Michigan DNR proposes prohibiting water access on beaches too dangerous to swim in

Michigan could soon be closing entry to the lakes on some of its beaches if conditions in the water are deemed too dangerous to swim in.

The Department of Natural Resources has proposed an order that would allow it to prohibit people from entering the water if wave height and high winds create hazardous conditions on the lake.

The DNR proposed the option after several rescue operations were done at times when a Red Flag was flying, indicating people were ignoring warnings about swimming in dangerous waters.

The safety rescues at times of high risk are evidence that "people are not adhering to the water safety measures" and "are still entering the water," read a memorandum sent to the DNR director.

The DNR it was even more alarming to see people enter the water while a safety rescue operation was taking place nearby. 

As a result, the agency said prohibiting access to the lake from state-managed beaches would be another tool that staff could use to keep people safe.

The proposal is scheduled to take effect in August.

The rate of drownings in the Great Lakes in 2021 is outpacing that of 2020, according to a report from the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project. So far, 32 people have died as of July 2. At that point last year, only 25 had drowned.

But not everyone sees a shutdown of water access at the beach as the best way to deal with the problem. People who enjoy water sports often rely on strong winds and high waves - something an ordinance like this wouldn't allow.