Lake communities, organizations can partner to protect lakes

Help is available from local governments and other sources to protect inland lakes from sediment and nutrient pollution, and degradation. It is important to find the right kind of partnership agreement for a community’s needs.

A community has several partnership options for organizing a lake management team— each option has advantages and disadvantages that must be weighed carefully to find the right fit. What works for one lake community may not be the best option for another. Michigan State University Extension wanted to highlight some of the management partnerships a community may use to implement a lake protection program, and provide a brief description for each.

  • Lake Association. An organization made up of property owners living on the lake and sometimes others with a recreational interest in the lake. The association serves the important role of being at the foundational level of community interest. It would be difficult to implement a lake management program without a good, functional lake association.
  • Informal Partnerships. Informal partnerships with stakeholders, such as fishing clubs, environmental groups and local agencies, can increase program support, provide additional resources and increase the program’s influence. Partnerships with groups that have the resources for and history of watershed management can increase the potential to obtain grants from governmental agencies and private foundations.
  • Township Public Works. Townships can support lake management under the Township Public Works Act (Public Act 188 of 1954). A lake management program may be initiated through a resolution by the township board or in response to a petition from residents in the community. The township prepares a plan with cost estimates and then schedules a public hearing to receive comments on the plan and special assessment district. If the community supports the plan, the township board solicits bids and awards contracts to complete the project.
  • County Public Works. The County Board of Public Works can help initiate a lake management program under the authority of Public Act 185 of 1957. The board can undertake many types of projects, for example installing sanitary sewers. Projects are usually initiated by the property owners who petition the township for assistance. The township passes a resolution requesting a project through the Board of Public Works. After project details are developed, the board holds public hearings for the project and the assessment district. If the community supports the project, bids are mailed out and contracts are signed.
  • Lake Improvement Boards. Lake Improvement Boards are local governmental boards authorized by Public Act 451 of 1994, Part 308. The board’s membership includes a county commissioner, two township representatives, the county drain or water resources commissioner, and a citizen who owns property on the lake. A board may be initiated by the local government or in response to a petition from property owners. The board hires an engineer to prepare a report with recommendations, an estimate of cost and a proposed special assessment district. The board holds public hearings to determine if the community supports the program and assessment district. If the community approves, the board advertises for bids and signs contracts.
  • Watershed Councils. Watershed councils are informal nonprofit corporations usually established by local governments. Some are established under the authority of Public Act 451 of 1994, Part 311. They have limited authority to undertake a lake protection program, but councils do bring together local governmental and nonprofit organizations in a partnership in order to undertake management projects. They are knowledgeable regarding watershed land management and have access to available local and state resources, legal tools and funding sources.

To learn more about options for organizing a lake management team including the pros and cons for each partnership option, review or download the publication, “Lake Management in Michigan with a Lake Improvement Board” available on the Michigan Chapter of the North American Lake Management Society website.

Additional information on this topic can also be found at the Michigan Lake and Stream Association website.

For more information on protecting inland lakes, see part 1 of this series, Bountiful inland lakes make Michigan a proverbial water wonderland, but they need protection.

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