Update February 2020

In 2018, the Indiana Supreme Court upheld the public trust doctrine that protects the Lake Michigan beach and shoreline — up to the ordinary high water mark — as publicly owned land and open to recreational uses.

Two competing Lake Michigan bills were introduced in the 2020 session in response to the Supreme Court decision:

HB 1031 would dramatically weaken this vital policy (i.e., the public trust doctrine) that protects coastlines and lakeshores all across America.

SB 325, a bill that we support, would codify the Supreme Court decision.  Read the IndyStar’s excellent overview of both bills.

Neither bill received final approval by their chamber of origin and it appeared Lake Michigan shoreline legislation would not proceed in this session.

But in recent weeks, efforts to revive the weakening language of HB 1031 surfaced in proposed amendments to an unrelated Senate bill being considered in the Indiana House. These harmful amendments were rebuffed.  In a surprising turn, the positive language of SB 325 was amended into a different Senate bill, SB 433, described elsewhere in BillWatch.  With the positive Lake Michigan amendment and revisions to the original language of SB 433 that reflect a compromise between the bill’s sponsors and the Indiana DNR, HEC is now supporting SB 433 as amended.

Learn more about HEC’s work toward Wilderness & Greenways Expansion and why public access to nature is important.