By Scott Sullivan
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued a 57-page Section 106 memorandum on impacts of North Shore of Saugatuck’s planned north of the Kalamazoo River channel to Lake Michigan hailed by project backers as well as foes.
David Swan, co-founder and president of the nonprofit Saugatuck Dunes Coastal Alliance, which for 15 years has contested development of what it calls The Wild Heart of Saugatuck, noted the Corps had determined the project “would have an adverse effect on the Kalamazoo River Mouth Traditional Cultural Property.”
“We’re ecstatic with the report,” countered North Shore builder Scott Bosgraaf. “We knew proposing it such a project would affect the surrounding environment; it would look and sound different.
“Now we have a thorough Section 106 review upon which to work out mitigation strategies,” Bosgraaf said.
USACE, now in its sixth year evaluating the developer’s basin request, has submitted its findings to the State Historic Preservation Office. Should the latter concur with them, “The Corps will consult with tribes, SHPO and other parties to resolve the adverse effects on historic properties,” its summary said.
Consulting parties would include Match-E-Be-Nash-She Wish/Gun Lake, Nottawasseppi Huron, Pokagon and Forest County tribes or bands of Pottawatomi, Saugatuck Township, the Alliance and the developer.
The National Register of Historic Places in 2020 determined the river mouth met Traditional Cultural Property protection standards based on its association with cultural practices or beliefs for a living community rooted in the area’s history and important to maintaining its cultural identity.
Per the Corps, NorthShore’s proposed 6.5-acre marina ringed by condominiums with boat docks would “have an adverse effect due to its physical impacts on the landscape, visual and auditory characteristics of the river mouth, its character, Potawatomi cultural and spiritual beliefs and practices associated with its use, plus potential impacts on lake sturgeon, water quality and ecological characteristics of the area.”
The Corps continues reviewing Public Interest Factors and conformance with the National Environmental Protection Act.
Last month, Swan noted, neighboring Saugatuck city submitted a 65-point resolution concluding “The City finds the proposed marina to be Contrary to the Public Interest.”
The Michigan Supreme Court July 22 struck down past local and state appeals court rulings that the SDCA lacked standing to appeal 2017 go-aheads given the project by the township and state Department of Environmental Quality (now EGLE).
The high court by 5-2 decision remanded the issue back to Allegan County Circuit Court to decide based upon refined case law defining what constitutes an “aggrieved party.”
“Not a ‘no,’ just another step in the legal process,” Bosgraaf said. “Things are moving.”
“The USACE decision,” said Swan, “clearly aligns with local and state regulations designed to protect and preserve our critical dunes.
“Zoning regulations must never be optional. It is incumbent on all of us to hold developers and regulators accountable,” Swan said.
By Scott Sullivan