Reports of Wake Boat Caused Damage to Lakefront Property and Shorelines in Michigan Increasing in Frequency

June 7, 2017 08:44

By Scott Brown
ML&SA Executive Director

Michigan Lake and Stream AssocWakeboatiations continues to receive numerous e-mails and phone calls from lakefront property owners expressing their concern regarding damage to docks, moored boats, and shorelines caused by the increasingly large number of wake boats operating on Michigan’s inland waters. As wakeboarding has steadily increased in popularity over the past decade, statewide sales of recreational boats designed to create large, high energy wakes have also increased dramatically. Intense competition among wake boat manufacturers has led to the development of new technologies deployed to improve the ability of their boats to create increasingly high energy wakes. Variable, high volume ballast systems as well as specially designed hulls, propellers, and powertrains, have all led to significant improvement in the performance of wake boats in recent years. The potential for collateral damage to docks, hoists, moored boats and other shoreline equipment as well as the potential for shoreline erosion increases with wake boat displacement, engine and hull size, and speed. Ballast laden wake boats operating at even moderate speeds are capable of producing surface and near-surface wake related energy levels that substantially exceeds the energy created by even the largest of waves induced by intense summer thunderstorms and/or high winds.

If you and/or your lakefront neighbors experience personal property, and/or shoreline erosion related damage during the coming summer as a result of wake boat operation, please be sure to contact your local law enforcement agency with specific information regarding the time and date of the incident(s), a detailed description of the damage, along with videos or photographs, and the registration number of the watercraft rendering the damage. The steadily increasing number of reports from those living on Michigan’s lakefronts regarding the negative impact of wake boats on inland lake fish and wildlife habitat, native aquatic plant communities, lake water quality, and on personal shoreline property, strongly suggests that the time has come for the State of Michigan to intervene by more effectively regulating the operation of wake boats on our inland lakes. In the interim, Michigan Lake and Stream Associations recommends the following operating guidelines which are intended to help minimize the ecological and environmental impacts of wake boats. Wake boat operators should be advised to:

1. Reduce their speed within 500 feet of shore;
2. Not add ballast water or other extra weight to increase the displacement of their boats;
3. Not operate wake boats near sandy areas, natural shorelines, wetlands or lakefront residences;
4. Avoid turning wake boats in tight circles (tight circles increase wave height and frequency);
5. Avoid operating wake boats in shallow water and/ or near natural shorelines.

MSU Extension to Offer Two Workshops on Shoreline Protection in the Upper Peninsula

June 6, 2017 15:02

This July, MSU Extension will offer two workshops in the UP on Protecting Lake Shorelines: A Program for Lakefront Property Owners and Local Government Officials.

The MSU Extension workshop will teach lake property owners and local officials the benefits of maintaining shorelines in a natural state and teach about tools and resources for property owners to plan and protect natural shorelines. Additionally, local government officials will learn how to better accommodate lakes in plans and local regulations. Specific topics include Introduction to Shorelines; Planning, designing your natural shoreline project; Maintenance and Natural Shoreline Successes; Planning and Zoning for Natural Shorelines; Michigan Shoreline Rules and Regulations; and Michigan Shoreland Stewards Program. Participants will also enjoy a field component examining local natural shoreline projects.

Workshops will be taught by natural resource and public policy experts from MSU Extension. The workshop locations and dates are:

·         July 27, 2017 – Curtis, Portage Township Community Building, W17361 Davis St.

·         July 28, 2017 – Watersmeet, Lac Vieux Desert Resort Casino, US Hwy 45

The workshops run from 9:30am to 5pm. The cost is $40 for individuals if registered on or before July 6 ($60 after), or $60 for a couple only receiving one set of materials ($80 after July 6). Registration includes snacks, lunch, and a copy of the MSU Extension bulletin Natural Shoreline Landscapes on Michigan’s Inland Lakes – a $25 resource. Early registration ends July 6, 2017, with late registration available through July 20.

Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial start of summer – so, PLEASE HELP SPREAD THE WORD by forwarding this email, circulating the attached PDF flier, or posting the attached graphic on social media!               

For more information and to register, visit https://events.anr.msu.edu/upnaturalshorelines.

