NEWS

More Efforts to Enable Short-Term Rentals

October 10, 2019 17:25

By Paul J Sniadecki, MLSA Board Director

(Significant portions of this article first appeared in media issued by the Michigan Townships Association, MTA)

Short-term and vacation rentals are nothing new along Michigan’s picturesque lakeshores and lush forests. But in recent years, rental homes/rooms are increasing in areas where year-round residents live, especially on larger inland lakes. The areas are zoned for “residential use”, but some property owners are not using their homes in a “residential” manner.   A growing number of people are using Airbnb.com and other online services to rent houses, condos or even a single room in their lake home. The result is riparian homeowners are now living side by side with short-term renters on vacation. While not the case in all situations, this has negatively impacted the quality of life of some riparian residents due to noise, late-night parties, parking and other disturbances.

As local units of government have crafted ordinances that best suit their residents, both the real estate and rental industries have pushed for state level legislation to preempt local regulations and zoning. Current Bill  HB 4046, sponsored by Rep. Jason Sheppard (R-Bedford Twp.), tackles this issue by effectively stripping local townships, cities and villages,  of their authority to regulate the location (zoning) of vacation and short-term rentals of 28 days or less.

In recent weeks another Bill, under primary sponsor Rep. Jim Lilly (R-Park Twp.) proposed what’s called the “Michigan Short-Term Rental Promotion Act” as an alternative approach. Under HB 4554, the primary bill in the package, all short-term rentals of no more than 30 consecutive days would be required to register their property with the state. The bill clarifies that personal information, such as the street address and owner’s name, is exempt from the Freedom of Information Act. Additionally, the bill states that local units cannot have any zoning ordinance that effectively prohibits short term rentals in compliance with the Michigan Zoning Enabling Act. The bill would require anyone who owns a short-term rental to carry $1 million in liability insurance, either on their own or through their hosting platform, such as Airbnb. The owner must also pay all taxes and assessments required by law. Any owner who violated the act would be subject to a fine of as much as $15,000.

HB 4554 would also create a work-group of stakeholders, including local units, the tourism industry and real estate professionals. The group would be tasked with assisting the state Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) with developing best practices and model short-term rental zoning.

The issue of state level regulation of short-term rentals has been around for a few years.  To date, no action has been taken by the Michigan Legislature. However, 2019 could be different.  Riparians are encouraged to exercise their right to contact their elected representatives to share their support, or opposition, to the current Bills pending in Lansing.



Glacial Lakes Map and Assessment Tool Now Available

October 10, 2019 17:22

By Paul J Sniadecki, MLSA Board Director

The Midwest Glacial Lakes Partnership (MGLP) has released its new MGLP Conservation Planner, which provides lake data to inform communication, management, and research to benefit fish habitat and lake ecosystems. Specifically, the MGLP Conservation Planner provides data on likely suitability for fishes, land cover along the shoreline and in the lake’s watershed, and conservation recommendations to supplement existing information for each lake. Its recommended uses include provision of data to inform single-lake management, establishment of a framework for conservation strategies in each lake, identification of patterns in fish habitat due to climate and land use change, and as a supplement during potential prioritization of limited resources among lakes. 

The MGLP Conservation Planner provides data on the  approximately 40,000 inland lakes over 10 acres in size, within the Midwest Glacial Lakes Partnership’s 8-state footprint, which includes Michigan’s Lakes. The assessment tool is the culmination of a ten-year effort by scientists and managers within the partnership. The Science and Data Team collected data from state, federal, and tribal partners to conduct its fish habitat analyses, and developed the Conservation Planner based on these results.

This writer viewed the data for his home lake in Southwest Michigan by accessing : http://ifrshiny.seas.umich.edu/mglp/  or  http://midwestglaciallakes.org/  The assessment tool was highly accurate for my lake.You might want to check your lake.



EGLE Progress on 1st Year of the AIS Grant Fund Program

October 10, 2019 17:21

By Paul J Sniadecki, MLSA Board Director

Sarah LeSage, Aquatic Biologist, EGLE,  attended the 2019 Conference and announced the progress made by the DEQ/ELGE implementing the 1st Year of the AIS Eradication and Control Fund created by legislation in late 2018. 

