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Michigan Waterways Commission Takes Bold Action

By | News

By Paul J. Sniadecki, ML&SA Board Director

The Michigan Waterways Commission (WWC) is a seven-member advisory board appointed by the Michigan Governor. The WWC works with the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) on the use of dedicated funds, provided by boaters, for the acquisition, development and maintenance of Public Harbors and Boating Access Sites (BAS) on inland lakes, as well as certain locks and dams. The main revenue available to the WWC comes from Watercraft Registration Fees and Marine Fuel Taxes.

The “bold action” occurred on February 23, 2018, when the WWC adopted Resolution No 02-2018-01, which proposed that the Michigan Legislature create the “Michigan Boating Access, Public Safety, and Economic Development Act of 2018.” Element No 6 of the Resolution asks the legislature to “…Consider a separate surcharge (sticker) for invasive species control for all vessels including non-resident craft…”

That bold step by the WWC suggests Michigan should begin to broadly fund Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) control in a manner aligned with processes already in place by several other progressive states. It also seeks to place the fees on ALL watercraft that use the waters of Michigan, not just Michigan Boaters. As many riparians have concluded, the main pathway for the spread of AIS is contaminated watercraft moving between lakes/streams, and this proposal has the potential to address some of those concerns.

The precise provisions of how such a program would work are not known at this time. However, riparians are encouraged to be vigilant and be ready to support the proposed act, if the details are favorable for true AIS control. Hopefully the future language would include a spending formula that funds preventive actions (e.g. Decontamination Stations at all boating access sites), as well as funds for the annual treatment of AIS in already infested lakes/streams (e.g. matching funds for Special Assessment Districts established for AIS control).

Some opposition to Resolution No. 02-2018-01 is already forming because the WWC resolution also proposes that kayaks, canoes, and paddle boards be subject to registration fees. Currently, such watercraft pay no fees for the use of Michigan water held in trust by the state.

ML&SA will monitor developments on this matter and provide updates via the monthly e-newsletter and The Michigan Riparian magazine. Officials from ML&SA, as well as the Michigan Waterfront Alliance (MWA) (https://mwai.org/) have invested considerable time reaching out to State of Michigan officials for comprehensive care concerning AIS in our inland lakes. MWA is the organization that can lobby elected officials for changes. ML&SA By-Laws Article 3, Section 3.1(g) permits ML&SA “… to review and submit proposals to administrative and legislative bodies regarding statutes, ordinances, and regulations impacting water-related resources and riparian properties.”

ML&SA launches new website to find your local water resources!

By | News
by Alisha Davidson, PhD
ML&SA Research and Development Coordinator

 

We know it can be difficult to find (and find contact information for) organizations such as local lake associations, drain commissioners, DEQ/DNR offices, land conservancies, and watershed councils. In an effort to assist members in finding answers to their water-related questions and concerns, and getting more involved in water resource management, ML&SA has developed the Michigan Directory of Lake Organizations. This directory allows members to search by a variety of fields, including county, lake, and type of organization.

This directory can be accessed by clicking here or by pasting the following link directly: https://www.mymlsa.org/organization-directory/

This directory is obviously not complete; we are almost certainly missing organizations. We are therefore asking members for their help – please search in your area and look for organizations such as lake associations we might be missing. For every organization you provide, you will be entered to win  a one year subscription to The Michigan Riparian magazine. Winners will be drawn on Labor Day weekend. Please email Alisha Davidson at  alishad@mlswa.org  with new entries and/or feedback on the directory.

Proposed Changes for Large Water Withdrawls

By | News

Submitted by Paul J Sniadecki, ML&SA Board Director

On February 22, 2018, State Rep. Aaron Miller (R-Sturgis MI) introduced MI House Bill 5638 that would allow farms or businesses withdrawing large amounts of Michigan groundwater to bypass the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s (MDEQ) modeling tool currently used to evaluate such proposals. Use of the tool has been a requirement since 2009. Instead, applicants could gain approval by submitting their own expert analyses showing that inland lakes, streams, and fish would not be adversely impacted. Further, if the applicant is a farmer, all of their submitted data and analyses — even how much water they propose to withdraw — would be exempt from disclosure under the Michigan Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) .