This program is supported in part by the Eastern Upper Peninsula Regional Planning & Development Commission. Also, members of the Cisco Chain Riparian Owners Association or the Invasive Species Control Coalition of Watersmeet wishing to attend will be reimbursed the early registration price upon completion of the workshop.

Please send questions to Brad Neumann, Michigan State University Extension, 906-315-2661 or neuman36@msu.edu

Looking Out for Water-Related Illnesses this Summer

May 25, 2017 06:21

by Alisha Davidson, PhD
ML&SA Research & Development Coordinator

As waters warm up this summer, riparians head to the beaches and into the water. While the vast majority of inland and Great Lakes waters are safe for recreation, users should be aware of the potential for contamination and resulting illness. Freshwater lakes and rivers can be contaminated with germs from failing septic systems, animal and human waste deposited near or in the water, and water runoff following rainfall that can bring contaminants from throughout the watershed. Recreational water illnesses (RWIs) are diseases that are spread by swallowing, breathing, or having contact with this contaminated water. RWIs can include a wide variety of infections, including gastrointestinal, skin, ear, respiratory, eye, neurologic and wound infections. The most commonly reported RWI is diarrhea, which can be caused by bacteria, viruses and parasites such as Crypto (short for Cryptosporidium), Giardia, Shigella, norovirus, and E. coli O157:H7.

Incidentally, contact with contaminated water occurs not only in lakes and ponds, but is actually more common in swimming pools. Last year, an incredible 58 percent of pool filters surveyed by the Center for Disease Control were found to contain E. coli. Fifty-nine percent of filters sampled contained Pseudomonas aeruginosa.

Although the risk of contracting a RWI is higher in pools than lakes and rivers, some inland waters do have RWI-causing contaminants. Because of the risk of RWI, public health officials and some lake associations monitor lakes and beaches for contaminants. In 1986, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) recommended two new indicator organisms for recreational water quality assessment. They were enterococci (for both marine and fresh waters) and Escherichia coli (E. coli, for fresh waters only). These organisms were chosen based on epidemiological studies conducted at various beaches in the United States that showed a strong positive correlation between the organisms and the occurrence of swimming associated gastroenteritiss (diarrhea). As such, Michigan agencies use E. coli levels to assess water safety for recreational purposes. Results of the analysis are available after approximately 28 hours, so water-testing results are reported the following afternoon. E. coli bacteria are counted and judged against standards established by state rules. For more details on how this monitoring is completed and how the results are used to assess beach safety, visit http://www.michigan.gov/deq/0,4561,7-135-3313_3681_3686_3730-11005–,00.html. A beach is closed if monitoring conducted by the county health department determined that levels of bacteria exceed the limits established by the Michigan Public Health Code. If a beach is closed due to bacterial contamination, county health departments will continue to monitor the water quality at the beach and will permit the beach to re-open when bacteria levels fall back within acceptable levels. It is possible that a beach could be closed for swimming but other recreational activities at the beach may still be available.

To find out about lakes and beaches in your area, start with your local county health department. Ask them what beaches they monitor, and how often; what they test for; where can the public view results (and get an explanation of what they mean); and what are the primary sources of pollution for your local beach? Owners of public bathing beaches must post a sign that states whether or not the bathing beach has been tested, and if so, where the test results may be accessed.

While monitoring is voluntary, health departments are required to notify the MI Department of Environmental Quality within 36 hours of conducting a test. Results of local beach and water monitoring are then compiled in the MI Department of Environmental Quality’s BeachGuard System (http://www.deq.state.mi.us/beach/). This website reports beach water quality sampling results and beach advisories and closures for 1221 public beaches and 519 private beaches. In addition to state and local health officials, it may also be useful to contact your lake association; some associations use member funds to protect the health of riparians by testing water more frequently (or testing when local officials do not have sufficient funding).

In addition to monitoring efforts by health officials and lake associations, RWIs can be prevented through responsible action by the public using the water and beaches. With funding from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, the Ottawa County Health Department recommends the following ways to prevent RWI:

• NEVER feed birds – that includes seagulls, ducks and mergansers
• Keep pets off the beach and pick up any waste that is near the water (i.e., could wash into the water with rain)
• Use the restroom before swimming
• Do not swallow lake water
• Wash your hands with soap and water before eating
• Do not swim in water that smells foul
• Shower when you return home
• Avoid swimming immediately after heavy rainfall
• Contact your local health official if you think your water is contaminated

This article is intended to inform, not frighten. While there is some risk of RWI when using inland waters, the U.S. (and particularly, Michigan) has some of the cleanest recreational waters in the world, thanks to efforts by the U.S. EPA, MI DEQ and ML&SA over recent decades. Please help continue this improvement by supporting federal, state and local environmental protection efforts!

