ADDING SAND TO YOUR BEACH—INVASIVE AND POLLUTING?
We are all well aware of the threats of invasives overtaking our lake. We should also guard against pollutants finding their way into the Lake Charlevoix watershed. While these issues usually invoke images of Asian carp, zebra mussels, fertilizers and chemical run-off, it will surprise many to learn that adding beach sand is one of the biggest contributors to the introduction of pollution and the destruction of habitat in our lake.
How can that possibly be true, when the lake has large areas of sand along its shore? The problem is, there are also shorelines where Mother Nature has eliminated natural sand beaches in favor of rock, marsh, clay or wetland shorelines. Due to natural wave action and erosion, sand in these areas will not remain and will soon migrate into the lake, settling on nearby bottomlands. The natural shorelines are equipped to withstand the dynamics of the shore and, in fact, protect the shore from unusual erosion. Yet these natural shorelines are often where homeowners attempt to create a sand beach.
Artificially sanding a shoreline creates a number of serious problems for our lake. First, the sources of sand are not always pure. Sand can contain iron that, when washed into the lake, creates rust-colored slime deposits and films that affect water clarity; and phosphorus, which encourages the growth of Cladophora and other algae-like plants. Beach sand is commonly a breeding ground for bacteria, and sand from outside sources can contain numerous other contaminates, all of which will lie on the beach where children play and wash into the water where they swim.
Beach sand washing into the lake bed (and it will wash into the lake bed!), can be harmful to aquatic life as well. Rocky and natural lake bottom areas are home to important plants and invertebrates and are breeding grounds for fish, all making for a healthy lake.
Sand placed artificially on a shore will migrate to the bottomland, smothering small plants and invertebrates and eliminating food sources and spawning sites for small fish. While the LCA attempts to improve fish habitat by placing natural structures in the lake, beach sand washed into the lake will be destroying near-shore habitat.
Enjoying a beautiful, natural lake includes appreciating its natural shoreline. Please let Mother Nature decide where she wants sand. We encourage you to avoid beach sanding and leave your shoreline and bottomlands as natural as possible. Please be aware that cosmetic actions you or your neighbors take, while seemingly harmless, can adversely affect the lake we all love.