most beautiful streams — like the Rogue River flowing through the heart of metropolitan Grand Rapids — clean, quiet, and full of fish.

Despite this record of accomplishment, the Natural Rivers Act has not been used since 1988 to protect additional rivers from the negative consequences of sprawling development.

Opponents assert that the draft plan for the Pine-Upper Manistee river system threatens to excessively limit individuals’ freedom to construct new homes, businesses, and shoreline structures such as docks and gazebos. They also contend that implementation of Natural Rivers development standards would improperly shift the powers of local governments to the state DNR.

Supporters of the new protections disagree. They stress that the plan is, in fact, locally based and would enable state and local authorities to maintain water quality and natural habitats by facilitating coordinated community planning and zoning. State records show that 60 percent of the 1,698 miles of Michigan waterways already designated as Natural Rivers systems are actively managed by local, not state, ordinances.

Blessed with more than 400 miles of popular fishing and canoeing waters, the Pine and Upper Manistee rivers are tremendous public assets. Those interested in their protection for future generations may attend hearings that will be held across the state beginning April 28.  Following is a complete schedule. Complete coverage of the citizen-led revival of the Natural Rivers Act is available by clicking HERE.

Department of Natural Resources
Schedule of Public Hearings on the Natural Rivers Act
Pine and Upper Manistee Rivers

All hearings last three hours. In the first hour DNR officials will explain the Natural Rivers Act process. In the final two hours citizens may comment on applying the Act to the Pine and Upper Manistee Rivers.

Manistee High School Auditorium
525 12th Street, Manistee, MI
Monday, April 28, 6 to 9 p.m.

Hollister Senior Center
1505 Michigan Ave, Baldwin, MI
Tuesday, April 29, 1 to 4 p.m.

Reed City
Reed City High School
225 W. Church Ave, Reed City, MI
Tuesday, April 29, 6 to 9 p.m.

Lake City
Lake City High School Auditorium
251 E. Russell St., Lake City, MI
Wednesday, April 30, 6 to 9 p.m.

Kalkaska High School Auditorium
109 N. Birch St., Kalkaska, MI
Thursday, May 1, 6 to 9 p.m.

Senior High School Cafeteria
400 Linden St., Cadillac, MI
Friday, May 2, 6 to 9 p.m.

Grayling Middle School Cafeteria
500 Spruce St., Grayling, MI
Saturday, May 3, 1 to 4 p.m.

Bellaire Senior Center
308 E. Cayuga St., Bellaire, MI
Monday, May 5, 1 to 4 p.m.    

Gaylord Intermediate School
240 4th St., Gaylord, MI
Monday, May 5, 6 to 9 p.m.

Southfield High School Library
24661 Lahser Road, Southfield, MI
Tuesday, May 6, 6 to 9 p.m.    

Grand Rapids
Central High School Auditorium
421 Fountain St., NE, Grand Rapids, MI
Wednesday, May 7, 6 to 9 p.m.

Okemos High School Kiva
2800 Jolly Road, Okemos, MI
Thursday, May 8, 6 to 9 p.m.

Michigan Land Use Institute

148 E. Front Street, Suite 301
Traverse City, MI 49684-5725
p (231) 941-6584 
e comments@mlui.org