Cost to take Lake Huron should be higher, not lower

Beach season isn’t over yet in Port Huron and Michigan. Yes, Labor Day has passed but smart alecks will talk trivia about the autumnal equinox. And there are always warm, sunny days in September and October to tempt and torment schoolchildren.

But it is open season on beaches in Michigan.

State Sen. Tom Casperson, a Republican from Escanaba, wants to take them away from you.

Long-established law in Michigan says the Great Lakes and their beaches belong to everyone. You, the public, are entitled by right to swim in the surf and play on the beach — below the ordinary high-water mark — any place the waters of the Great Lakes touch.

Casperson wants to put a wall between that right and his rich donors’ waterfront mansions.

In rare cases, lakefront property owners can get a state permit to install a breakwall on their property to protect the shoreline and their private recreational watercraft. Think about the breakwall that surrounds Lexington Harbor, for instance. Property owners can create private harbors such as that for their private, noncommercial use.

As you can imagine, building something like that would be expensive — far beyond the means of most lakefront cottage owners. More than that, though, the Department of Environmental Quality recognizes the value of walling off the part of the publicly owned Great Lakes for private use. Annual leases on Great Lakes bottomland for owners of these private harbors and cost up to $1,000 a year.

Casperson apparently believes that is too rich for his campaign donors. He wrote a bill that would slash lease rates to 1 percent of the property’s equalized value. The annual cost of walling off the beach — and walling out the public — would plummet from $1,000 a year to about $60.

His bill passed the Senate 26-12, with all Democrats and one Republican opposed. It next goes to the House. Sen. Rick Snyder vetoed a similar bill in the last legislative session.

Last summer, Port Huron area boaters were in an uproar after lakefront property owners got a permit to create a swimming-only area on Lake Huron to limit boat access near the beach. Imagine the outrage if those homeowners could afford to build a breakwall.

Lake Huron is ours. Don’t fence us out.

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