Bills Defining Lake Michigan's Shoreline Pass Committee

Feb 12, 2019

Two state Senate bills that help define the boundaries of Lake Michigan’s shoreline passed in committee Monday. This comes in the same week the U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether to hear a dispute over Lake Michigan beach access. 

The Indiana Supreme Court took up that case last year. It said that two Long Beach property owners didn’t have the right to prevent the public from using the beach in front of their homes for recreation. But the court left it up to the legislature to define “recreational use.” Sen. Karen Tallian (D-Portage), who represents many of the lakeshore’s residents, says she saw that as her job.

“What does recreational use mean and to make it as broad as possible,” she says.

Under Tallian’s bill, almost any kind of recreation is allowed as long as it doesn’t cause a public nuisance or prevent others from using the beach. Both Tallian’s bill and one by Sen. Blake Doriot (R-Goshen) better define the ordinary high water mark — where private property on the beach ends and public access begins.

Tallian says they wanted to make that clear not only for those who enforce activities on the beach, but also for everyday folks.

READ MORE: U.S. Supreme Court Could Hear Indiana Shoreline Dispute

“If you want to walk down the beach, you should be able to sort of tell by just looking where it is, what is public beach," she says.

Tallian says the senators are discussing the possibility of combining both bills into one, but that hasn't been decided yet. 

Indiana Environmental reporting is supported by the Environmental Resilience Institute, an Indiana University Grand Challenge project developing Indiana-specific projections and informed responses to problems of environmental change.