State announces $3.6 million in available grant funding to target invasive species

May 9, 2017 12:03

May 2, 2017

Contact: Joanne Foreman  (517-284-5814), or Kammy Frayre (517-284-5970)

Funding proposals for 2017 now are being accepted through the Michigan Invasive Species Grant Program, with an anticipated $3.6 million available to applicants. The program – a joint effort of the Michigan departments of Natural Resources, Environmental Quality, and Agriculture and Rural Development – is part of a statewide initiative launched in 2014 to help prevent and control invasive species in Michigan.

An invasive species is one that is not native and whose introduction causes harm, or is likely to cause harm to Michigan’s economy, environment or human health.

“Michigan’s world-class natural resources and outdoor recreation opportunities – and the local economies they help support – are under threat from a growing variety of invasive species in our woods and water,” said DNR Director Keith Creagh. “The Michigan Invasive Species Grant Program is a valuable resource that allows us to team up with community partners across the state to find new and better ways of preventing and containing these damaging land and water invaders.”

Program handbook, informational webinar

The 2017 grant program handbook, outlining focus areas and information on how to apply, is available on the DNR website www.michigan.gov/dnr-grants. A live webinar explaining the 2017 grant process and focus areas is scheduled for Tuesday, May 23, from 2 to 3 p.m. Interested applicants can register for the webinar at www.michigan.gov/invasivespecies. A recorded version of the webinar also will be available at this website after May 23.

Program progress

Administered by the DNR, the Michigan Invasive Species Grant Program supports projects throughout the state that prevent, detect, manage and eradicate invasive species on the ground and in the water. Total program funding is set by the Legislature and the governor during the annual budget cycle.

To date, the program has provided more than $11 million in grant funding, resulting in management of invasive species including Phragmites, Japanese knotweed and oak wilt disease on over 17,000 acres of public and private land and water statewide. New approaches for treating aquatic invasive species, including Eurasian watermilfoil, starry stonewort and sea lamprey are being explored. Highlights of the 2016 program can be found in the Michigan Invasive Species Program Annual Report.

Regional Cooperative Invasive Species Management Areas (CISMAs) are operating in 77 of Michigan’s 83 counties, providing assistance to the public in identifying and managing invasive species. Contact information for individual CISMAs can be found in the Local Resources section of the invasive species website.

Focus areas for 2017

The 2017 grant program encourages the development of regional CISMAs in the six counties currently without coverage: Branch, Hillsdale, Jackson, Lenawee, St. Joseph, and Washtenaw. The program also offers continued support for existing CISMAs statewide.

Proposals to advance methods of aquatic invasive plant control are being sought in 2017, as well as those undertaking surveillance for emerging or potential infestations of hemlock woolly adelgid, balsam woolly adelgid, thousand cankers disease and/or Asian longhorned beetle in Michigan.

Invasive species prevention activities are highlighted in this year’s program, including those that reduce the risk of spreading invasive species through movement of firewood, a primary pathway for tree diseases and pests. Proposals addressing the spread of invasive species through recreational activities including land and water trail use, boating, angling, hunting and camping, also are encouraged.

Important program dates, grant parameters

Local, state, federal and tribal units of government, nonprofit organizations and universities may apply for funding to support invasive species projects conducted in Michigan. For this 2017 funding cycle, pre-proposals will be accepted through June 13 and requested full proposals must be submitted by Sept. 18.

Grant requests for 2017 projects can range from a minimum of $25,000 to a maximum of $400,000. Applicants must commit to provide 10 percent of the total project cost in the form of a local match.

Competitive applications will outline clear objectives, propose significant ecological benefits, demonstrate diverse collaboration and show strong community support.

Learn more about this and other grant opportunities on the DNR website www.michigan.gov/dnr-grants.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is committed to the conservation, protection, management, use and enjoyment of the state’s natural and cultural resources for current and future generations. For more information, go to www.michigan.gov/dnr.

