Like floodplains and wetlands, shorelines are critical environmental areas. Shoreline development and stream flow alteration – along the inland lakes, the tributary streams, and the Huron River itself – dramatically change the immediate environment and frequently lead to the degradation of water resources. The most common causes of this degradation are stormwater runoff, malfunctioning septic systems, and stream bank cave-ins.
In an effort to prevent erosion, lakeside residents often install vertical sea walls, also known as bulkheads. Both science and experience tell us that these structures are environmentally degrading. The installation of sea walls requires the removal of native vegetation, allowing increased sunlight to reach the water and resulting in a water temperature too warm for aquatic life. Ironically, sea walls increase erosion rather than prevent it. By deflecting wave action from the shoreline, increased wave energy is directed elsewhere along the shore.
In an effort to improve drainage or reduce flooding, watershed residents often alter streams by damming, straightening, deepening, dredging, or widening them. Recognizing the enormous potential for serious environmental impact, the State of Michigan allows such activities only by permit from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment.
Today, there are many effective options for shoreline stabilization and stormwater runoff control – options that promote environmental health and reduce cost and maintenance. Bioengineering techniques provide construction alternatives that incorporate natural features such as gradual slope, native plants, and rocks. Bioengineered alternatives work with nature, rather than against it, employing tree and plant roots to infiltrate and stabilize the soil and protect the habitat of waterfowl, fish, and aquatic insects, and vegetated gradients to absorb wave action and manage flood waters.