Ms. LeSage reports $100,000 has been allocated to the grants fund in 2019.  Grants will be awarded to properly qualified and formed Lake Associations, Home Owner Associations, and Municipalities.  The 1st year grants will be available only to pay for any Aquatic DEQ/ELGE permit required for treatment in 2019. 

Ms. Lesage anticipates applications will be available for release on June 1, 2019, with successful applicants notified by September 1, 2019.  Since the program roll-out continues to be developed, interested riparians are encouraged to keep current on the program by visiting: www.Michigan.gov/invasives and click on the “GRANTS” tab/hyperlink.



DNR Suggests Pilot “Sampling” Program

October 10, 2019 17:20

By Paul J Sniadecki, MLSA Board Director

Ron Olson, Chief, Parks and Recreation Division, MI DNR, (the Division responsible and accountable for the proliferation and maintenance of Michigan’s Boating Access Sites) was a co-presenter for the 2019 conference break-out session on “AIS – State Actions and Joint Efforts.” In his remarks, Mr Olson stated the DNR would pilot a program in 2019 to do “AIS sampling at selected state access sites” in order to develop “baseline data on AIS Presence.” The projected outcome of the pilot program appears to be intended  to “inform discussion on feasibility of future detection and response efforts.” Due to time constraints, no in-depth material about the “sampling” was provided.

While any field research done by the DNR is most likely valuable, the “design and execution” of the pilot sampling should be fully explored.  Questions like:

  • What criteria will be used to select sites for “sampling”?
  • Will BAS locations frequented by boaters from Illinois, Indiana, Ohio be fully included?
  • What inspection protocols and training will the field employees receive prior to inspecting?
  • Will sampling inspections take place at peak entry and egress times, or only when convenient?

More than several states have mandatory AIS inspections of watercraft, as well as stringent AIS programs and laws.  Idaho and Montana have had their programs in place for years, and heavily advertise their AIS inspection programs. In fact, one cannot travel into those states in a vehicle without being notified of their AIS laws through road signs and roadside inspection stations.  (NOTE: Michigan currently only posts signs at its borders notifying it is Michigan law to pull over, slow down, and yield to emergency vehicles.)

Both Idaho and Montana release the results of their mandatory watercraft inspections.  In 2018, Montana performed 100,282 inspections for AIS, and found 788 contaminated/infected watercraft.  In 2019 through the end of April, Idaho, performed 6,341 mandatory inspections, finding 13 AIS contaminated/infected watercraft. 

Will the Michigan DNR “sampling” pilot yield similar results?  More or less? It depends. It also appears it will depend on the design and execution of the “sampling” program.



Invaders are Here…Watchlist Species are Among Us

October 10, 2019 17:18

By Paul J Sniadecki, MLSA Board Director

For a few decades, Michigan has prepared a Statement Management Plan (SMP) for Invasive Species.  For years the SMP has had a “Watch List” for Invasive Species not yet found in Michigan. The point being we do not want those invasives in Michigan and significant effort should be made to keep them from invading our state.  The list was developed based on the observed/documented significant damage such species have caused in other states where they have taken hold.  

The Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) on the Michigan Watch List are: Parrot Feather Watermilfoil, European Frog-bit, Yellow Floating Heart, Water Hyacinth, European Water Clover, Water Lettuce, Water Chestnut, Hydrilla, Water Soldier, and Brazilian Elodea.  Unfortunately, some of the AIS Watch List species have invaded Michigan and the Watch List species are among us….in our lakes, streams, rivers, and ponds. 

