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Calamities Show, Soil Sedimentation Law Needs a Major Overhaul

Natural Systems Work Better, Cost Less

December 1, 1999 | By Keith Schneider
Great Lakes Bulletin News Service

The Manistee County disaster, meanwhile, is a classic case of natural erosion control being replaced by an expensive man-made system that did not work. In 1997 RVP Development cut down 80 acres of forest that had absorbed rain and sheltered the 270-acre site from Lake Michigan's winds. Ms. Pitcher said she warned Rich Postma, the chairman of RVP Development, that the site was unstable and that even with the trees, the bluff was eroding inland at the rate of three feet a year, for a total of 90 feet over the last 30 years.

"They had designed three holes right along the edge of the bluff," said Ms. Pitcher. "I told them those holes would be in the lake during our lifetimes. Their attitude was 'Thanks little lady, we'll take care of it.' "

Engineers estimate that RVP Development already has spent more than $1 million attempting to stabilize the gully with enormous rocks, a newly installed drainage system, and a fleet of bulldozers and trucks that are digging thousands of cubic yards of eroded sand out of Lake Michigan and hauling it back up the bluff where it came from.

Penalties for polluting Lake Michigan are being readied by the county and state since tons of sand laced with fertilizer and chemicals repeatedly smothered perch spawning beds and fouled the water. Mr. Postma, who was fined $500 for the first erosion incident last April, said, however, his company did not deserve additional sanctions. "All we had go in the lake was beach sand," he said. ~K.S.

For more information on how the state's erosion control law should be strengthened, see the article on page 18.

Mary Pitcher, 616-882-4391; Michael Stifler, 616-775-3960 x6260, E-mail stifler@state.mi.us; Larry Rochon, Friends of the Cedar River, 616-347-1721.

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