Lawmakers OK bill cementing landmark Lake Michigan ruling

March 14, 2020 GMT

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana lawmakers have passed legislation to embrace a landmark state Supreme Court decision affirming that the Lake Michigan shoreline is publicly owned and open to all for recreation.

The General Assembly gave its final approval Wednesday to the bill, which covers the core holdings of the court’s 2018 ruling, including that the shoreline is held in trust for use by all Indiana residents.

The measure was approved 78-15 in the House, and 36-13 by the Senate. It confirms that Hoosiers have a right to use the shoreline for walking, fishing, boating, swimming and any other recreational purpose, and that adjacent private property owners are not entitled to exclusive use of the beach or the water, The (Northwest Indiana) Times reported.


The bill explicitly declares that Indiana’s 45 miles (72 kilometers) of Lake Michigan shore is owned by the state up to the ordinary high-water mark, which is the shoreline created by water fluctuations. It now goes to Gov. Eric Holcomb.

The Supreme Court rejected a claim that deeds showing property lines running into the lake are valid.

The legislation also includes a provision that could help Indiana communities deal with erosion during a time of high water along Lake Michigan. Local governments in an emergency situation must approve or reject permits for seawall work within 10 days. Otherwise, the permit automatically is approved.

“This bill is a first step in providing a little relief to the dire situation along the lakefront,” said Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Ogden Dunes.