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Scott Brown

Protect Your Lake’s Fish and Water Clarity by Slowing Your Watercraft in Shallow Waters

by Scott Brown

Occurring in response to gradually warming waters that reach 55° F (12.7° C), and increasing periods of daylight that occur with the onset of spring, the male of most members of Family Centrarchidae species, including bluegill, red ear sunfish, white and black crappie, and largemouth bass create spawning nests by utilizing their caudal fin to form deep circular depressions in the substrate. Male and females of the particular species then engage in a courtship dancing ritual that (hopefully) leads to the female depositing her eggs into the nest that the male has created.

It is important to point out that while the role of the female is restricted to depositing eggs, in addition to fertilizing the female’s eggs, males assume multiple roles that require relatively long-term involvement in the reproductive process such as frequently fanning the nest to prevent sediment from smothering the eggs, and aggressively protecting the eggs and fry by keeping potential predators away from their nest.

Created in areas of the substrate in depths of five feet or less, the nests are formed in areas of the substrate hosting large quantities of stone and gravel situated in close proximity to the protective cover and prey provided by submerged macrophyte communities. The narrow spaces between the stone serve to provide a modicum of protection to the eggs and tiny fry from predation, and from wind and watercraft generated perturbations.

Conservation-minded boaters can help protect the reproductive efforts of their lake’s fish by completely avoiding areas of the lake hosting fish nests, or by proceeding at a very slow operating speed in areas of the lake characterized by water depth of up to five feet. Operating at a slow speed in shallow areas may also contribute to preserving the water clarity of the lake by preventing high volume resuspension of bottom substrates.

Michigan Legislative Report

Our readers should keep in mind that 2022 is a local, state, and federal election year. This year’s election is scheduled to be held on Tuesday, November 8th. Several controversial bills introduced in the past year, including legislation that would effectively strip local governments of the authority to issue gravel mine permits; and ban local governments from adapting, and/or enforcing zoning ordinances that would have the effect of prohibiting short term rentals are not likely to be acted upon in an election year where incumbent members of Michigan’s House and Senate are reluctant to vote yes on legislation that may cost them votes on election day. Although corporate supporters of the legislation continue to pro-actively support passage of House Bill 4722 and Senate Bill 1210, the state legislature is unlikely to consider either of the bills until a new session is called to order in January 2023 – well after the election.

If passed into state law, Senate Bill 991 would:

  • Prohibit the installation of an underground storage tank within 2,000 feet of an existing Type I community or Type II (a) non-community public water well
  • Within 800 feet of an existing Type II (b) or type III non-community public water well
  • Within 300 feet of any other type of well not described 3 in subdivision (a) or (b).

If passed into state law, Senate Bill 1210 would:

  • Strip local governments of the authority to issue gravel mine permits
  • Give permitting authority to the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE)
  • In the vast majority of cases, EGLE would be required to issue the permits even if local governments and residents oppose new mines
  • set no limits on hours of operation for gravel mines, and they would be allowed to operate within a block of schools, churches, or existing neighborhoods

If passed into state law, House Bill 4722 would:

  • Ban local governments from adopting or enforcing zoning ordinances that “have the effect of prohibiting short-term rentals,” which are defined as a single-family home or unit available to rent for less than 30 consecutive days
  • Allow local governments to limit an owner or ownership group to as little as two short-term rental properties
  • Allow local governments to limit the total number of short-term rentals to 30 percent of all residential units
  • Allow local governments to regulate and inspect short-term rental units for noise, advertising, traffic or “any other condition that may create a nuisance.”

To track the current status of legislation pending action by the

Michigan Senate Environmental Quality Committee, click here

Kuhn Rogers Files Amicus Curiae Brief (on behalf of MWA) with the Michigan Supreme Court in Critical Environmental Law Case

The Michigan Supreme Court recently granted leave to allow the Michigan Waterfront Alliance (“MWA”) to file an amicus curiae brief in the momentous environmental law case titled, Lakeshore Group v Department of Environmental Quality. The brief was prepared by Kuhn Rogers attorney Dane Carey, who serves as co-counsel for the MWA with his father, William Carey, of Carey & Jaskowski, PLLC.

What is an amicus curiae? The term, which literally translates to “friend of the court,” refers to a non-party individual or organization that has a vested interest in the subject matter of the case and volunteers to offer insight on a specific point of law or policy to assist the court in reaching a decision. An amicus curiae brief asks the court to adopt a particular position or legal theory.

