February 19, 2020:
Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund Board Approves DNR Application for Funds to Acquire
230 acres in Ludington Dunes
The Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund Board met yesterday. During that meeting, the Board approved unanimously a grant of $5.3M to DNR, toward purchase of approximately 230 of the remaining 272-acre Sargent Sand property. The grant is subject to final approval from the State legislature.
This grant is accompanied by: $1M additional foundation grant (I need to find the origin/source of this component); $1.3M carryover from the October 2018 transaction between the State and the Sargent family; and, an expected $2M contribution from the local community.
The Sargent family is likely to retain 30-40 acres, for their private use.
DNR will take financial responsibility for removing the equipment associated with mine operations. Reclamation and restoration will be the responsibility of Sargent, DNR, EGLE, and the local community. Details TBD.
Attendees included Steve Begnoche (former Managing Editor of the Ludington Daily New, and member of Friends of Ludington State Park), Lana Pollack (Ludington native, former State senator, former MNRTF Board member, and a member of the US-Canada International Joint Commission), Wayne Andersen (President of the Hamlin Lake Preservation Society), Jim Gallie (Manager of Ludington State Park), and neighbors along Piney Ridge Road.
December 18, 2018:
Michigan DNR and Sargent Minerals LLC
complete contract on 100 acres in Ludington Dunes
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources issued a press release today, announcing the sale of the northernmost portion of the Sargent Minerals LLC property in the Ludington Dunes, to DNR. Funds for the purchase came from Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund, two other DNR funds, and $1M each from the Mott Foundation, and from the Michigan Chapter of Nature Conservancy. Sargent retains 272 acres, and mining continues, according to provisions of the permit with DEQ. Discussions continue relative to the State obtaining all or part of the remaining acreage. Funds from MNRTF have been set aside for this purpose; other funds are sought. A public process for incorporating the new lands into the existing General Management Plan for Ludington State Park will be announced. An aerial approximation of the lands involved can be seen below. The red-shaded section is the recent purchase. The lion's share of it includes a major section of the 4500 to 4900 year-old Piney Ridge.
April 19, 2018: Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund Recommends Additional $7.5M for Ludington Dunes Land Acquisition
There has been a noteworthy development regarding the Ludington Dunes this week. On Thursday, Michigan DNR issued a news release on behalf of the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund Board. The news stems from actions taken by the Board at its April meeting. The news was released on April 19, and picked up by various print, radio, and TV news services throughout the State. The Ludington Daily News published an article by Steve Begnoche in its April 20 issue.
The main element:
"The Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund Board has recommended an additional $7.5 million to purchase approximately 337 acres of private land adjacent to Ludington State Park in Mason County. This adds to $5 million previously recommended by the board for acquisition of the land, for a total of $12.5 million. The board made the recommendations for the purchase – which is still being negotiated – at its April 11 meeting in Bath.
"The property, currently held by Sargent Minerals-Ludington LLC, has long been viewed as a high priority for the state to acquire to make part of Ludington State Park. The land has significant natural resource attributes such as critical dunes, inland water features, and overall connection with adjacent recreational amenities at one of the most visited state parks in Michigan."
At its December meeting, the Board had been presented with a grant request for $20M for this project. At that time, the Board recommended a grant of $5M, pending legislative approval. The downward revision enabled grants for other purposes, including over $4M to secure the similarly-sized and similarly-developed Ferrysburg Site coastal dune property. Simultaneously, DNR Director Keith Creagh, and Board Chair Sam Cummings, stated that the December Ludington Dunes grant was a 'placeholder'. By their April action, the Board has made good on that statement.
While remaining cautious, it's hard not to be hopeful as well. "Bravo!" to everyone involved: Sargent, State, and other private and public parties to this project.
Readers might consider sending a note of thanks to Director Creagh, and Board Chair Cummings.
The full news release can be seen at: http://www.michigan.gov/…/0,4570,7-350-79137_79770_79780-46….