Michigan Waterfront Alliance Seeks Your Support to Help Achieve Equitable and Sustainable Funding for Aquatic Invasive Species Management Efforts in Michigan Waters

May 4, 2017 06:31


Dear Michigan Lake and Stream Associations, Members and Friends:THIS IS A CALL TO ACTION

Your inland lake, pond, stream and associated waterway may already, or soon could be, seriously impacted by Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS)! The rate of AIS infestations in Michigan have not shown a decline over the last decade, despite communications, educational efforts and studies. In view of the increasingly grim condition of our lakes and waterways, the Board of the Michigan Waterfront Alliance has resolved to take on a daunting task: The improvement of State of Michigan policies and laws concerning the identification, confirmation, protection and management of AIS in our critical inland lakes and waterways. Our focus will be on:  Development of a fair, shared cost burden to manage inland lakes  Confirming AIS has had negative impacts to the MI environment and economy  Identify and Advocate for real solutions to remedy the “Pathways” for infestation  Effect real changes in the DNR, DEQ, Michigan Waterways Commission, other groups, and the Michigan Legislature.

To help your Michigan Waterfront Alliance and its lobbyist convince the Michigan legislature of the need to be more pro-active in response to the increasingly widespread aquatic invasive species problem, the Michigan Waterways Commission, the MDNR and Governor Snyder to take action now. Your mission is to download, complete and  sign the Michigan Waterfront Alliance resolution  Alliance Lobbyist:

Karoub Associates
c/o  Matt Kurta
121 W Allegan St.
Lansing MI 48933

It is vital that we have the support of as many of individuals and Lake and Stream Associations as possible!! Informal contact with key members of the State Legislature and Agencies have signaled their willingness to explore desired solutions once they are aware of the magnitude of interest by Michigan Property Owners and organized groups.

MWAI Website Image jpegTo download a copy of the MWA resolution, click here

Please complete the following steps in order to successfully contribute to the effort:

1. Download the resolution by clicking on the link above.

2. Print out the document.

3. Complete and sign the form on behalf of your lake association.

4. Mail the completed form to the address appearing at the bottom of
the second page.

Created by members of the Board of Directors of Michigan Lake and Stream Associations, Inc. in the late 1990’s in order to formally lobby on behalf of the interests of lake and stream property owners associations in Michigan, Michigan Waterfront Alliance, Inc. (MWAI) is a volunteer based non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation and protection of Michigan water resources.

Proposed Debilitating Cuts to USEPA and Elimination of Waters of the United States Regulatory Protections are Ill Advised

April 13, 2017 14:07

An Editorial Comment
by Scott Brown, ML&SA Executive Director

For those of us old enough to at least vaguely remember a thankfully bygone era when our nation’s rivers, streams, lakes, and wetlands were commonly used as convenient dumping grounds for industrial waste, December 2nd, 1970 represented the beginning of the end of a particularly tragic period in our nation’s otherwise remarkable history. On this great day for our country, President Richard M. Nixon signed legislation that created the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA), an event that would mark the start of a promising new era in environmental protection. Legislation creating the USEPA was ultimately prompted by progressively heightened public awareness that our nation’s air and water were becoming increasingly polluted, a fact that was affirmed in the minds of many Americans during the early summer of 1969 as the now infamous photo of Cleveland’s Cuyahoga River engulfed in flames appeared on the nightly news, and on the cover of a then widely read Time magazine. The Cuyahoga River fire would also help spark the passage of the Clean Water Act of 1972, landmark legislation that would serve to define the mission and goals of the fledgling USEPA by establishing a basic system for regulating discharges of various pollutants into the waters of the United States, and for establishing and regulating surface water quality standards. Under the Clean Water Act, the USEPA has worked to establish and implement wastewater standards for industry, and water quality standards for contamination of surface waters. The Clean Water Act also made it unlawful to discharge any pollutant from a point source into the navigable waters of the United States, and established the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit program that regulates discharges into the nation’s waters. The non-partisan federal Office of Management and Budget has consistently given its top cost effectiveness rating to the USEPA, noting that the value of the benefits derived versus the cost of investing in efforts to protect, and/or restore our nation’s water and air quality often exceeds a remarkable 10 to 1 ratio. The direct and in-direct benefits to human health and economic productivity that have resulted from successful USEPA efforts to protect, and/or restore our nation’s air and water quality have contributed trillions of dollars of wealth to our citizens, to our public and private institutions, and to our corporations.