The core issue in the Lakeshore Group case is whether private individuals and organizations can bring an action under MCL 324.1701(1) of the Michigan Environmental Protection Act (“MEPA”) against state agencies who make permitting decisions that may have an adverse environmental impact. In its amicus curiae brief, MWA made two arguments for the Supreme Court’s consideration. First, MWA argued that administrative review and approval of a permit can form the basis of a cause under MCL 324.1701(1) in accordance with the Supreme Court’s controversial decision in Preserve the Dunes, Inc v Department of Environmental Quality, 471 Mich 508; 684 NW2d 847 (2004). In the alternative, MWA has urged the Supreme Court to overturn its position in that case if it decides that Preserve the Dunes does bar such actions under MEPA.

As the Michigan Supreme Court explained in Ray v Mason County Drain Commissioner, 393 Mich 294, 305-06; 224 NW2d 883 (1975):

Michigan’s EPA was the first legislation of its kind and has attracted worldwide attention. The act also has served as a model for other states in formulating environmental legislation. The enactment of the EPA signals a dramatic change from the practice where the important task of environmental law enforcement was left to administrative agencies without the opportunity for participation by individuals or groups of citizens. Not every public agency proved to be diligent and dedicated defenders of the environment. The EPA has provided a sizable share of the initiative for environmental law enforcement for that segment of society most directly affected—the public.

Although the Court’s decision in Preserve the Dunes has been interpreted by the lower courts in this case to bar the plaintiff, Lakeshore Group, from bringing an action against the DEQ, a close examination of the Court’s opinion and the statute involved in Preserve the Dunes suggests a different result. MWA goes further in its amicus curiae brief, however. Although not argued by the plaintiff or other amici curiae who filed earlier briefs, MWA took the bold position that Preserve the Dunes should be overturned and MEPA restored to its former glory as the legislation that changed the environmental law landscape throughout the world.

This case will have statewide impact and significance on the ability of individuals and organizations to protect “the air, water, and other natural resources and the public trust in these resources from pollution, impairment, or destruction” from administrative agency permitting decisions that allow environmentally harmful activity to occur.

Oral arguments in this case are scheduled for March 30, 2022 at 10:00 a.m. MWA and its attorneys look forward to the Michigan Supreme Court restoring MEPA jurisprudence and breathing new life into the groundbreaking environmental statute.

Make an Important Contribution to Preserving and Protecting Michigan’s Extraordinary Freshwater Resources by Becoming a Member of Michigan Waterfront Alliance Today

Your individual, association, or corporate membership in Michigan Waterfront Alliance

will help ensure the continuation of our on-going efforts to:

 

Protect our extraordinary freshwater resources by working on a day-to-day

collaborative basis with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR),

and the Department of Environment, Energy, and Great Lakes (EGLE)…

 

File amicus briefs with the Michigan Supreme Court in cases whose outcomes

carry the potential to adversely impact riparian rights, or public policies that

effectively serve to help preserve and protect Michigan’s water resources…

 

Increase State of Michigan funding of programs designed to prevent new exotic

aquatic invasive species introductions, and to improve our state’s collective ability

to manage the destructive array of exotic aquatic plants and animals that already

exist in many of our wetlands, lakes, rivers, and streams…

 

Protect and preserve Michigan’s extraordinary inland lakes by pro-actively

supporting the mission, goals, programs, and events of unique public/private

collaborative efforts such as the Michigan Inland Lakes Partnership, and

the Michigan Natural Shoreline Partnership

 

Prevent new introductions of exotic aquatic invasive species and improve

management of existing infestations by working on a collaborative basis

with Michigan’s regional Cooperative Invasive Species Management Areas

 

Improve the knowledge of our state legislators in regards to the overall importance

of the enormous on-going contributions that our freshwater resources make to

Michigan’s economy…

 

>>> Click here <<<

to become a member of

Michigan Waterfront Alliance

 

An Important Message for our Readers from Michigan Waterfront Alliance President Bob Frye

The Michigan Waterfront Alliance (MWA) Board of Directors recently voted to file an amicus brief in a case pending with the Michigan Supreme Court where the core issue pertains to the legal question of whether private citizens can use the Michigan Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act (MNREPA) to judicially review EGLE (Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy) permitting actions. The following quote from MWA Attorneys-at-Law Dane Carey and Bill Carey serves to explain the primary issue in this case very well:

“The MWA has a unique and compelling amicus position to present. MWA is in a sincere position to advocate on the public trust position based upon its prior experiences with EGLE. MWA has worked for several years now to lobby EGLE from negligently introducing AIS into Michigan lakes. The results of the lobbying have not been too successful. MWA, in its amicus argument, can, in good faith, represent to the Supreme Court that the MWA has tried and failed administratively to convince EGLE that its actions are MNREPA (Michigan Natural Resources Environmental Protection Act) violations. We need to therefore be able to have a legal theory (public trust thru MNREPA) to sue EGLE to obtain relief.”

The disregard for the now well-known significant potential for the spread of exotic aquatic invasive species by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is illustrated in the permitting process of a new public boating access site on Eagle Lake (located in southwest Michigan near Edwardsburg) where an administrative law judge agreed with the DNR that is not responsible for preventing new introductions of aquatic invasive species at its newly permitted public access ramp now planned for Eagle Lake. The position of the DNR in the Eagle Lake matter shows the failure of senior DNR leadership officials to take responsibility for protecting the Public Trust as it pertains to Michigan’s lakes and streams.

If the outcome of the filing of this amicus brief is successful, and the Michigan Supreme Court rules that citizens can use MNREPA as the basis for filing a court case it would truly be a game changer, and a great boost to our on-going erstwhile efforts focused on protecting the public trust, and our water resources.

The legal fees for filing an amicus brief in this important case are estimated to be approximately $15,000. The MWA Board of Directors recently voted to start a goal-specific fundraising effort. Our goal is to raise the $15,000 cost of filing this important amicus brief in addition to regular membership dues.

Given the importance of the issue at hand, Michigan Waterfront Alliance asks that you consider giving generously!

 

>>> Click here to donate <<<

Your generous donation will help support

our effort to defend our water resources in the

Michigan Supreme Court

Collaborative, Bi-national Fish Habitat Study Reaffirms the Importance of Wetlands, and Natural Shorelines in Promoting Abundant Bass and Bluegill populations

The recently released summary of the findings of a bi-national fish study conducted on Lake St. Clair serves to emphasize the critical role that wetlands and other natural shoreline features play in promoting and sustaining healthy freshwater fish populations. Focusing on relatively small fish such as minnows, bluegill, and sunfish as well as the young of species such as largemouth and smallmouth bass that ultimately mature into much larger fish, the Collaborative Lake St. Clair Fishery Assessment was conducted by fisheries biologists from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Ontario Ministry of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry, and the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The primary goal of the study was to help fisheries biologists understand how many of the small fish exist within the lake, and to also identify exactly what type of shoreline habitat serves to promote their abundance. The most important finding of the study is indicated by the fact that the keystone fish were found to be ten times more abundant in areas of the lake featuring nearshore and shoreline habitat consisting of wetlands, and other natural features in comparison to more urbanized areas on the Michigan side of the lake where shorelines now consist primarily of steel seawalls, piles of rock and concrete, and other forms of artificial shoreline armoring.

Even though Lake St. Clair possesses a surface area of only 430 square miles it is considered to be an important bi-national resource due to the fact that it is connected to Lake Huron by the St. Clair River, and to Lake Erie by the Detroit River, and is therefore considered one of the busiest waterways in the world due to the fact that 5,000 ships transit the lake each year on their way to and from commercial ports located within the expansive Great Lakes, and to locations far beyond the region via the St. Lawrence Seaway.

It is also important to note that Lake St. Clair’s remaining coastal wetlands, located primarily on the Ontario side of the lake, also provide critical habitat to a diverse array of fish, reptiles, migratory birds, and amphibians. The large inland lake also provides an array of highly valuable ecological, recreational, and commercial benefits, including drinking water, to millions of people who live on or near the lake in southeast Michigan and southern Ontario.

Conducted on both the Michigan and Ontario sides of Lake St. Clair, fisheries biologists deployed fyke nets at 110 locations around the lake in areas defined by both hardened and natural shorelines, and recorded both the quantity and type of fish that swam into the nets. Reporting the findings of their study within the context of a written summary recently submitted to The Detroit News, the fisheries biologists wrote that “the overall fish catch rate was 10 times higher on the Canadian side of the lake, likely related to better nearshore habitat.” In sharp contrast to hardened shorelines comprised of seawalls or piles of concrete, natural shorelines and nearshore habitat comprised of emergent, floating, and submerged aquatic plants such as cattails, bulrush, water lilies, and pondweeds provide small fish such as bluegill and young bass with an ideal habitat within which to forage for abundant aquatic insects, protection from predation, and an ideal habitat for spawning and supporting young fish.

