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Michigan Waterways Commission Takes Bold Action

By April 10, 2018 No Comments

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.”