FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 6, 2021
Nick Assendelft, Public Information Officer, AssendelftN@Michigan.gov, 517-388-3135
Gov. Whitmer proclaims July Lakes Appreciation Month
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has designated July as Lakes Appreciation Month, highlighting a resource that fuels Michigan’s economy, is the source of drinking water for millions, draws tourists from around the world and offers countless opportunities for recreation.
“Michiganders are blessed with an abundance of natural water resources, namely our awesome Great Lakes and over 11,000 inland lakes. We have a duty to protect and preserve these precious resources as well as our wetlands, rivers and groundwater for future generations,” said Gov. Whitmer. “Ending sewer overflows, fixing failing septic systems, cleaning up contaminated sites and planning for the effects of climate change are critical to a clean and healthy future for our lakes. We must work together to protect our treasured water resources and do everything we can to ensure they are here for Michiganders to enjoy centuries from now, just as we enjoy them today.”
While there are many challenges facing Michigan’s lakes and connected waterways, aging infrastructure and the effects of climate change are two highly important issues that require increased awareness during Lakes Appreciation Month and the months to come.
The Governor’s MI Healthy Climate Plan creates a roadmap to a carbon neutral economy by 2050 that will also protect the state’s natural resources, including lakes. The Governor’s MI Clean Water Plan is a $500 million investment in infrastructure from source to tap that will make for cleaner, more affordable water. Nearly $3 million under the plan will help communities develop, update and improve their wastewater and stormwater plans, keeping pollutants out of Michigan’s lakes and rivers.
Protecting water resources is part of the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy’s (EGLE) mission and the department is leading the development and implementation of the MI Healthy Climate Plan and the MI Clean Water Plan.
EGLE’s Water Resources Division protects and monitors Michigan’s waters by establishing water quality standards, assessing the health of aquatic communities, encouraging natural shoreline practices, regulating wastewater discharges and overseeing aquatic invasive species concerns and water withdrawals. EGLE’s Office of the Great Lakes oversees Great Lakes water policy and strategy implementation as well as representing the state at national forums regarding the Great Lakes.
To learn more about Michigan’s lakes or how to help keep them healthy, consult these resources:
- OGL’s State of the Great Lakes 2020 Report.
- Impacts of Great Lakes high water levels.
- Coastal Zone Management Program.
- Council on Climate Solutions.
- Lakes and beach water quality monitoring.
- MiCorps volunteer lakes and rivers monitoring program.
- Michigan Shoreland Stewards program.
- Great Lakes Areas of Concerns legacy contamination restoration.
- Michigan Aquatic Invasive Species cooperative.
- Clean Water State Revolving Fund.
- Nonpoint source pollution grants.
- Shorelands Management Program.
- Great Lakes Coordination Program.
- Shoreline Protection information and resources.
- BeachGuard Monitoring System.
# # #
Representing a precedent setting action that will likely result in a dramatic reduction in the number of inadvertent introductions of exotic aquatic animal, plant, and algae species that occur in North America over the course of the next decade, the Canadian Ministry of Transport recently announced new ballast water regulations that will apply to vessels navigating the waters of Canada as well as to Canadian vessels operating anywhere in the world. Canada’s newly promulgated ballast water regulations include “lakers” – vessels that navigate only from port-to-port within the Laurentian Great Lakes.
Observing that “coasts and waterways are vital to our environment, livelihoods, and economy, and must be protected”, Minister of Transport Omar Alghabra stated that new ballast water regulations would require companies that own and operate vessels on Canadian waters to take action to significantly reduce the number of new exotic aquatic invasive species introductions by installing updated ballast water management systems, by increasing the frequency of ballast water management system inspections, and by enhancing the requirement to create and maintain records pertaining to ballast water system inspections, maintenance, surveys, and system certifications.
In announcing implementation of what the maritime and Great Lakes shipping industry views as strict, and expensive to implement ballast water regulations, the Canadian Ministry of Transport revealed that the decision to require the installation of modern ballast water system technology is supported by studies that indicate the action will result in reducing the number of exotic aquatic species that are introduced to Canadian maritime and Great Lakes ports by as much as 82%. It is important to point out that ballast water that is not treated before it is taken on-board in order to help keep vessels stable in turbulent waters can accidentally lead to the introduction and spread of exotic aquatic invasive species. Well known examples of ballast water enabled introductions of exotic species within the Laurentian Great Lakes region include now widespread species such as Eurasian water milfoil, quagga and zebra mussels, spiny water flea, and starry stonewort. The introduction and spread of exotic aquatic plant, animal, and algae species are now well known to be capable of rendering severe, long term negative impacts on native freshwater ecosystems, local fisheries, beaches, and critical infrastructure such as hydro-electric dams.
While conservation focused organizations such as the Chicago-based Alliance for the Great Lakes are “excited to see Canada decide to regulate lakers which can move aquatic invasive species from lake-to-lake”, United States-based Great Lakes shipping firms as represented by the Lake Carriers Association have suggested that the new Canadian regulations regarding the use and release of ballast water are “unfair, excessively expensive, and designed to undermine competition in the business of ferrying goods across the world’s largest collection of freshwater lakes.” In response to Lake Carriers Association concerns, the United State Federal Maritime Commission recently launched a formal investigation into Canada’s intent to change the rules that govern an important aspect of shipping on the Great Lakes. The complexity of the issue is compounded by the fact that United States Environmental Protection Agency regulations effectively exempt “lakers” from the need to treat ballast water, only requiring ocean-going vessels to manage ballast water.
Readers of this newsletter still have an opportunity to contact their respective State Representatives and Senators in order to express their opposition or support for controversial legislation that is pending further action in Michigan’s state legislature.
Legislation introduced in both the Michigan Senate and House of Representatives would act to effectively strip local units of governments of the ability to regulate short-term rentals within their respective communities. Introduced by Representative Sarah Lightner, R-Springport, and Senator Aric Nesbitt, R-Lawton, House Bill 4722 and Senate Bill 446 would act to amend the Michigan Zoning Enabling Act to allow short-term rentals to be zoned as residential-use without the need to obtain a special-use permit from the local planning and zoning commission. The legislation would, however, allow local units of governments to maintain their capacity to regulate short-term rentals in regards, for example, to establishing the maximum number of occupants that would be permitted within a particular residence.
Sponsored by Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich, D-Flint, if passed into law, this legislation would effectively end the ability of local units of government to approve or disapprove permits for gravel and sand mining operations within their jurisdictions. Passed in the Senate by a narrow margin in early June, Senate Bills 429, 430, and 431 would act in unison to transfer the sole authority to issue permits for sand and gravel mining operations to the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy. Comparable legislation introduced in the Michigan House of Representative as House Bill 5979 has not yet received a vote.
To find your Michigan Representative, click here
To find your State Senator, click here