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GLIN==> Judge Upholds Michigan Dune Protection

Title: Judge Upholds Michigan Dune Protection

Judge Upholds Michigan Dune Protection

In a key victory for Great Lakes habitat and sand dune protection, a Michigan circuit court judge has denied a mining company’s appeal to tunnel a discharge pipe through a 4,000-year-old barrier sand dune.

The ruling by Ingham County Circuit Court Judge William Collette upholds an earlier decision by the state’s top environmental regulator, who determined that Nugent Sand Company’s 600-foot pipeline proposal would violate Michigan’s Sand Dune Protection Act.

“This ruling is a significant milestone in the protection of the Great Lakes and its irreplaceable coastal habitat,” said Alliance for the Great Lakes board member Ben Mills, a Grand Rapids lawyer serving as legal counsel on behalf of the Alliance and partner organization Muskegon Save Our Shoreline.

“Judge Collette specifically recognized the importance of dune preservation, as codified by the Michigan Legislature and as applied by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality,” said Mills, who helped the Alliance and Muskegon SOS file an amicus curiae -- or “friend of the court” – brief in the case.
Nugent Sand subsidiary, Dune Harbor Estates, filed an appeal earlier this year challenging state DEQ Director Steven Chester's permit denial for the discharge pipe.

The company has sought the pipeline to dump up to 8 million gallons daily of treated wastewater into Lake Michigan from its Norton Shores mine site. The pipeline is also intended to regulate the levels of two inland lakes created by the company's activities, and thereby maximize acreage for residential development.

The “critical” status of the Lake Michigan dune, located near Muskegon, affords it protection under state law and requires a permit for anyone seeking to alter or build upon it.

Sand dune proponents came out in force against the pipeline proposal, waging a campaign that included thousands of petitions, letters and postcards to the DEQ. Muskegon passed a unanimous resolution opposing the pipeline.

“We are pleased with the circuit court judge’s decision to uphold Chester's ruling to deny the permit,” said Jamie Morton, Alliance outreach manager, who has worked with neighbors and local residents to address concerns about the proposal. “This reinforces the importance of preserving what remains of our treasured Great Lakes’ natural resources.”

Nugent Sand has not said whether it will appeal the decision to the Michigan Court of Appeals. The company has until the end of August to file an appeal.

For more information see: http://www.greatlakes.org/news/081506.asp

Alliance for the Great Lakes