Natural Shoreline Landscapes on Michigan's Inland Lakes (E3145)

October 28, 2015

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Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Healthy Lake Ecosystems

Michigan Inland Lakes Status

Trophic Status: Inland Lakes and Reservoirs

National Lake Assessment

Habitats of Inland Lakes

Chapter 2: Understanding the Shoreline

Anatomy of a Shoreline

The Effects of High-impact Development Activities

Native Vegetation Removal: Consequences on Inland Lakes

Hardening of the Shoreline: Consequences on Inland Lakes

Looking for Erosion Causes

Understanding Wave and Ice Erosion Potential

Chapter 3: Planning a Natural Shoreline Landscape

Planning a Natural Shoreline Landscape

Steps for a Successful Natural Shoreline Landscape

Chapter 4: Design Ideas for a Natural Shoreline Landscape

Design Ideas

Design Examples

Designing for Fish and Wildlife

Designing for Stormwater Management on Shoreline Properties

Designing for Shoreline Stability

Case Study 1

Case Study 2

Case Study 3

Chapter 5: Plant Selection, Planting Stock and Site Preparation

Choosing the Right Plants

Plant List

Planting Stock

Planting Techniques

Site Preparation

Finding Sources of Plants

Finding Professional Help

Chapter 6: Natural Shoreline Success

Overall Maintenance of the Natural Shoreline

Signs of Trouble

Good Stewardship Practices

Chapter 7: Michigan Rules and Regulations

Michigan’s Inland Lakes: Shoreline Regulations

Application EZ Guides


Appendix: Additional Information


A Message from the Michigan Natural Shoreline Partnership

With the state’s abundance of inland lakes, waterfront property is important to both residents, the health of the lakes and the wildlife they support. The shoreline and shallow water areas of a lake provide essential habitat for many fish and wildlife species.

Overdeveloped shorelines cannot support the fish, wildlife and clean water that attract Michigan property owners to the waterfront. High-impact lakefront landscaping, with lawn to the water’s edge, creates problems for the lake ecosystem and waterfront owners. Rainwater carries lawn fertilizer, pet waste, leaves and grass clippings into the lake, which can promote algal growth and the seasonal blooms that cause “green water”. Plants with shallow roots, including grass, allow the shoreline to erode easily. Perfectly manicured lawns attract nuisance wildlife species such as geese.

Alternative landscaping solutions can create attractive waterfronts that allow the use of the shoreline while mimicking the wild shoreline of an undeveloped lake. Research indicates that high-impact shoreline development can negatively affect lake ecosystems and destroy fish and wildlife habitat (Radomski and Goeman, 2001).

The Michigan Natural Shoreline Partnership ( MNSP) was formed in 2008. The partnership’s mission is to promote the use of natural landscaping and erosion control to protect Michigan’s inland lakes. The partnership brings together technical expertise and organizational support to address informational, educational and policy needs related to natural shoreline development. It is a public/private partnership consisting of governmental agencies, Industry associations, industry representatives, academic institutions, and environmental and nonprofit organizations actively engaged in promoting natural shoreline management.

Partnership Objectives:

  • Train contractors and landscape professionals in shoreline technologies and bioengineered erosion control.
  • Educate property owners about natural shorelines and technologies that benefit lake ecosystems.
  • Research, demonstrate and develop natural shoreline technologies that benefit lake ecosystems.
  • Encourage local and state policies that promote natural shoreline management

MNSP Partnership Members

  • JFNew, Inc.
  • Mich. Assn. of Conservation Districts
  • Mich. Chapter of the North American Lake Management Society
  • Mich. Dept. of Natural Resources and Environment Fisheries Division
  • Mich. Dept. of Natural Resources and Environment Water Resources Division
  • Mich. Lade and Stream Assn.
  • Native Plant Producers Assn.
  • Mich. Nursery and Landscape Assn.
  • Mich. Sea Grant College Program
  • Mich. State University (MSU) Dept. of Horticulture
  • MSU Institute of Ag Tech
  • MSU Extension
  • Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council
  • Trident Dock and Dredge
  • Fishbeck, Thompson, Carr and Huber

The Michigan Natural Shoreline Partnership (MNSP) is also pleased to be working with the Michigan Inland Lakes Partnership, an organization with which we share several goals as well as many public and private members.

Purpose of this Document

The Michigan Natural Shoreline Partnership recognizes the important role that lakefront property (riparian) owners serve in preserving the quality of Michigan’s vast treasure of inland lakes. One of the goals of the partnership is to assist riparian property owners in making lake-friendly decisions about the management of their respective shorelines.

This publication was written to provide lakefront property owners with:

  • A broad understanding of healthy inland lake ecosystems.
  • An understanding of why natural shorelines are important for lakes.
  • Ideas for creating an attractive, more natural shoreline.
  • Ideas for soft-shoreline alternatives to hard-shoreline structures in low-energy conditions.
  • A basic understanding of regulatory requirements affecting work done at the shoreline.

Tags: fisheries & wildlife, lakes, natural resources, streams & watersheds

Related Topic Areas

Fisheries & Wildlife, Lakes, Streams & Watersheds, Natural Resources


Julia Kirkwood

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