Healthy lakes, rivers and streams are vital to Michigan tourism.
Dozens of northern Michigan government authorities and residents recently attended the “Local Government and Watershed Protection Forum” held in Central Lake.
The issues discussed included invasive species and natural shorelines in addition to the Three Lakes Association Fish Shelter Project and the Grass River Sedimentation Project.
Those attending the program included representatives from lake associations, county and local governments, and non-profit organizations.
Joe Meyers, Antrim County Planner and emcee of the program, began by introducing Peg Comfort of the Michigan Audubon’s Loon Network.
Comfort said that volunteers from the Loon Network have been doing a pilot project on the Elk River Chain of Lakes watershed, working with Common Coast Research of Escanaba to band and study loons.
They have found that there are more nesting loons in the Elk River watershed than any other watershed in Michigan. Half of the lakes in the watershed have nesting loons.
Next, Sarah U’Ren of the non-profit Watershed Center of Grand Traverse Bay discussed “Watershed 101.”
U-Ren defined a watershed as an area which drains to a common point. For example, the Jordan River Watershed is the area which drains into the Jordan River.
The top pollutants in the Grand Traverse Watershed are bay and watershed nutrient sediment and invasive species, which have recently become a bigger issue in the smaller lakes in the watershed,
Bay and nutrient sediment is caused by stormwater, septic road streams, stream bank erosion, loss of wetlands, and a lack of buffers to reduce residential fertilizer use.
Too many nutrients in our lawns and gardens run off into the lake. They can cause too much plant and algae growth. As excess plants decompose, they suck oxygen from the water and affect the fish.
Implementation tasks to protect the watershed are outlined in the Grant Traverse Bay Watershed Plan.
Invasive species in our waters
Invasive species was the next topic discussed by Becky Norris and Leslie Meyers of the Three Lakes Association and Sharon Vreeland of Acme Township.
Invasive species are plants or creatures which are brought in from other areas. They compete with native species, and adversely affect the native plants, fish and water quality.
One invasive plant affecting local watersheds includes Eurasian Watermilfoil, which competes with native milfoil. Lakes which have areas of the invasive milfoil include Six Mile Lake, Hanley Lake, Clam River, Torch Lake and Lake Michigan (Elk Rapids Harbor).
Residents can help reduce invasive milfoil by checking boats and trailers, and discarding bait and bilge water. It would also be helpful to have educational signs and boat washing stations at area launches.
Three Lakes Association is attempting to battle invasive milfoil, and is planning an herbicide treatment this spring at Alden Harbor and Butch’s.
Invasive phragmites was the second invasive species discussed. This plant is a problem in Acme Township, and in 2009 a phragmites survey was done.
After treating the phagmites with a chemical described as an “aquatically approved Roundup,” progress has been made each year in Acme.
Vreeland suggested that if a township has a phragmites problem, officials should start with the landowners involved. Acme Township has an ordinance in place, but they prefer to work with residents by educating them and asking for voluntary participation.
Purple loosestrife was the third invasive plant discussed. It has medicinal purposes, and was brought in from Eurasia.
The invasive purple loosestrife spreads rapidly in wetlands, marshes and waterways. A single plant can produce 2.5 million seeds.
To battle loosestrife, one can use chemicals, mechanical means, harvesting or biological warfare
Purple loosestrife was a problem a few years ago in downstate Michigan, where they successful used biological warfare including a certain beetle.
More information can be found on the Three Lakes Association website, http://3lakes.com/
The subject of natural shorelines was discussed next by Jan Gelb from Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council , Diane Crandall from Bloomin’ Buddies, and Heidi Schafer of the Antrim Conservation District.
Urbanizing shorelines is becoming a problem for the quality of lakes, as people are planting sod all the way to the lake, and also hardening the shores with unnatural barriers or seawalls.
These hardened shorelines are damaging to the soil, and cause sedimentation issues. They degrade the fish and wildlife habitats and cause shoreline erosion, pollution and excessive plant growth.
Shrubs, trees and other plants on the shoreline offer much better lake and wildlife protection than a green lawn.
Native plants near the water create a system which mimics naturally stable shorelines. Many native plants have very extensive root systems, and bind the shoreline to prevent erosion.
It is important to choose plants according to their roots and needs for moisture. For example, many native shoreline plants require constant moisture, while others prefer to be planted upland.
Bioengineering on high energy lakes is different from the erosion control used downstate and in smaller quiet lakes. Crooked Lake is one of the first projects to use “coconut logs,” which reduce the erosive power of the waves on the shoreline. A book about this type of erosion control is available to be downloaded on the Tip of the Mitt website.
The typical natural shoreline cross-section is best for “high energy” lakes. This shoreline protection includes a variety of rock sizes built on a 3:1 slope. The finer rocks are put on the bottom as a filtering base layer.
Click here to read about the second half of the watershed presentation, including the Fish Shelter Project and Grass River Sedimentation Project.