For the Great Lakes state, blessed with 36,000 miles of streams, 11,000 thousand inland lakes, and countless acres of wetlands, recent “promises” by the new administration to eliminate the USEPA, or to dramatically reduce the agency’s operating budget and staffing levels, and rescind federal regulations that help ensure that our waters stay clean and potable, all carry the potential to have a devastating effect on current efforts to protect, and restore Michigan’s water resources. The many important projects that the USEPA currently funds and administers on a collaborative basis in the Great Lakes region include efforts to prevent the spread of Asian carp, funding and administering the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative that provides grants to state and local projects that are designed to prevent invasive species, restore impaired watersheds, and restore fish habitat. In addition, USEPA provides Great Lakes region states, including Michigan, with grants that fund projects designed to reduce non-point source pollution levels that often lead to excess nutrient loading in many of our lakes and streams. The USEPA also administers federal grant programs that support various national, state, and local initiatives designed to improve water and air quality, combat invasive species, and to improve drinking water infrastructure. Michigan’s on-going Flint water crisis should have provided us all with a wake-up call regarding the increasingly desperate need to invest in a much needed modernization of our nation’s drinking and waste water management infrastructure.

The new administration and its allies in Congress are also “promising” to eliminate the Waters of the United States rule which was instituted in 2015 in order to fully restore federal government authority to limit pollution in our nation’s wealth of lakes, rivers, streams, and wetlands. Culminating many years of research and monitoring by the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers, and carefully crafted to include the latest scientific data, and significant input from a diverse group of public and private stakeholders, the final language of the rule served to re-establish a modest level of protection to the water resources that one third of Americans (110 million people) rely upon for their daily drinking water. Moreover, for the first time in many decades, tens of thousands of our nation’s wetlands, streams, and inland lakes that provide essential habitat to fish and wildlife, and that serve as immense economic treasures, were once again placed under some degree of protection. Did you know, for example, that sport fishing in America helps support more than 800,000 jobs, and that the 30 million people who fish spend close to $50 billion annually on equipment, licenses, trips, and other fishing-related purchases? The fact is, pollution free streams, rivers, and lakes that are capable of supporting and sustaining healthy fish populations represent the very foundation of our nation’s recreational fishing industry.

To even the most sadly uninformed of our fellow citizens, there should be no surprise in learning that clean water is an indispensable resource for sustaining life on earth. Regardless of our race, religion, political beliefs, economic status, or how we choose to live our lives, pollutant free water resources that are capable of providing us all with clean, potable water are an absolute requirement for “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”. We encourage you to share your views regarding the importance of maintaining clean, healthy, and sustainable water resources with your respective member of the United States House of Representatives, and our United States Senators.

Another Lake Road End Case

April 7, 2017 18:36

Another Lake Road End Case

By Clifford H. Bloom, Esq.
Bloom Sluggett Morgan, PC
Grand Rapids, Michigan

On October 25, 2016, the Michigan Court of Appeals released its unpublished decision in O’Neill, et al. v Moses, et al. (Case Nos. 329227, 330527, 329475 and 330529; 2016 WL 6269360). For purposes of full disclosure, I was co-legal counsel for three of the individuals involved in the lawsuit.

This case involved an unusual private avenue or easement, in that it is “elbow” or “L” shaped. The private road right-of-way approaches the lake at an approximately 45 degree angle and then turns and runs parallel to the lake. The road was created by a 1947 plat, which dedicated the road “to the use of the owners of lots”. The road right-of-way or easement has approximately 149 feet of frontage on the lake.

A number of off-lake property owners claimed that they have the right to install their own dockage, boat hoists and tethers along the lake frontage of the road and to permanently or seasonally moor their boats thereon. The three plaintiffs are riparian property owners who own lots adjacent to the road.

The litigation at the trial court level was long, complex and contentious. The trial court judge entered summary disposition in favor of the plaintiff riparians regarding most of the lake access issues. The trial court generally held that the road was for access only and cannot be utilized for private dockage, boat hoists or boat tethers and that the backlot property owners could not permanently or seasonally moor, store or keep their boats along the lake frontage of the road. The trial court relied heavily upon Thies v Howland, 424 Mich 282 (1985) and Higgins Lake Property Owners Assn v Gerrish Twp, 255 Mich App 83 (2003). The trial court also resolved numerous other issues.