To learn more about the multi-faceted benefits of preserving, and/or restoring natural shorelines, visit the Michigan Natural Shoreline Partnership at https://www.mishorelinepartnership.org/ .

Legislation Introduced to Limit the Authority of Local Governments to Regulate Aggregate Mining and Short Term Vacation Rentals Pending Further Action in Lansing

Introduced by Rep. Sarah Lightner, R-Springport Township, and passed by the Michigan House of Representatives by a margin of 55-48 this past spring, House Bill 4722 would act to severely limit the authority of local units of government to regulate short term rentals. The primary language of the bill indicates that “a local unit of government shall not adopt or enforce zoning ordinance provisions that have the effect of prohibiting short-term rentals.” Compromise language in the bill would allow local units of government limited authority to oversee short term rentals in instances where local noise and traffic ordinances are violated due to significantly increased numbers of summer vacation season short term renters. Local units of government would also maintain the authority to set limits on the number of available short-term rentals, as long the established limit is not less than 30 percent of existing residential units in the municipality.

Supported by the Michigan Realtors and the Mackinaw Center for Public Policy, if passed by the Senate, and signed by Governor Whitmer, the legislation would allow a large number of local home owners to rent their property on a short term basis via services like Airbnb to summer vacationers. Arguing that local units of governments lead by duly elected officials are in the best overall position to determine a particular community’s suitability to allow short term rentals, the Michigan Municipal League and the Michigan Association of Planning are adamantly opposed to the legislation. House Bill 4722 has been referred to the Michigan Senate Committee on Regulator Reform, and is pending further action by the Michigan Senate.

Legislation passed by the Michigan Senate this past June which would deprive local units of government of the capacity to issue permits, and to otherwise regulate gravel and sand mining operations is pending action by the Michigan House of Representatives. SB 431 would make the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) responsible for issuing permits for gravel and sand mining operations, and would also require EGLE to assess fees on sand and gravel products for the purpose of funding the need for the agency to monitor, administer, and enforce mining operation regulations. If passed, the legislation would also make EGLE ultimately responsible for taking action if a particular mining operation presented an imminent danger to public health and safety, or pose a threat to the local environment.

The controversial legislation is supported by the Michigan Aggregate Association who indicates that the legislation is necessary to help ensure ample supplies of sand and gravel that are used extensively in highway construction projects. The legislation is opposed by the Michigan Townships Association, Michigan Municipal League, Michigan Association of Counties, Michigan Association of Planning, Southeast Michigan Council of Governments, Michigan Environmental Council, and the Michigan League of Conservation Voters who argue that the legislation unnecessarily deprives local officials of the ability to issue permits, and to pass and enforce common sense local ordinances intended to help ensure the aggregate mines are operated in a manner that protects the environment, and the health and safety of local citizens.

Four Lakes Task Force and Lake Associations Work to Lay the Groundwork for Rebuilding the Dams and Restoring the Four Inland Lakes Impacted by the May 2020 Tittabawassee River Disaster

Article and Photos by Bill Gebo
Vice-President
Sanford Lake Association

On May 19, 2020, four dams that created four large lakes on the Tittabawassee River system failed, draining or severely reducing the level of all four lakes and flooding hundreds of homes on the lakeshores, and in the city of Midland.

While this was big news across the state, and nationally, at the time, the people of the area have been living with the aftermath of this disaster for the last 18 months. After the initial cleanup, much work has been done to stabilize the dams in preparation for them to be rebuilt in order to restore the lakes. Residents of the four lakes have focused their efforts on this through the four lake associations and an organization named the Four Lakes Task Force. The Four Lakes Task Force is the Authority delegated by the Counties of Midland and Gladwin to manage the debris cleanup and the stabilization and reconstruction of the dams.

