DEQ Approves Permits For Saugatuck Dunes Marina

Jan 31, 2018

Overlooking the dunes in the Saugatuck area (File photo: 2010)
Credit Rebecca Thiele/WMUK

A controversial marina is one step closer to being built in the protected Saugatuck dunes area. The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality recently approved permits for the 300-acre private development. It’s the same site as the resort proposed by the late oil and gas mogul Aubrey McClendon. 

“I’m disappointed with the DEQ’s decision and a bit frustrated,” said David Swan, president of the Saugatuck Dunes Coastal Alliance — a group that wants to see the dunes preserved.

The area has rare wetlands which are home to several threatened species of plants and animals. The DEQ says the developers of North Shores of Saugatuck marina have made changes to their plans to ensure those wetlands are safe. 

That includes adding a clay liner to separate the marina basin from the groundwater that feeds into the wetlands and five groundwater monitoring wells. 

John Bayha of the DEQ says the agency has been working on this review since the summer. The public will be able to view the DEQ's report of their decision this week.

“I don’t want you to think we just permitted exactly what they wanted. You know, their initial take on the project was one thing. We went through a number of iterations,” said Bayha.

Bayha says the land is also private property and subject to private property rights. 

One crucial permit for the marina still has to be approved by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers before it can go forward.

The Saugatuck Dunes Coastal Alliance still plans to pursue their lawsuit against Saugatuck Township. The group argues the marina would violate a local ordinance that says you can’t remove sand to expand the waterfront.

The Alliance also claims the marina would go against a state law that prohibits removing sand for commercial purposes within the Critical Dune Boundary. State Attorney General Bill Schuette determined that law does not apply in this case because North Shores' plans are to keep excavated sand on the property.