On appeal, the Michigan Court of Appeals generally upheld most of the rulings by the trail court. The Court of Appeals agreed that the private road right-of-way cannot be used by the backlotters for private dockage, boat hoists or boat tethers and that the backlot property owners cannot seasonally or permanently moor, store or keep boats along the waterfront. The Court held that the configuration of the road, as well as the dedication language “to the use of”, was unambiguous and generally meant access only. The Court of Appeals agreed that evidence of historical use was not relevant or admissible due to the unambiguous nature of the plat dedication for the road. Given that the plaintiffs did not request or pursue relief preventing the backlot property owners from lounging, sunbathing and picnicking on the road right-of-way, the Court of Appeals held that the plaintiffs had conceded that issue and the trial court should not have banned those activities on the road right-of-way.

With regard to lake usage, the Court of Appeals did reverse a portion of the trial court’s decision that deemed one of the plaintiffs to have riparian rights on the claimed parallel portion of the road right-of-way in the plat based on 2000 Baum Family Trust v Babel, 488 Mich 136 (2010). That matter was remanded back to the trial court.

There is also a discussion of certain prescriptive easement issues in the Court of Appeals’ decision.

The Court of Appeals did decide a number of other issues (which likely would not be of interest to most riparians), but generally upheld most of the trial court’s decisions. Due to all of the complex issues involved, this article is simply a summary for laypeople of the decisions by the Court of Appeals in the case.

A full copy of the written opinion by the Michigan Court of Appeals in O’Neill v Moses can be reviewed by going to the Court’s website at courts.mi.gov, clicking on “cases, opinions and orders”, click “case search”, enter case number 329227 and click “Court of Appeals”.

“Tips for Sellers of Waterfront Property”

April 7, 2017 18:17

By Clifford H. Bloom, Esq.
Bloom Sluggett Morgan, PC
Grand Rapids, Michigan

“Tips for Sellers of Waterfront Property”

Potential buyers of waterfront property are not the only ones who face a sometimes daunting task, particularly with regard to “due diligence” investigations. Sellers of waterfront property must also be very careful.

Perhaps the best advice that can be given to someone contemplating the sale of a waterfront property is not to exaggerate or misrepresent any of the characteristics of the property. Should that occur, in many cases, it will come back to “bite” the seller, either in the form of a lawsuit or a bitter purchaser (or both!). For example, if the property involved is a backlot with a shared lake access site, the seller should not advertise or indicate that the property has “deeded access,” riparian rights, or similar potential misrepresentation. Use fully truthful language. Full disclosure (within reason) regarding any problems or “issues” associated with the property is usually the best avenue.

If “deeded access” is normally not a legally-appropriate phrase, what language should the seller of a backlot or off-lake property near the water use to indicate that a nearby lake access is available? Perhaps the best wording is simply to indicate that “limited lake access to Marble Lake is located nearby.” Any language that states or implies that the particular backlot has its own exclusive lake access device, that the backlot has permanent docking and boat mooring privileges, or that the backlot has a lake access device where virtually any use can occur thereon, can get a seller (and potentially, a realtor or real estate agent) in trouble if the wording is not true or fully accurate. This is one area where exaggeration (or what the seller might consider “puffery”) can get a person into trouble.

Prospective buyers are not the only ones who have to be careful regarding the language of the negotiated purchase/sales agreement—sellers must be equally cautious. If there are too many contingencies contained in the written agreement in favor of the buyer, it will make it easier for the buyer to back out of the closing without penalty.

Sellers should make sure that any contract for the sale of their waterfront property contains the appropriate “As-Is” language that makes it clear to the prospective purchaser that there are no warranties, guarantees, representations, promises, etc., being made regarding the waterfront property except, perhaps, the warranties of title to be given in the warranty deed or land contract. A good real estate attorney can assist the seller of a waterfront property with the appropriate language to limit the seller’s liability exposure should the purchaser discover something that he/she does not like about the property after closing.

Given all the “toys” associated with most waterfront properties, it is also very important for the seller (as well as the buyer) to specify in the purchase/sales agreement exactly which specific outdoor items (if any) are included within the sale and sales price. The contract should address such items as dock sections, swim rafts, boat hoists, lawn furniture, boats, sheds, and any other waterfront paraphernalia. With regard to the interior of the house or cottage, movable or removable items such as a washer, dryer, freezer, refrigerator, water softener, trash compactor, and similar items should also be specifically addressed in the purchase/sales agreement.