Along with the physical work involved, much discussion has taken place between representatives of the Four Lakes Task Force, together with the lake associations, and the offices of numerous state legislators. These local representatives have been requesting that the state legislature enact legislation to improve dam safety and provide funding for dam restoration and repair. There are currently four bills in both the state House and Senate dealing with these issues. In addition, there is MI Senate Bill 565 that includes money for dam repair along with funding for other water related infrastructure upgrades including failing septic systems, and lead water pipe replacement.

The lake associations of the four lakes support and manage the website RestoreTheLakes.org. The website is designed as a tool to help residents of the four lakes communicate with their elected officials about their desire to have the lakes restored. The website contains a summary of the issues that lake residents should want to communicate to state legislators. It also has lists of various officials, along with their office, and email and postal addresses. Example letters and information points are also included. These letters and information points are periodically updated as legislation moves through the state House and Senate.

Editors Note: The Officers and Directors of the Michigan Waterfront Alliance (MWA) wholeheartedly support MI Senate Bill 565, and all currently pending legislation that seeks to appropriate funding to enable the repair and restoration of not only the Tittabawassee River dams mentioned in the article above but to also restore hundreds of dams distributed throughout Michigan that due to their age, and/or deficient design are known to be in imminent danger of catastrophic failure.

It is also important to note that in addition to providing funding allocated to dam repair and/or restoration, MI Senate 565 also provides much needed funding to help protect and promote clean drinking water such lead pipe replacement, to fund the repair or replacement of failing septic systems, to provide clean water infrastructure grants, to fund wetlands mitigation grants, and to provide PFAS remediation grants.

The passage of Senate Bill 565 is critical to helping to ensure a safe and viable future for hundreds of Michigan communities and millions of our fellow citizens! MWA therefore encourages all of our readers to to reach out to their respective State Representatives and Senators in order to express their support for this critical legislation. Readers can find their State Senators by clicking here ; and their State Representatives by clicking here .

Hundreds of Thousands of Failing Septic Systems Contributing to an Ongoing Major Public Health Issue in Michigan

Attributed in large part to the fact that Michigan is the only state that does not require regular septic systems inspections, and that only eleven out of eighty three counties in Michigan have established local regulations that require regular septic systems inspections, hundreds of thousands of failing septic tanks in Michigan are acting as a major source of e-coli and human fecal bacteria laden raw sewage that contaminates ground water, and renders the waters of many our lakes, rivers, and streams unfit for total contact water sports such as swimming or snorkeling. The steadily escalating environmental and public health associated problem is derived from that fact that approximately 20%, or 280,000, of the 1.4 million septic tanks that were constructed in the 1950’s and 1960’s throughout Michigan in order to enable the use of indoor toilets that served as much needed replacement for the “outhouses” that were once a common site on millions of family farms in America, are now failing. The problem has also been exacerbated by the fact that many Michigan homes, and their now severely antiquated septic systems were built prior to the construction of sewer systems that now serve even the smallest of towns and villages.

In Kent County, for example, where the health department has only a volunteer septic systems inspection program in place, an estimated 11, 250 failing residential septic systems distributed throughout the county leak approximately one million gallons of raw sewage into vulnerable groundwater supplies each day. In inland lake inundated Oakland County, as another prime example, where public health threatening cases of e-coli contamination of rivers and lakes are reported on a more and more frequent basis, and where county officials have also yet to establish a program that would mandate regular septic system inspections, approximately twenty-five to thirty percent of the 100,000 septic systems located in Michigan’s most affluent county are known to be leaking. The gravity of the situation is also effectively illustrated by the fact that the results of a 2015 study conducted by Michigan State University researchers on sixty-four Michigan rivers revealed that concentrations of e-coli that were higher than U. S. Environmental Protection Agency permitted water quality standards. The significance of the issue is also amplified by the fact that the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lake, and Energy (EGLE) reports that approximately one half of Michigan’s thousands of miles of rivers and streams suffer from concentrations of toxic e-coli that exceed minimum water quality standards.

Representing a major environmental and public health issue that promises to escalate in significance as increasing numbers of septic systems fail and begin to leak with the passage of time, past efforts to enact legislation that would have established a meaningful statewide standard for how septic tanks are designed, built, inspected, and maintained have sadly disintegrated in the face of arguments suggesting that in addition to treading on individual property rights, regulating septic tanks in a manner that would require regular inspections and maintenance in order to help minimize their capacity to pollute Michigan’s freshwater treasures would be too costly for homeowners, over burden local health departments, and make it more difficult to sell homes.