December 6, 2017: Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund Recommends $5M for Ludington Dunes Land Acquisition
An early Christmas present emerged from the December meeting of MNRTF. In May of 2017, DNR made application to MNRTF for $20M, for purposes of land acquisition in the Ludington Dunes, including all or part of the 372 acres held by Sargent Minerals LLC. DNR Director Keith Creagh had earlier indicated this project to be #1 on the MNRTF Board list; at this meeting, MNRTF Staff rated the project at #11. Relative to all other applications, $20M was the largest by a substantial margin. The Board needed to balance pay-out limits from the Trust Fund, against other projects. Director Creagh referred to the amount finally recommended, as a placeholder for future discussions and applications. So we move forward. The Director, and especially his colleague Bill Moritz, who is managing the project on behalf of the State, will have more to say in the near future. Thanks to Director Creagh, Dr Moritz, and all involved for making this recommendation a reality. (It will be up to the Legislature to approve this, as well as all other, MNTRF recommendations; but no problems are expected.)
The news release from MNRTF reads: "Mason County – DNR, Sargent Minerals Co. Land Acquisition - $5,000,000: Acquisition of up to 372 acres from the Sargent Minerals Company. The property is surrounded by Ludington State Park and will increase recreation opportunities and protect natural resources as part of Ludington State Park. The property includes coastal habitats with lakes, wetlands, sand dunes and woodlands. Acquisition of the property will allow for the property to be dedicated, operated and managed as part of Ludington State Park which will provide additional recreation land and consolidate ownership at the park."
Two other projects recommended for funding at the meeting are noteworthy.
First was the $839,400 toward acquisition of the Dow Property, 316 acres with 312 feet of frontage on the south side of Pere Marquette Lake, in Pere Marquette Township. This project has been underway for some time, with Dow officials working closely with PM Township leadership.
Second was the last-minute application for $4.2M, to acquire the coastal sand mine in Ferrysburg operated by Ottawa Sand Company. This Ferrysburg Site has many characteristics similar to the Ludington Site operation. However, the Ludington Site produces roughly ten times as much mineral silica as the Ferrysburg Site. So, this recommendation leads to very cautious optimism. The news release from MNRTF reads: "Ottawa County – Ottawa Sands Acquisition - $4,200,000: Acquisition of 353 acres with 219 acres in designated critical dune area and 5,585 feet of frontage along the Grand River. The property has an 80-acre man-made inland lake. The site will be used for camping, swimming, fishing, hiking, biking, kayaking, and wildlife viewing."
December 1, 2017: New Ownership for Hobby Crest
It's not exactly a direct issue relative to the Ludington Dunes, but it's newsworthy nonetheless. The December 1, 2017 issue of the Ludington Daily News reported that Hobby Crest Resort, on upper Piney Ridge Road, is now under new management. They hope to begin taking reservations in the late winter or spring. And, they plan to renovate and re-open the restaurant (which as a kid was a particularly wonderful breakfast spot). Good luck to Christy and Randy Malliett in their new endeavor!
July 29, 2017: August 10 Hamlin Township Board Meeting
For those interested in the impacts (noise, road wear, blowing sand) of Sargent Sand operations on local highways, and personal property: the Hamlin Township Board will have its next meeting on Thursday, August 10, at 6pm, at the Township Offices on Jebavy Road. Discussion of a recent, non-public meeting between Township Board members, the Ludington City Manager, the Mason County Sheriff, and the president and several employees from Sargent Sand, should be part of this August 10 meeting. See an ad in the July 31 and August 7 issues of the Ludington Daily News for more details.
June 27, 2017: Petition to Hamlin Township Board
Please sign the petition to the Hamlin Township Board. See this link.
Also, be aware that a meeting between the Township Board chair, the Mason County Sheriff, the Mason County Road Commission chair, the Ludington Town Manager, a representative from Towns Trucking, and three representatives from Sargent Sand, including the CEO, took place on June 20, 2017. We are trying to gather more information regarding this meeting and what it entailed. In particular, there are indications that most of the attendees are not aware of the information which has been gathered by local residents since 2011, and which was presented in detail at the AFFEW meeting in March 2016, the Sand Mining Forum in May 2016, and during the sand mining permit application review process from Fall 2016 through Winter 2017.
May 7-8, 2017: Freshwater Dunes Summit
The Michigan Environmental Council is hosting a Freshwater Dunes Summit in Muskegon on May 7 and 8. Come join this informative gathering for all matters related to Freshwater Dunes. A link to the invitation can be found HERE.