In April 2019, the DEQ/EGLE, DNR, and MDARD, issued their “2018 Summary of Michigan’s AIS Early Detection & Response Initiative” brochure showing that 6 of the 10 Watch List AIS species have been found in Michigan water bodies around the state.  The brochure also provides a brief description of the rapid response the State led Early Detection Response (EDR) Team is taking to control the infestations/contaminations of: Parrot Feather, Watermilfoil, European Frog-bit, Yellow Floating Heart, Water Hyacinth, European Water Clover, and Water Lettuce.  For more information: http://arcg.is/1jKCXy



MDEQ Becomes EGLE

October 10, 2019 17:16

Gov. Whitmer signed Executive Order 2019-06 on February 20, 2019, creating the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy. The Executive Order took effect on Monday, April 22, 60-days after its submission to the Legislature.

Under the Executive Order, MDEQ reorganizes as EGLE and assumes many activities of the Michigan Agency for Energy through the creation of the new Office of Climate and Energy within EGLE. The Office of the Great Lakes also moves from the Department of Natural Resources into EGLE.

Other notable changes under the reorganization include the creation of an Interagency Environmental Justice Response Team, which will assist in developing, implementing, and regularly updating a statewide environmental justice plan. The creation of an Environmental Justice Public Advocate position who will accept and investigate complaints and concerns related to environmental justice in Michigan. An Office of the Clean Water Public Advocate is also created to accept and investigate complaints and concerns relating to drinking water quality.

ELGE Director Liesl Clark stated, “The 1,200 people from MDEQ, the Office of the Great Lakes, and Michigan Agency for Energy stand united around a common purpose of protecting the state and its resources, including Michigan’s most important resource, its people.” Clark said, “EGLE’s shared mission will be built on a common foundation of protecting and conserving Michigan’s treasured resources and contributing to healthy and vibrant communities throughout the state.”



A Success – 2019 MLSA Conference

October 10, 2019 17:15

By Paul J Sniadecki, MLSA Director

Traveling from all parts of Michigan, and as far away as Texas and South Carolina, 318 people made their way to the Crystal Mountain resort to experience the 58th Annual MLSA Conference. 

President Mike Gallagher and Vice President John Wilks opened the Friday May 3 General Session to a standing room only assembly. MI Governor Gretchen Whitmer also welcomed participants via an exclusive digital video.  The Governor also thanked riparians for the work they do to protect Michigan’s surface water.

Keynote Speaker Dr Alan Steinman, Director, Annis Water Institute, Grand Valley State University then energized the conference with his concept of managing Michigan’s water resources on both the individual watershed and macro-area watersheds basis. Dr Steinman’s presentation provided the basis for the many following break-out sessions focused on innovative lake stewardship. 

Over 90% of the attendees welcomed the Friday evening changes, which featured elimination of the banquet, in favor of snacks followed by heavy Hors D’oeuvres (really a buffet), expanded cash bar time, and three hours to visit exhibitors and network with fellow riparians. Everyone also enjoyed the new Saturday morning “Breakfast with Cliff Bloom, Riparian Law Expert” opportunity to learn the most recent developments in Riparian Law.

MLSA experimented with Digital Video Recording of several break-out sessions and collected many PDF copies of the presentations.  Access to these resources will be limited to conference registrants, as well as to Lake Association, Organization/Corporation, and Individual MLSA Members in good standing.  More details on access will be available in the future.

A future article in THE MICHIGAN RIPARIAN magazine will provide more in-depth coverage of the 2019 MLSA Conference proceedings.



State House Bill Causes Uproar from Boaters

October 10, 2019 17:13

By Paul J. Sniadecki, Board Director

A state House bill dealing with public access times for inland lakes has caused an uproar among Michigan boaters and anglers.

House Bill 4362 as currently written states public boating access to inland lakes would be “limited to between the hours of 8 a.m. and sunset” for all vessels. The legislation is sponsored by Reps. Jason Sheppard, R-Temperance, and David LaGrand, D-Grand Rapids.

Representative Sheppard said his intent with the bill was to expand public access to inland lakes where local hours are currently in place, citing an example of Tee Lake in Lewiston, Mich., where high-speed boating, water skiing and other activities that cause wakes are limited to between 10 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. He said he was concerned that some Michigan inland lakes’ hours are out-of-date and should be updated.