It is important to note that Michigan Governor Whitmer recognize the significance of the problem and accordingly, declared the week of September 20-24, 2021 as Septic Smart Week  that encouraged homeowners and communities to properly maintain their increasingly vulnerable septic systems. While it is not very likely that the Michigan state legislature will overcome its concerns for treading on individual property rights, and act to pass a statewide standard for effectively regulating septic systems anytime soon, both Governor Whitmer and Senator Jon Bumstead have proposed dedicating $35 million of this year’s state budget to enable the establishment and funding of an MDEQ administered program that would make low interest loans available to homeowners seeking to repair, replace, or eliminate leaking residential septic systems.

For more information on how failing septic systems are capable of degrading our precious freshwater resources, visit the U. S. EPA’s web page entitled “How Your Septic System Can Impact Nearby Water Sources” .  The always wise, inland lakes preservation focused folks from northwest Lower Michigan’s Glen Lake Association have also created a septic smart webpage that contains valuable information regarding the proper maintenance of septic systems.

Highly Capable Small Unmanned Aircraft are Enhancing the Capacity of Lake Managers to Monitor, Assess, and Manage Michigan’s Inland Lakes

by Scott Brown, MWA / McNALMS Board Member &
FAA Certified Unmanned Aircraft Systems Remote Pilot

Unmanned aircraft systems, commonly referred to as drones, are rapidly changing the way we perceive our world, and perform a multitude of complex tasks. The capacity to deploy drones is proving to be particularly beneficial in places that are difficult for man to reach, in natural habitats that are highly vulnerable to disruption or damage by the presence of humans, or in circumstances where people might otherwise be incapable of performing necessary tasks in a timely, efficient, or affordable manner. Moreover, the use of remotely controlled small aircraft allows for expeditious assessment of hazardous situations, and the capacity to gather real-time data in dangerous environments without placing humans at risk. Industry observers believe that the nearly unlimited potential for state-of-the-art technology enabled unmanned aircraft to contribute to safely and reliably accomplishing an increasingly diverse array of human endeavors is only in its infancy. Enabled by a constellation of twenty-four global positioning system (GPS) satellites, and leap frog advances in aviation technology, computer science, information technology, wireless communications, digital imaging, battery technology, and the development of high-resolution remote sensors, small unmanned aerial systems are dramatically changing the way a host of professionals are conducting business.

In contrast to the large, extraordinarily expensive to operate fixed wing drones that have been in use by the military for almost two decades, the vast majority of the drones in use today are lightweight hover craft that are capable of being launched and retrieved almost anywhere due to their small size and their ability to take-off and land vertically. Ranging in price from $500.00 to $2,000, consumer grade unmanned aircraft are capable of capturing high resolution still photographs and videos that are useful for generating geo-referenced natural color mosaics and digital surface models. Capable of collecting scientific research quality data, commercial grade drones that range in price from $5,000 to $50,000 are equipped with advanced, application specific remote sensing equipment. Relatively easy to operate commercial and consumer grade unmanned aerial vehicles currently being deployed by scientists, engineers, and natural resource managers on an increasingly frequent basis are nominally equipped with global positioning system (GPS) enabled navigation systems, high resolution video and still photography cameras, and wireless digital communications systems that allow their operators to view and record real-time images and data from altitudes of up to 23,000 feet, and from distances of up to several miles. Inland lake management professionals operating in North America are just now beginning to recognize the tremendous potential for the small remote-controlled aircraft to enhance their overall capacity to effectively monitor, assess, and manage aquatic ecosystems. The use of highly maneuverable hovercraft that are authorized by the Federal Aviation Agency to operate anywhere in uncontrolled airspace to a maximum altitude of four hundred feet provide lake managers with a versatile and cost-effective tool with which to obtain high-resolution images, and precise data regarding the nature and status of inland lake ecosystems.

