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Residents to Bear Larger Cost of Budd Lake’s Health

PLM Representative Lays Out Treatment, Aeration Actions, Results

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HARRISON – Only three of the five Budd Lake Improvement Board members were present at the board’s Aug. 29 meeting: Carl Parks, drain commissioner and BLIB secretary; Bill Bishop, waterfront representative; and Connie Cauchi, City of Harrison representative. Absent were Robert Buckley, township representative, and Jeff Haskell, county commissioner.

The meeting began with introduction of board members, followed by presentation of the overall budget for 2020-2024. Projected costs included: $25,000 for plant control; $13,000 for native plant control; $1,100 for electric costs and spring installation of aerators; $10,000 for muck pellets; $6,000 for permit fees and management services; and $5,510 administrative and contingency – all totaling $60,610. [The previous budget cap was $53,000.]

This meeting offered information about the proposed lake treatment program, as well as a hearing on the practicability and confirmation of a proposed special assessment tax roll – the assessment being designated for the weed control/monitoring contract. Parks read out the new Budd Lake Improvement Assessment rates as: Waterfront residents $200 [up from $150], each additional lot $100; waterfront commercial $382.70, each additional lot $191.35; back lot residential $100, each additional lot $50; back lot commercial $191.60, each additional lot $95.80; plus assessments for condos with waterfronts 1-14 and back lots of units 15-26.

Casey Shoaff of PLM Lake and Land Management Corp. presented on the ongoing treatment of the lake and what PLM recommends going forward. He said there are five main goals, among them exotic species control, while noting the presence in Budd Lake of Eurasian milfoil which is a main focus of spring treatments. Shoaff also spoke of the need for maintaining healthy native plants to ensure good fish habitat, as well as the need to control against overgrowth.

“We want to keep a health ecosystem for fish and wildlife,” Shoaff said. He added that algae control is another one of PLM’s goals, along with maintaining property values throughout the lake.

“The main native issue on Budd Lake that we’ve been asked to treat is wild celery,” Shoaff said. “It looks like a grass that lifts up from the bottom. It’s very shallow-rooted; boat traffic releases the roots so it floats out through the lake and it can wash up on your shore.”

He said the wild celery is treated only twice during the year, because the Department of Environmental Quality only allows PLM to suppress its growth, rather than kill it.

“You might see us out there spraying purple solution,” Shoaff said. “That’s what we use to treat it, and that’s one big cost that we have for weed control. No. 1 is the aeration system, and last year we had the DEQ ask us to do extensive testing for water quality, how it’s affecting the lake, etc. So, $4,000 a year has to be devoted to quality testing in the two southern basins to be able to run the aeration system.”

The funds for additional DEQ-required testing were not in the budget when it was established five years ago, thus the need for a budget increase. He added that PLM’s recommended plan for the lake includes: regularly surveying the lake; water quality testing to monitor nutrient loading or abnormal things entering the lake; continued exotic species control and native control as needed; continued muck pellet treatments in the southern basins; and the aeration system on the western side of the lake.

Shoaff also said PLM wants to incorporate new products into exotic species management, necessitated by the plants’ naturally acquired resistance to herbicides, comparable to when infections become resistant to antibiotics.

The question and answer period that followed raised concerns regarding the ecological health of the lake. One attendee noted an absence frogs, turtles and snakes, saying he believed the pesticides contributed to that.

When Shoaff assured that the chemicals had gone through years of testing with the EPA and DEQ [testing repeated every 10 years] and were deemed safe for aquatic life, the questioner cited the example of Roundup initially having been thought to be safe. Another lake resident described seeing lots of those critters [crayfish, clams/mussels, etc.], saying she had no such concern.

As to the ability of the chemicals to linger, Shoaff said the half-life of the herbicides is short and they should be out of the lake system in about a week.

Comments also were made regarding all the organic debris that washes up on shore, notably leaves. One resident said she rakes up and hauls out 15 truckloads of washed-up leaves/weeds in the spring to deposit at the city’s compost site. And despite agreement that the state park is a large contributor to that debris, there also was agreement that resident cleanup is simply part of “living the lake life.”

While the majority view was that residents had no problem with the idea of paying to maintain the health of the lake, the question was also raised as to why a portion of that cost could not be met through “use fees” from the abundant non-resident users of the lake.

Parks explained that the public access areas were laid out long ago, and that it was set up following an act from Lansing. He also noted that the simple logistics of collecting fees from visitors would be unmanageable.

However, despite the responsible maintenance and monitoring being supported by residents, the simple fact is that they do not own that body of water, as is explained in this excerpt taken from the State of Michigan’s Public Rights of Michigan Waters: “Under the law of this state, although the riparian owner on an inland lake or stream owns the soil under the water he does not own the navigable water and he does not own the fish … in contrast, the title to bottomlands of the Great Lakes is held in trust by the State of Michigan.”

As such, state residents are allowed by law to enjoy the recreational use/fishing of these waters. Thus, it could be deduced that the public access sites were laid out to be a benefit to residents in that they concentrate access, helping to prevent random trespass/invasion of privacy.

Some present questioned the authority of the board to make monetary decisions regarding the lake without a vote of the public, but it was pointed out that, much like any other governmental body, it is the board’s duty to make such decisions.

“I guess the bottom line is, what do you want for your lake?” Parks said. “If the money’s not there, then they cut things out. It could be weed spraying, aeration, muck pellets – it’s up to you guys what you want for your lake.”

“We never had to pay for this [water quality] testing before,” Cauchi said. “They [DEQ] keep adding on every year, so that’s why it’s getting to a point where we’ll have to find out if it’s working, if we like the results, and if we want to pay for it.”

After taking a “show of hands” opinion poll on the increased assessment [with only two opposed], Parks read aloud the proposed resolution. The three board members then voted unanimously to adopt the resolution to move forward with the proposed 5-year Budd Lake improvement program with a maximum annual budget of $60,610.

Parks then opened the confirmation of special assessment roll hearing, allowing attendees to come forward and learn what their individual assessment amounts would be.

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