The seller’s realtor or real estate agent can assist the seller with setting a proposed (and realistic) sales price for the waterfront property involved. If the seller wants to obtain a second opinion regarding the price at which the property should be listed, the seller can retain a third-party real estate appraiser to give a more in-depth analysis of the true fair market value of the waterfront property.

If the seller will be retaining ownership of an adjoining lot or parcel after the sale of the land at issue, the seller may want to consider putting one or more recorded deed restrictions or restrictive covenants on the land to be sold (in order to protect the property being kept by the seller). Such restrictions could include prohibitions on mobile homes, further division of the land, setback minimums, a minimum size requirement for any new dwelling, and other restrictions on use. Any such restrictions should be in place before a purchase/sales agreement is signed (or be inserted into such an agreement) and drafted by a competent real estate attorney.

While much of the advertising today for the sale of waterfront properties occurs via the internet, social media virtual tours, and other techniques in the ethersphere, sellers, realtors, and real estate agents still use temporary outdoor real estate signs fairly extensively for sales. Such signs can be an effective tool for helping to sell real estate. However, it should also be kept in mind that many real estate signs violate not only local municipal sign regulation ordinances, but also potentially the property rights of others, depending on the sign’s location.

Almost all local municipalities have sign regulations. For some municipalities, those regulations are found in the municipality’s zoning ordinance. In other municipalities, the sign ordinance is a “standalone” ordinance separate from the zoning ordinance. Typically, municipal sign regulations allow one or two outdoor real estate “for sale” signs if installed on the property that is listed for sale. Placing a real estate “for sale” sign on any property other than the property being offered for sale (for example, down the road at a street intersection) is often a violation of the local municipal sign regulations. In addition, placing real estate signs on utility poles or installing signs directing prospective buyers to a property located some distance away is almost always unlawful under the local municipality’s sign regulations.

Even apart from municipal sign regulations, placing a real estate sign on the property of another without permission is an unlawful trespass. Some sellers are also under the mistaken assumption that it is permissible to place a real estate sign in the public road right-of-way adjacent to another person’s property without permission, as the public right-of-way normally extends 10 to 20 feet into the lawn of an adjoining property. However, that too would usually be a trespass, unless done with the permission of the adjoining property owner. In most cases, the public road right-of-way is akin to an easement to be used for road purposes only and the adjoining property owner typically still owns the land under the public road easement and has the authority to disallow the private signs of others without permission.

Finally, placing real estate signs at intersections can be downright dangerous, as such signs can interfere with the clear sight distances necessary for motorist visibility and safety.

All real estate transactions have potential tax (local, state, and federal) consequences, particularly for the seller of real property. Issues regarding income taxes, capital gains, and other taxes relating to a lakefront real estate transaction are beyond the scope of this article. Nevertheless, sellers and buyers should consult with the appropriate tax professional early on in the property sale or purchase process.

Dessert with Discussion: Protecting Michigan Lakes and Rivers from Invasive Species

March 17, 2017 19:16


Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Kellogg Biological Station – Auditorium
3700 E. Gull Lake Drive
Hickory Corners, MI 49060


Doors open at 7:00 P. M.
Event runs from 7:30 to 8:30 P. M.

COST: Free event, however registration is required


Aquatic invasive species, such as the zebra mussel and the Eurasian water milfoil plant, have caused severe ecological and economic damage in Michigan. Impacts include declines in fish populations, degraded water quality, loss of recreational opportunities, and property damage. New invaders are discovered regularly, and can spread at an alarming rate across the state.

Dr. Jo Latimore, MSU Outreach Specialist in the Dept. of Fisheries and Wildlife, will discuss:

  • How are these invaders reaching our lakes and rivers
  • How we can prevent new invasions
  • What options exist for discovering and responding to invasions that have already occurred

Enjoy coffee, tea and delicious locally sourced desserts provided by the KBS Conference Center. A cash bar featuring house wines and Michigan craft beer available prior to the event.


Registration for Dessert with Discussion:
Protecting Michigan Lakes and Rivers from Invasive Species is now open.