There are 24 House Representatives joining Miller in sponsoring HB 5638. If passed, the changes to MCL 324.32706c would shift the MDEQ’s review process for large quantity groundwater withdrawals toward default approval, and further exempt certain data on agricultural water use from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

In Michigan, using water for agricultural irrigation is the largest type of “consumptive” water use. Large irrigation systems consume ground water via evaporation, plant absorption, and run-off, so some or all of the water used is not returned to the local ecosystem.

Some Michigan environmental groups say the legislation is an attempt to dismantle water resource protection. The legislation would, essentially, relegate the DEQ to merely monitoring water use rather than ensuring overuse doesn’t harm the environment. Some have noted the proposed changes include a “rebuttable presumption” that would, essentially, require the DEQ to automatically approve large water withdrawal applications if they come with a hydro-geological analysis. The DEQ would get 10 days to review the analysis and, if there were concerns, would still have to grant a provisional approval. The well owner would then have to measure water levels over two summers before a final approval is considered.

Miller says the goal is to help farmers in Southwest Michigan, where there’s increasing demand for corporate seed crops, to get approval for irrigation wells in areas where there’s already multiple wells. Miller says he only wants to help farmers in his district avoid costly delays in getting water for their crops and livestock, using the best science possible to ensure rivers and streams are protected. The bill was crafted with help from the Michigan Farm Bureau.

On February 28, 2018, the House Natural Resource Committee held the initial hearing for HB 5638. Citizen and industry attendance was high, and it appears as though another hearing will be scheduled. As of March 14, 2018, no further action was taken by Committee.

Riparians interested in large quantity water withdrawals can review the proposed bill posted on the state website, and can contact their Michigan House Representative with links at http://house.michigan.gov/mhrpublic/frmFindaRep.aspx .

(NOTE: Portions of this article were first reported by the DETROIT FREE PRESS and MLIVE-Michigan)

Michigan Lake and Stream Associations Mourns the Loss of our President and Good Friend Dick Morey

By | News

Dick Morey 1By all measures, our dear friend and colleague Richard “Dick” Morey lived a full and meaningful life.

Passing away on the evening of Wednesday, January 31st, Dick’s 79 year purposeful journey came to a peaceful end in the presence of his loving wife Darlene, son Scott, and best friend Jim Sullivan at his Magician Lake home following a courageous yearlong battle with cancer.

To say to say that Dick will be sorely missed by everyone who knew him represents a profound understatement. As amicable and as “down to earth” as anyone could possibly be, Dick’s life was essentially defined by his love and devotion to family and friends, and by a remarkable history of dedicating significant portions of his time, energy, and talents to giving back to his community and working to improve the lives of others. In spite of having lived an extraordinarily productive and accomplishment filled life, our friend Dick always maintained his humble demeanor and held true to the core values and lessons learned as a young man growing up in the southwest Michigan community of Niles.

A member of the Niles High School Class of 1956, Dick resumed his academic career at Michigan State University where he majored in marketing and played trumpet in the Spartan marching band. Graduating in 1961 with a newly minted four year degree, Dick soon began a highly successful twenty six year career as a regional marketing and sales manager for Amoco. Marrying the love of his life Darlene in the fall of 1966, the couple would raise daughter Stacy and son Scott in Saginaw, Michigan and Crete, Illinois, and would move to their lakefront home on Magician Lake in Cass County following his retirement from Amoco.

The opportunity to retire at a relatively young age would offer Dick the chance to pursuit a second rewarding career as a school teacher, coach, golf instructor, and mentor as well as the time to get involved in the Magician Lake Improvement Association where he served as Treasurer for many years. Initially becoming involved with Michigan Lake and Stream Associations in 2004 as a regional representative, Dick would eventually become a member of the Board of Directors. Assuming the Presidency of ML&SA in 2014 following the death of our good friend Sue Vomish, Dick’s unique “never micromanage” leadership style and ability to work with and inspire others played a major role in ML&SA achieving a period defined by peace, prosperity, growth, and stability.

Thank you Dick! Your love, friendship, fun loving spirit, and immense contributions to our organization and to our lives will not be soon forgotten!

