Proos introduces beach safety bill

LANSING — State Sen. John Proos has introduced legislation in the Michigan Senate to ensure visitors to any of Michigan’s beaches will have easy access to valuable information about beach and water conditions – including chances of dangerous rip currents.

“The Great Lakes and Michigan’s beaches along the lakeshore offer some of the world’s greatest recreational opportunities, but they also pose hidden dangers,” said Proos, R-St. Joseph. “Many people think rip tides are unique to oceans, but currents in Lake Michigan claimed 17 lives in 2010. People should not fear the lakes, but respect them. As a former lifeguard, I introduced this measure to give beachgoers throughout Michigan critical information about a hidden threat that can sweep away even the strongest swimmer.”

Senate Bill 818 would implement a flag warning system, currently used on Michigan State Park beaches, on all beaches in the state.

The flag system outlined in Proos’ bill would have three colors to warn patrons of beach and water conditions for all municipalities in the state:

  • Green: Lake conditions generally considered safe for swimming – undertow/rip tide not expected, minimal wave action and wind and clean water. 
  • Yellow: Lake conditions generally considered moderately dangerous – Two to four foot waves, undertow unexpected, and alongshore current up to 50 feet per minute. Strong offshore winds may be present; therefore inflatable devices are not safe in the water.
  • Red: Lake conditions considered extremely dangerous – waves more than four feet, very strong undertow and alongshore currents.

“There are currently many different warning systems in use in Michigan; which can be confusing for people who frequent multiple beaches, or who are visiting from out-of-town,” Proos said. “Under this bill, Michigan will join other states, like Wisconsin and Florida, in utilizing a statewide rip tide warning system that is consistent and easy for swimmers to understand. Beachgoers will also be able to see swimming conditions online.”

The bill requires the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to post water conditions at every beach under its control on the department’s website. Conditions from other beaches may be reported to the department to be posted on the website as well.

SB 818 has been referred to the Senate Outdoor Recreation and Tourism Committee for consideration.