February 3, 2017 -- The Permit Decision is In:
The public hearing regarding the renewal of Sargent Sand Company's permit, from Michigan DEQ, to mine sand in the Ludington Dunes, is over. As well, the comment periods have been completed.
DEQ's Oil, Gas, and Minerals Division has assessed these comments, and reached a decision to renew the permit, with virtually no changes.
DEQ-OGMD responded to all written and oral inputs. The response was extensive, for which we are grateful. But, the final decision is, in the end, drawn very narrowly.
For further expansion of the dredge pond, an Inland Lakes and Streams permit, under MNREPA Part 301, will need to be obtained. Some future care may be taken with respect to endangered plants, namely Pitcher's Thistle. Some increased observation and monitoring of geomorphology effects will be done, with possible mitigations (e.g. plantings to achieve a wind break) implied.
No updates or improvements to the EIR (link) will be required. No steps relative to public and private property degradation will be taken.
In particular, DEQ-OGMD declined completely to exercise its authority under Limitation E of the permit, which has been in place continuously since the original permit of 1981, but under which Sargent Sand has been arguably out of compliance during the permit covering 2012 through 2016. (Limitation E regards injury to private property, and invasion of public or private rights.)
DEQ-OGMD also declined to address the MNREPA statute provisions relative to alternative sites for the Ludington Dunes mining activity. DEQ-OGMD allowed the 1979 EIR (written by a Sargent Sand employee), to be accepted verbatim, even though the EIR contains multiple, substantive errors. In particular, the EIR claimed no alternative sites existed, and DEQ-OGMD continues to accept this finding without question; whereas, the State-solicited 1979 study by S. Paul Sundeen identified six alternative sites, which would satisfy (and would have satisfied) the MNREPA provision.
The decision is disappointing, but not surprising.
We continue to focus upon the next steps we may take. The list is shown below:
--> Sargent Sand Company, and Michigan DNR, had been discussing the possible transfer of all, or a portion, of Sargent's Ludington Site to DNR for inclusion in Ludington State Park. According to confirmation from both Sargent Sand and DNR representatives, these discussions had been ongoing since at least May. The discussions are specifically NOT characterized as negotiations. We want you to write letters, both to Sargent Sand Company, and to Michigan DNR, in support of these discussions. Letters should be copied to various local and state and national governmental representatives. Details of our position, and our suggestions for what you can do, can be found HERE.
--> We will continue to gather evidence regarding the issues raised during the 2016 permit review process. For instance, wind storms during the December 20-22, 2016 period caused large loads of sand to blow off Piney Ridge, onto both State and private lands.
--> Sargent Sand representatives have made claims regarding the history of natural resource development -- particularly regarding logging and mining -- in the Ludington Dunes. These claims are at odds with personal experience of, and anecdotal testimony from, long-time residents along Piney Ridge Road. These claims, unsupported, appear only in the 1979 EIR, and so far to our knowledge in no other public records. We are investigating this history. If you have information, or can direct us to sources of information, please share with us, we would be grateful!
The Ludington Sand Dunes are part of the Big Sable Dune Complex (also called the Ludington Dunes Ecosystem, having the largest area of fresh water interdunal ponds in the world), which includes the Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness Area. Join us in our work to conserve this spectacular resource.
The Ludington Dunes Conservancy has been created to promote, advance, and enhance the long-term, sustainable value of the Ludington Sand Dunes, as a resource for residents of, and visitors to, Ludington, Michigan, Mason County, the State of Michigan, and beyond. We are particularly focused on the recreational, environmental, and educational resources which they offer, to sustain human life and well-being.
For 2016, we focus our main efforts on the permit renewal process for the Sargent Sand Company mine in the Ludington Dunes.
Other projects include:
Big Sable River watershed evaluation and improvement, in coordination with the Hamlin Lake Preservation Society
Hamlin Lake water quality monitoring and improvement, in coordination with the Hamlin Lake Preservation Society
Coordination with Friends of Ludington State Park
The Ludington Dunes Conservancy is in the process of setting up as a 501(c)3 organization. Watch this space, or Contact Us, for more information later in 2016.