One of the most important benefits derived from the use of small unmanned aircraft is their ability to provide lake managers with a crystal-clear bird’s eye view of the lake, and its surrounding area. Unlike the coarse images derived from earth observation satellites, the spatial resolution of the photographs and videos provided by high-resolution camera equipped drones operating at relatively low altitudes ranges from sub-meter to the centimeter level. Detailed visual images that are viewed in real-time, and simultaneously recorded for future reference are extremely useful for accurately monitoring and assessing the characteristics and ecological status of inland lake ecosystems, and their surrounding sub-watershed areas. Finely detailed color images captured and transmitted by hovercraft allow lake managers, for instance, to readily identify potential point, and non-point nutrient laden runoff sources that may be having an adverse impact on the lake’s aquatic ecosystem. Lake managers are also capable of easily maneuvering their hovercraft in order to view and record close-up images of areas of special interest such as natural shorelines, vegetative buffer zones, wetlands, or a nearby creek. Lake managers and aquatic biologists working on behalf of the home owner’s association of northwest Lower Michigan’s Big and Little Glen Lakes, for example, recently deployed drones to survey and record high resolution video of the entire shoreline of each of the lakes that will serve to establish an accurate baseline reference with which to compare and measure future changes to the shoreline.  Lake managers working to help preserve and protect the high quality of Big and Little Glen Lakes also intend to deploy drones in order to survey and map green belts, drainage pipes, sea walls, critical fish habitat, shoreline erosion, and invasive plants.

The ability to safely operate the versatile lightweight aircraft at low altitude vantage points also allows lake managers to assess the composition, abundance, and coverage area of the lake’s emergent and floating leaf aquatic plant communities, or to visually scan nearby shorelines and wetlands in order to detect, and/or assess the abundance of invasive plants such as exotic phragmites, or purple loosestrife. Lake managers operating their high-resolution camera equipped drones just a few feet above the surface of lakes with good water clarity are also capable of accurately assessing the abundance and coverage area of submerged exotic aquatic invasive plants such as Eurasian watermilfoil and starry stonewort. Drone technology enhances the capacity of lake and aquatic plant managers to plan and implement aquatic plant management activities by increasing the number of surveys they are able to conduct in a single season as well as by greatly improving the accuracy and reliability of the data they are capable of capturing during aquatic plant surveys.

Lake and water resource managers throughout North America are also deploying drones in order to enhance their capacity to detect, monitor, assess, and attempt to minimize the harmful effects that are often associated with harmful algal blooms. Capable of producing powerful toxins that pose a significant health threat to animals and people, creating dead zones in lakes, ponds, and reservoirs, and of greatly increasing the cost of treating drinking water, harmful algal blooms in the form of red tide, blue-green algae, and cyanobacteria are occurring on a more frequent basis throughout the United States and Canada. The use of satellite derived images and high-resolution images captured by drones have been particularly useful in the development of predictive models that have been used, for example, to forecast the spatial coverage and depth of the cyanobacteria and blue-green algae blooms that have frequently occurred in the nutrient rich waters of western Lake Erie in recent years.

Lake managers are also capable of deploying small commercial grade unmanned aircraft that are equipped with advanced remote sensing technology that is capable of accurately measuring trophic state dependent concentrations of chlorophyll, dissolved oxygen, and total suspended solids present in the water column. Remote sensing capable drones are also being deployed by water resource managers on an increasingly frequent basis to measure surface water temperature, electrical conductivity, and the amount of organic nutrients present in the water. The use of drones equipped with state-of-the-art remote sensing capability promises to greatly enhance the capacity of scientists and managers to develop and implement sound water resources management strategies.

Lake managers utilizing state-of-the-art drones to enhance the accuracy and efficiency of their efforts are also capable of creating precise, geo-referenced ortho-mosaic maps of inland lakes and their surrounding watershed areas by using advanced analytical software to stitch together the high-resolution images that are captured during comprehensive aerial surveys. In contrast to aerial surveys conducted by manned aircraft that are time consuming and extraordinarily expensive, the use of drones to capture high-resolution images of large areas in a cost effective and expeditious manner has helped make high quality aerial maps much more affordable, and readily available. In addition to significantly contributing to the capacity of lake managers to monitor, assess, and manage aquatic ecosystems, high resolution natural color maps also enhance their ability to effectively communicate with lakefront home owners, and other lake users in regards to the importance of preserving wetlands, natural shorelines, and of controlling aquatic invasive plants.

It is important to note that lake or water resource managers contemplating the use of drones to support their operations should be advised that in addition to the requirement to register both consumer and commercial grade small unmanned aircraft weighing at least .55 pounds, and not more than 55 pounds with the Federal Aviation Agency (FAA), those intending to operate small unmanned aerial systems as part of their job or commercial business will also need to earn their FAA Remote Pilot Certificate under the auspices of 14 CFR Part 107 Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems.