INDIANAPOLIS — A Senate-approved plan to use dredged sand for restoring Lake Michigan beaches won unanimous approval Monday by the House Natural Resources Committee.
Senate Bill 178 would require uncontaminated sand regularly removed from around lake structures, such as the Port of Indiana and industrial water intake pipes, be deposited on the shore to combat beach erosion.
Currently, the dredged sand is dumped by barges several hundred feet off-shore with the expectation that at least some of the sand will be pushed by waves on to the beach.
State Rep. Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City, the House sponsor of the proposal, said that's not really happening, and long stretches of the shoreline in Ogden Dunes, Portage and Michigan City are losing their beaches as lake structures have changed the water flow and beach sand is being swept away.
Pelath said a state requirement that dredged sand be put on the beach "helps continue the natural processes and alleviate the results of some of the man-made structures."
He acknowledged that it's less expensive for dredgers simply to dump sand off-shore rather than pipe it onto a beach.
But Pelath insisted any extra costs would be minimal compared to the benefits of restored, expansive beaches along the lake.
State Rep. Chuck Moseley, D-Portage, a co-sponsor of the measure, told the committee that the need to replenish the beaches is urgent, given their importance to Northwest Indiana's tourism and recreation industries.
"Our lives revolve around Lake Michigan and the economy it generates for us," Moseley said.
Another co-sponsor, state Rep. Hal Slager, R-Schererville, pointed out that depositing dredged lake sand on the beach already is standard practice across the state line in Michigan.
The legislation, which passed the Senate 48-0 earlier this month, next will be considered by the full House, which could decide as soon as Thursday to send it to Gov. Eric Holcomb for enactment.