Register for the event by

Clicking Here

Registration closes at 11:59 p.m. on April 10, 2017.



Michigan State University is committed to providing equal opportunity for participation in all programs, services and activities. Accommodations for persons with disabilities may be requested by contacting the event contact two weeks prior to the start of the event. Requests received after this date will be honored whenever possible.


Contact Information

For information contact the KBS Community Relations office at communityrelations@kbs.msu.edu or 269-671-2015.


Title Insurance

March 15, 2017 06:09

By Clifford H. Bloom, Esq.
Bloom Sluggett Morgan, PC
Grand Rapids, Michigan

In Michigan, it is foolish to purchase riparian or waterfront property without having a title insurance commitment done by a title insurance company for the prospective purchaser to review before closing and for the purchaser to have title insurance on the property once the closing occurs.

In the “old days,” there was no title insurance for purchasers of real property in Michigan. Rather, real estate buyers (or their attorneys) reviewed abstracts or attorney opinions regarding title. An abstract was generally just a listing of all prior recorded documents regarding the property involved going back a certain number of years. Abstracts told lay people very little. A lawyer’s opinion dealt with whether or not the seller had proper title and any limitations upon that title. Neither the old abstracts nor attorney title opinions were insurance as such, and they really did not constitute reliable guarantees of proper title to the purchaser.

Insurance companies eventually introduced a product often referred to as “title insurance.” Title insurance is very important for almost all real property purchases, but particularly so where a waterfront property is involved. The issuance of title insurance is a two-step process. Almost all real estate purchase/sales agreements require the seller to provide to the buyer a “title insurance commitment” before closing and a title insurance policy after closing. Typically, both are issued in an amount equal to the purchase price. A title insurance commitment is usually issued by a title insurance company before closing and allows the prospective purchaser (and potentially, his or her attorney) to see whether the seller has goodtitle, whether there are any encumbrances on the property, what the property taxes are annually, any requirements for closing, and similar matters. Before issuing a title insurance commitment, the title company does a title search of the property, looking for relevant documents recorded with the local county register of deeds regarding the property. Once a title insurance commitment is issued, the title company is affirming that it will issue a final title insurance policy in favor of the buyer after closing with all of the requirements, exceptions and limitations contained in the title insurance commitment. Typically, the seller pays for both the title insurance commitment and the eventual title insurance (although there is generally one overall fee for both), unless the purchase/sales agreement provides otherwise.

A formal final title insurance policy is usually issued (and sent) to the buyer a few months after the closing. The buyer should take great care to preserve the original of the title insurance policy forever. Furthermore, it is often prudent to make copies of the actual original title insurance policy and to store the copies at a different location than the actual original document for safe keeping (that is also true with the deed or land contract after closing and recording). Title insurance insures good title, lack of encumbrances, etc., apart from those items which are expressly “carved out” or exempted in the title insurance commitment and title insurance policy. Normally, the title insurance will pay for attorney fees and costs for an attorney provided by the title insurance company to the buyer to defend the buyer’s title if challenged as well as any damages that might be incurred by the buyer resulting from a title defect or other matter covered by the title insurance policy. It has also become very common for real estate closings in Michigan to occur at the offices of the title insurance company (or its agent or affiliate) and for the title insurance company to provide many of the closing documents (the deed or land contract, any mortgage, a closing statement, etc.) for additional fees.

Why is it so important for title insurance to be provided for riparian properties? There are multiple reasons. First, title insurance verifies that the prospective purchaser will have good and marketable title for the waterfront property involved. Second, it is not uncommon for waterfront properties to have encumbrances such as deed restrictions or an easement, which a prospective purchaser of a waterfront property should know before closing. Third, if the waterfront property is not located on a public road, it is always best to have the title insurance cover and insure any private road or access easement for the property. Fourth, title insurance insures the legal description involved and quite often legal descriptions are proof that a property is waterfront. Finally, title insurance helps give the prospective purchaser “peace of mind”.

Unfortunately, title insurance policies almost never warrant or guarantee riparian rights or the riparian nature of the parcel involved. On occasion, a special rider on an insurance policy can be purchased to cover riparian issues, but those riders tend to be fairly rare and can be quite expensive.

In Michigan, one should almost never buy waterfront property without obtaining a title commitment prior to closing and title insurance for the property that becomes effective at and after closing.

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