The proposed bill has caused major concerns from groups and riparians from around the state.  That has forced Sheppard to reconsider his bill. Sheppard said he’s working on fixing the language in his bill to spell out exactly what he wants to accomplish, adding that he isn’t trying to restrict public access to inland lakes.

MLSA will continue to monitor this proposed bill to ensure Riparian Rights are protected.  Future newsletters will provide updates.



MLSA Officers Attend 2020 State Budget Meeting with Governor Whitmer

October 10, 2019 17:12

by Paul J. Sniadecki, MLSA Board Director

On April 5, 2019, President Mike Gallagher, and Director Paul J Sniadecki, traveled to Lansing to meet with Governor Whitmer and her staff to learn about the 2020 proposed operating budget.  We were joined by several other non-profit group representatives. The Governor presented info on a “macro scale”, while all attendees were there looking for “micro-level” type specifics in the proposed budget. The Governor was direct in speaking about the necessity of implementing her 2020 budget, which would free up General Fund dollars in later years to support funding of the programs needed by attendees at the meeting. 

The Governor’s proposed 2020 budget (called the “ROAD TO OPPORTUNITY”) is designed to: Start Fixing the Roads, Providing Better Funding for Education, and Ensuring Safe Drinking Water in 2020.  While MLSA has not taken a position relative to the merits of the proposed 2020 budget, we do encourage all “riparian minded” voters to fully review the Governor’s Proposed 2020 budget and its impact on the future.  Then, contact your elected officials with your views so they vote to represent your concerns.

While in the Govermor’s meeting, MLSA was able to get our “funding request” position paper into the hands of the Deputy State Budget Director.  Since “timing” is an issue for all spending appropriations in Michigan, it appears our funding request position paper might not receive full consideration until the 2021 budget process.  However, MLSA remains hopeful that some consideration will be achieved in the Legislative Sub-Committee process for 2020. 

(NOTE:  The MLSA funding request was for permanent resourses for the CLMP Program, $1,000,000 for the new AIS Eradication and Control Fund, and Support for the WaterWays Commission proposal to require all watercraft to purcahse and display AIS Fund Stickers, as other progressive states already require).



Report from Starry Stonewort and MWA Meeting

October 10, 2019 17:06

By Nancy and John Wilks, MLSA Vice President

A large crowd of riparians, professional lake managers and state government employees met in Lansing on March 15 to hear expert presentations on the biology and management of invasive starry stonewort (Nitellopsis obtusa).  Starry stonewort has the appearance of a rooted aquatic plant, but actually is a macro algae. Although native to northern Europe and Asia where it reproduces both sexually and asexually, the exotic invasive population of starry stonewort in North America contains only male plants and reproduces asexually from fragments or its star-shaped bulbils.  Studies on the habitat requirements for starry stonewort in the US indicate cool water, lakes rich in calcium carbonate and good water clarity are necessary; starry stonewort is a “sentinel” species in marl lakes having a water quality classification status of oligo-mesotrophic/ mesotrophic. 

Michigan sits at the center of the known geographic distribution for starry stonewort in the US, explaining why our state has more infestations of starry stonewort than other states.  Starry stonewort was first found in the Detroit River in 1983, but rapidly spread by boating in the past decade to over 400 lakes in 43 counties in the bottom two-thirds of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula.

Starry stonewort may form dense, impenetrable beds of growth many feet thick in the littoral zone of lakes.  These infestations impede boating and other recreational activity requiring control of this macro algae. This heavy growth of starry stonewort also reduces the diversity of native aquatic plant species in the infected lake.  Copper-based algaecides inhibit the growth of starry stonewort, and these in combination with an herbicide such as flumioxazin can provide more effective control. Mechanical harvesting and other methods of physical removal are partially effective.  The treatment program needs to be tailor-made for each lake depending on the location and extent of the infestation, the presence of native species and the goals of the lake residents. 

Examples of successful control were reported for individual lakes with continuing annual treatments.  The proportion of the invasive aquatic species funds directed at control of starry stonewort for individual lakes tends to increase up to about 30% with successive years of treatment.  The rigor of starry stonewort growth in a lake may vary from year to year depending on changes in the climate.



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