Darlene Morey would like everyone to know that a public “celebration of Dick’s life” will be held this spring on an as of yet to be determined date in Dowagiac. We will inform the readers of our monthly newsletter of the exact date, time, and location of the event when it becomes available in the coming weeks.

Research on Starry stonewort Treatment Helps Management Efforts

By | News

Submitted by Paul J. Sniadecki, ML&SA Board Director

On going scientific study in the state of Minnesota has resulted in some key findings for the treatment of starry stonewart. The knowledge gained in Minnesota can be directly applied to the many lakes in Michigan with Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) infestations of starry stonewort. A forthcoming 2018 paper from researchers and their collaborators at the Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Cooperative Research Center (MAISRC) at the University of Minnesota, will help inform starry stonewort management efforts for inland lakes. Researchers found that mechanical and algaecide treatments greatly reduced starry stonewort biomass, but that bulbils – small, star-shaped structures that can regenerate into new  plants – remained viable after treatment. The project consisted of both field and lab work to evaluate the effects of mechanical and algaecide treatments on starry stonewort biomass, bulbil density, and bulbil viability. Researchers examined several areas of Koronis lake that had undergone different treatments, including a channel that was mechanically harvested, an area that was treated only with algaecide, and an area that was first mechanically harvested and then treated with algaecide. The results of each treatment were compared to an untreated reference area. This research was conducted in collaboration with the Koronis Lake Association and Blue Water Science, a lake management firm. Key findings included:

1. The algaecide (chelated copper) treatment on its own significantly reduced starry stonewort biomass, but failed to reduce bulbil density and the capacity of starry stonewort to regenerate via bulbils.

2. Combining the algaecide treatment with mechanical harvesting also significantly reduced starry stonewort biomass, and was associated with lower bulbil viability.

These findings underscore that a multi-pronged approach to starry stonewort control that includes both chemical and mechanical management has potential to improve outcomes. Determining how to prevent the recovery of starry stonewort from bulbils that remained viable after treatment needs further investigation using scientific methods. Applied research on the efficacy of starry stonewort treatment options has been extremely limited; but MAISRC is filling a critical knowledge gap with this work. The paper will soon be published in Lake and Reservoir Management, An International Journal of the North American Lake Management Society This invasive alga has now been found in only eleven (11) Minnesota lakes (compared to the scores of lakes in Michigan) and can grow tall and dense, interfering with recreation and potentially displacing native species. To date, treatment options have been limited and the species has proven difficult to control. Since 2012, the Minnesota Legislature has appropriated significant funds to create the Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Cooperative Research Center (MAISRC) at the University of Minnesota, in collaboration with the Minnesota Commissioner of Natural Resources, MNDNR. (NOTE: Portions of this article originally appeared in the February 2018 Newsletter issued by MAISRC)

The Key to Improving Lake Protections

By | News

By Carol Westfall
Pleasant Lake in Freedom Township, Michigan

Who is my lake representative? Who protects my lake’s interests? Lake property owners often ask these questions and assume the responsibility rests with local officials or their lake association. After almost 10 years of lake living, I now believe there is only one person truly accountable for maintaining lake protections: YOU! Yes, you and your fellow lake residents are the only ones who can fully represent your lake; advocate on behalf of your lake; and bring together lake residents, officials, and other constituents to gather support for lake protections.

I learned the hard way. A few years ago, our lake residents were invited by township officials to provide input into a new Master Plan and Zoning Ordinance but very few lake residents showed any interest. That was our mistake. Later, we were later caught by surprise when some parts of the new zoning ordinance did not reflect our lake’s needs. Changes were made but not without enormous lake resident effort. Learn from our mistakes and help protect your lake’s future. Here are a few tips to get you started.

TIP #1: Regularly attend local planning commission and board meetings. If you’re personally not available recruit a fellow lake resident to attend in your place. Local officials need to know lake residents care about their decisions; that you’re involved and watching everything they do that affects the lake. Get to know your officials now and build relationships with each of them – before you have a lake/water issue. You must help them act in the best interests of your lake.

TIP #2: Educate yourself and the lake residents. Study your local zoning ordinance and determine how each section affects lake properties. Find qualified Michigan zoning and planning experts to serve as your coaches. Take advantage of available resources and training. Example: Contact the MSU Planning and Zoning Center- www.canr.msu.edu/landpolicy/program/planning; 517-432-2222. Even better, get lake residents appointed to the planning commission and committees. Run for office!

