Critical Dunes

Critical Dunes in Michigan

Lake Michigan sand dunes are part of the largest system of freshwater dunes in the world. In Michigan, there are about 225,000 acres of sand dunes. In 1989 the tallest, and most spectacular of these dunes (roughly 74,000 acres) were designated as “Critical Dune Areas,” and are protected by state regulation.

Permits for Critical Dunes & High-Risk Erosion Areas

Required for earth moving, vegetation removal, and/or construction

Michigan law, Part 353, Sand Dunes Protection and Management, of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act, 1994 PA 451, as amended, requires landowners to get a permit from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) for projects that “significantly alter the physical characteristics of a Critical Dune Area, involving earthmoving, vegetation removal, and/or construction. Examples of activities where permits are typically required include the construction of a house or garage, building a road or driveway, installing a septic system, installing retaining walls, and sand removal. If you are planning a project in critical dunes or high risk erosion area, contact EGLE for information about a per-permit meeting.

Visit EGLE’s Critical Dunes Program Page for more information:

EGLE – Critical Dunes Area Program (

What the District Can Offer

The Ottawa Conservation District is a local resource for information about Michigan’s sand dunes, including Critical Dune and High-Risk Erosion Areas. We can provide public education and outreach, technical assistance related to dune management, and services to help landowners navigate the Critical Dunes regulatory process.

Vegetation Assurances (VAs)

As part of the EGLE Critical Dunes permitting process, a “Vegetation Assurance” form must be completed. This form documents all vegetation removal that will occur during a construction project, including plants, trees, and groundcover. This form then lists recommendations to stabilize and revegetate the site during and after construction has been completed. OCD staff can provide:

  • Assistance navigating the EGLE permitting process.
  • Completion and submission of the Vegetation Assurance Form with site recommendations for a fee of $250.

To request this service from the Ottawa Conservation District, download the Vegetation Assurance Form and fill out page 5. Submit the form along with your $250 fee to the Ottawa Conservation District. Mail form to:

Ottawa Conservation District
16731 Ferris St.
Grand Haven, MI 49417

Direct questions to either Benjamin Jordan at or Sarah Bowman at or call 616-842-5852 X5.

Sand Dune Information & Education

  • Public programs for schools, libraires, community events, etc.
  • Landowner consultations related to dune erosion, invasive species, native plantings, and habitat improvement.
  • The OCD sells many native Michigan dune species, including American Beach Grass, at our annual Tree Sale and Native Plant Sales.
Check out these additional sand dune resources:

Important Contacts:

Ottawa CD: 616-842-5852 X5

Michigan EGLE: Kate Lederle, 517-290-2757

Port Sheldon and Grand Haven Township:
(616) 204-1708

City of Grand Haven, Ferrysburg, Spring Lake Township:
(616) 204-1752

Park Township:
(616) 401-1641