By: Carol Cook, Save the Dunes Conservation Fund
Indiana’s 45 miles of Lake Michigan coastline support industrial, recreational, and residential developments and activities. Along these miles are four coal-fired power plants, five riverboat casinos, the largest concentration of steel manufacturing in the United States, major pipelines, the Indiana Dunes State Park, and the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. Today, significant changes in the industrial sector present opportunities and challenges for the future development of Indiana’s Lake Michigan coastline.
To promote a balanced approach to restructuring the coastline with increased public access and open space, Save the Dunes Conservation Fund hosted two Coastal Workshops funded by the Environmental Protection Agency’s Great Lakes National Program Office. Over 90 people attended the first Finding the Right Balance workshop on September 19, 2003. Participants represented academia, business, local government, and the environmental world. Panelists, including experts on restoration, air quality, agriculture, and environmental justice, discussed environmental protection, sustainable development, and social issues as related to the development of Indiana’s Lake Michigan coast.
The second Coastal Workshop, Finding the Right Balance II – Finding the Funds and Partners, focused on funding sources and forming partnerships. Over 50 people heard speakers from government agencies and academia on February 13, 2004. After the presentations, participants broke into discussion groups concentrating on three types of grants: coastal, federal, and restoration. The restoration group proposed starting a cooperative group and a listserv that would facilitate sharing project information, equipment, and perhaps labor. The coastal group explored the details and potential of the Lake Michigan Coastal Program 2004 funding cycle, including project priorities, match requirements, and in-kind opportunities.
The group interested in applying for federal grants agreed that there are many new efforts that are inhibited by a lack of cooperation. The group concluded that a land protection plan is needed. The plan should provide acquisition priorities and address methods of acquisition, connectivity, and criteria. Non-traditional groups were considered as good possibilities for partnerships.
The workshop was also the forum for announcing the winners of the current round of coastal grants. John Goss, director of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, flew into Michigan City from Indianapolis to announce the winners.