TIP #3: Build a coalition of lake residents to support your lake advocacy efforts. When a problem occurs, you will need numbers (officials respond to constituent volume) – letters, emails, phone calls, meeting attendees. Lake advocates can get tagged as “trouble makers”. You will want the support of your fellow lake residents.

TIP #4: Create alliances and media involvement. Get to know your local newspaper editors and writers. Educate them about your lake advocacy efforts and challenges. Invite them to relevant meetings. Most have limited budgets and staff so you must do the leg work — submit articles and pictures to get your message in print and let the public know what’s going on.

The State of Michigan ranks dead LAST in the country for government ethics and transparency (http://www.freep.com/story/news/politics/2015/11/09/michigan-ranks-last-laws-ethics-transparency/75288210/). No Board of Ethics; no State Ombudsman; no place to appeal. Taking your message to the public can often be your best method to gain support for lake protection challenges. Public opinion matters to officials.

TIP #5: Don’t give up! Lake advocacy is not for the timid. Strengthen your lake association and long-term lake protection plans, then stick with your strategy. Adapt as needed when obstacles present themselves. Your persistence will be rewarded and your lake will be the beneficiary.

CONCLUSION

Our lake resident advocacy efforts and enhanced public awareness have yielded tremendous results. We now have an empowered lake resident coalition – residents who are more vocal and visible lake advocates. Zoning updates have improved our lake protections (ie, updated keyhole protections). A Special Assessment District was approved to manage invasive species. And, a lake resident was appointed to the Planning Commission.

We became involved in a water protection conference held in late 2016 at our township hall. It was co-sponsored by Michigan State University, the Huron River Watershed Council, Washtenaw County, and other groups. The highly successful event attracted over 75 participants and included lake residents and township officials from as far as 200 miles away. We have also successfully invited our county representatives, state representative and state senator to speak at annual lake association meetings. Quality speakers and timely topics have drawn the attention of local media and improved attendance and interest in our lake.

Michigan needs lake resident leadership. There’s never been a better time to step forward. Follow the above five tips and you’ll be well on the way to protecting your lake’s future.

*****

The Steadily Increasing High Cost of Michigan’s Failure to Adequately Fund Exotic Aquatic Invasive Species Prevention and Management

By | Blog, News

Recent detections of invasive Didymosphenia geminata, commonly known as didymo or rock snot, New Zealand mudsnails (Potamopyrgus antipodarum), and red swamp crayfish (Procambarus clarkii) represent only the latest successful introductions of an increasing array of exotic aquatic invasive species that are acting to rapidly diminishing the economic, ecological and recreational value of Michigan’s freshwater resources. Nearly a century after the first introductions of aquatic invasive species within the waters of Michigan, we have now entered an era marked by increasing difficulty to identify a single lake, stream, or wetland that is currently not hosting one or more exotic aquatic invasive species. Thousands of once pristine freshwater resources within our state have become living examples of the often extraordinary ability of certain exotic aquatic invasive plant and animal species to degrade or destroy the natural ability of our lakes, streams, and wetlands to support and sustain the myriad of native fish, plants and other important water-borne creatures that exist at the very heart of what most of us view as “Pure Michigan”.

While we continue to be for the commendable efforts of the Governor and state legislature in appropriating resources to fund the creation of the Michigan Invasive Species Grant Program (MISGP), an initiative focused on preventing and managing terrestrial and aquatic invasive species, we would suggest that the steadily increasing scale and severity of the exotic aquatic invasive species fueled ecological crisis occurring in many of our lakes, streams, and wetlands represents a “clear and present danger” to our “blue” economy and to Michigan’s future. Accordingly, we believe that is time for Governor Snyder and our state legislature to finally recognize the severity of Michigan’s exotic aquatic invasive species problem and to significantly increase our state’s investment in exotic aquatic invasive species management initiatives designed to protect the health and future viability of Michigan’s most valuable resources – our inland lakes, streams and wetlands.

The importance of increasing public investment in aquatic invasive species management efforts designed to preserve and protect our immensely valuable inland freshwater ecosystems from an unprecedented and often devastating onslaught of exotic aquatic invasive species cannot be overstated. Our lakes and streams and their associated natural resources such as wetlands represent an important component of Michigan’s ecological, recreational and economic future. Inland lake shoreline property alone, whose immense value is directly related to the presence of healthy aquatic ecosystems, has been conservatively valued at 200 billion dollars, generating 3.5 billion dollars in annual property tax assessments that goes to support hundreds of local units of government, public safety agencies and public school systems. Moreover, water-borne recreational opportunities that directly or in-directly contribute billions of dollars in economic activity to Michigan’s economy like fishing, boating and waterfowl hunting are also dependent upon our ability to protect and maintain the ecological health of our lakes, streams and wetlands. Given their immense economic, ecological and recreational value, we would suggest that the increasing threat posed by aquatic invasive species to the health and viability of our inland lakes, streams and wetlands poses a clear and present danger to Michigan’s economy and to the viability of our future.

Yet, nearly 100 years since the first introductions of aquatic invasive species within Michigan waters, our legislature has failed to enact either adequate levels of funding and/or an effective and sustainable aquatic invasive species management funding mechanism. We define “adequate” funding for the effective management of the aquatic invasive species crisis as the appropriation of state resources necessary to develop, implement and sustain long term research, programs and initiatives designed to: 1) improve the ability of our public and private resource managers and policy makers to predict the likelihood and potential impacts of exotic aquatic invasive species; 2) survey the distribution and ecological impacts of exotic aquatic invasive species currently hosted by our lakes, streams and wetlands; 3) protect Michigan’s freshwater resources from further contamination by exotic invasive species; 4) enable science-based research focused on improving technologies and methods for controlling exotic aquatic invasive species; 5) manage and control the impacts of exotic aquatic invasive species currently residing in our lakes, streams and wetlands.

While Michigan Lake and Stream Associations recognizes that the vast number of inland lakes, streams and wetlands currently hosting one or more often highly aggressive and rapidly propagating exotic aquatic invasive species presents an enormous natural resource management challenge, we would again strongly suggest to our Governor and to our state legislators that failure to adequately fund the management of this on-going ecological crisis places Michigan at high risk of losing one of the components vital to a viable and prosperous future – high quality inland lakes, streams and wetlands.

2018 Great Lakes Conference

By | News, Special Events

2018 Great Lakes Conference

The Great Lakes:

Focusing on the Present, Planning for the Future

Tuesday, March 6, 2018
9:00 AM – 4:00 PM

Kellogg Center
East Lansing, MI

The Great Lakes are one of Michigan’s greatest resources, providing recreational opportunities, a premier fisheries resource, water for agriculture, manufacturing, and other industries and multiple other uses. They are also subject to major problems such as invasive species, climate change, and harmful algal blooms.  This conference will address some of these key topic areas along with highlighting the evolution of coastal dunes, variability in Great Lakes ice cover, autonomous vehicles for underwater monitoring, and using poop-sniffing dogs for beach monitoring.  The cost to attend the conference is $10 in advance or $12 at the door.

The conference, part of Agriculture and Natural Resources (ANR) Week at Michigan State University (MSU) is co-sponsored by MSU’s Department of Fisheries and Wildlife and Institute of Water Research; Michigan Sea Grant Extension, and the Office of the Great Lakes, Michigan Department of  Natural Resources with support from the USGS Water Resources Research Program.

Registration Information

Cost: $10 in advance; $12 after registration closes (Feb. 28)

Register through the conference website or call (517) 353-9222 for further information.

Oakland County Partners with Michigan Clean Water Corps (MiCorps) to Provide Residents with Free Water Quality Training and Equipment

By | News

by Paul J Sniadecki, MLSA Board Director

The following was first reported in the December 28, 2017 edition of  The Daily Tribune,  19176 Hall Road, Clinton Township, MI

The Oakland County Board of Commissioners is partnering with the county’s health division and the Michigan Clean Water Corps (MiCorps) to provide county residents with free training and equipment to monitor lake water quality next summer.

Through the Cooperative Lakes Monitoring Program (CLMP), residents will learn how to take weekly samples and conduct a survey of aquatic invasive species from mid-May through mid-September. All volunteers must have access to a boat. Those interested should attend one of two informational sessions in February and the required training in May.

County Board Chairperson Michael Gingell said the county is excited to partner with the program to provide residents with valuable resources to monitor the health of area lakes. (NOTE: Oakland County has more lakes than any other county in Michigan.) “Together we can help preserve and protect hundreds of lakes across Oakland County for generations to come,” said Gingell.

In August, the county received $200,000 in state grants, federal funds, and beach monitoring supplies from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, the highest amount of any county in the state.

County Commissioner Dave Woodward said the partnership is a win-win for protecting the county’s lakes. He said the program will help to protect the county’s waterways for years to come.

To read the full article posted by The Daily Tribune, follow this link: http://www.dailytribune.com/general-news/20171228/oakland-county-partners-with-michigan-clean-water-corps-to-provide-residents-with-free-water-quality-training-and-equipment

Short Term Rentals, Long Term Consequences

By | An Attorney Writes, News

By Clifford H. Bloom, Esq.
Bloom Sluggett Law PC
Grand Rapids, Michigan
www.bsmlawpc.com

You likely have been hearing quite a bit recently about short-term rentals in Michigan. What is a short-term rental and why does it matter?

There is no specific legal definition of a short-term rental. However, for purposes of the controversy raging regarding short-term rentals throughout Michigan, a short-term rental (“STR”) is typically an otherwise single-family dwelling, cottage, cabin or condominium unit that is rented to someone other than the owner of the dwelling. In most cases, an STR involves only one family or couple renting a dwelling unit at one time. Such rentals can be for such disparate time periods as 30 days, two weeks, one week, a long four-day weekend or even two days. The shorter the rental time period, the more objectionable is the STR to many neighbors and other property owners in the community. Long-term rentals of a dwelling to a single family or couple (for example, a year or longer) are normally not objectionable.

Why do so many neighbors and community members often object to an STR? Typically, there are multiple reasons. First, the rental of a single-family dwelling to a family or couple for relatively short periods of time tends to have a commercial “feel” to such rentals. Long-term rentals to a couple or single family for a particular dwelling tend to have more characteristics of an owner-occupied property. The second objection is what has sometimes been referred to as the “rental car syndrome.” Just as many people tend to treat a rental car with much less caution and care than their own vehicle that may also be the case with regard to short-term tenants. Finally, there is a general perception that an STR lowers the property values for the neighborhood or community involved.

Interestingly enough, until fairly recently, there were few municipal ordinances in Michigan that either regulate or prohibited STRs. Given the increase in the number of dwellings that are being leased for STRs and the rising controversy, an increasing number of municipalities have recently begun adopting STR ordinance provisions. While some municipalities prohibit STRs altogether or put a “cap” on the number allowed in certain areas, most municipalities have chosen to simply regulate STRs by means of registration, general rules and regulations and building or health codes. Typically, where a municipal zoning ordinance does not expressly address STRs, they are considered lawful single-family residential uses, so long as a dwelling is rented to only one family or couple at a time.

Given the increasing controversy regarding STRs, some rental and real estate groups have become alarmed at efforts by local municipalities to regulate or even ban STRs. Hence, legislation has been introduced in the Michigan Legislature to prohibit local municipalities from prohibiting or even significantly regulating STRs. As of the date that this article was written, the two bills involved are SB 329 and HB 4503. If enacted into law, such legislation would “preempt” or preclude local municipal prohibition and even significant regulation of STRs.

Unfortunately, preemption by legislation (i.e., taking away local zoning and ordinance controls over certain matters) is on the increase. Special interest groups have been able to enact legislation in Michigan that severely limits, and in some cases actually prevents, the ability of local governments (i.e., cities, townships, villages and counties) to regulate uses such as mining, intensive farm livestock operations, landfills, foster care group homes, neighborhood daycare operations, oil and gas wells and pipelines and commercial water withdrawals for bottling. Such loss of local control should alarm all property owners and taxpayers.

Why should any of this matter to riparian property owners? If legislation taking away local control of STRs is enacted into law, STRs could flourish in many lake neighborhoods. That could have a negative impact upon area property values, traffic, the intensity of use of waterfront dwellings and even noise levels. If you have any concerns about the proposed preemption legislation, you should contact your local Michigan senator or representative.