Skip to main content
All Posts By

Scott Brown

Lake Advocacy – It All Starts with You

By Carol Westfall
Pleasant Lake, Located in Freedom Township, Michigan

How are lake protections implemented in your township and zoning conflicts resolved?
Do lake residents and officials partner well on behalf of your lake?
Securing strong lake protection can be a challenge.
I know. I learned the hard way.

Don’t get me wrong. Our township has done some terrific things to protect our 200-acre lake in southeast Michigan. A Lake District was included in the township’s Master Plan and a SAD (Special Assessment District) was voted in to manage invasive species. Keyhole protections were updated and a Board resolution opposing a public boat launch was passed. In 2017, a lake resident was even added to the Planning Commission.

The problem: Our lake residents were invited by township officials to provide input into a new Master Plan and Zoning Ordinance but only a few showed any interest. That was our first mistake. Lake residents were later caught by surprise when some parts of the new zoning ordinance did not reflect our lake’s needs. Changes have now been made but not without enormous lake resident effort.

LESSON #1: Lake advocacy starts and ends with YOU, the lake residents. Do not depend on officials to wholly represent your lake interests. Get involved – early and often.

For years, a neighbor preached the importance of lake residents attending township Planning Commission and Board meetings, “… so they know we’re watching and involved; that we care about their decisions affecting the lake; to be better educated about township government and to know our officials,” she would say. Oh, no, I thought. Not more meetings! Surely, we should be able to trust others to act in the best interests of our lake.

Not necessarily. Upon returning home the end of December, 2014, I opened the door to a 6-foot wall of wood. A fortress-like
structure neighbors had installed between our two, small waterfront lots was ominous – a 6-foot privacy fence without privacy. Our grade is higher. We can still see them; they can still see us. The fence was unlike any other approved fence on our lake. Surely our zoning ordinance doesn’t allow this, I thought.

It didn’t. A process error had led to the approval and three months later, the fence was ruled non-compliant. Months passed and a garage was added to move the front building line and make the fence compliant. Officials promised to fix the zoning ordinance for waterfront lot fences but that didn’t happen.

NOTE: I later learned that 4-foot, see-through fences on waterfront properties were the fence standard in the township’s previous ordinance – but not the new one. An oversight? An intentional change? I’ll never know, as that question was never answered.

LESSON #2: Study your zoning ordinance and how each section affects lake properties. Educate yourself! Even better, get lake residents on your Board, Planning Commission and committees.

CONTACT: MSU Planning and Zoning Center- program/planning or call 517-432-2222.

It took a fence zoning issue to get my husband and me to Planning Commission and Board meetings (we are now regular attendees). We voiced our concerns and pleaded for help; repeatedly tried to resolve the problem in favor of view preservation and protecting the rural, hamlet character of our lake area. Michigan’s Denton Township, for example, limits all fences within 500 feet of a lake to 4-foot or less – Township of Denton, MI District Regulations. 310-21 Lakefront Residential District. F(2).

A Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) hearing remained our only option but once filed, there were new obstacles – multiple revisions required of our application; recommendations that we drop the appeal; told that we wouldn’t win; critical background materials not forwarded to ZBA members. Time and money being spent to fight when all we wanted was a fair hearing and to protect the lake.

LESSON #3: Build relationships with elected and appointed officials. Actively participate in Planning Commission and Board meetings. Learn how officials conduct business … BEFORE you have a problem.

As predicted, we lost the ZBA appeal. But that’s not the end of this story. I returned to the Planning Commission the next month and asked for a change to the waterfront property fence zoning – a return to the 4-foot see through standard as in the previous zoning ordinance. Unfortunately, no action. I then took the request directly to the Board. Lake resident support became critical and a few of us collected signed letters from lake residents. The letters stated opposition to large fences on waterfront properties and asked for greater lake zoning protections. Some residents wanted no fences allowed on waterfront lots; some didn’t want to get involved (fearing retribution on their future zoning requests); others said simply, “We don’t sign things.” The county states there
are about 138 homes/properties with lake access at Pleasant Lake. We delivered more than 100 letters to the Board.

LESSON #4: Don’t give up! Build a coalition of lake residents who will support your lake advocacy efforts. Find qualified Michigan zoning and planning experts to serve as your coaches.

Surely, it should now be easy to fix the fence zoning, I thought. It wasn’t. Some officials were unsure all the signatures were valid and wanted to hear directly from lake residents. They called a special meeting; then, a public hearing. A small unnamed opposition group emerged, so officials sought more and more “proof ” before recommending changing the waterfront fence zoning ordinance back to four feet, see through. I learned how quickly a vocal few can undermine the efforts of an active majority and how easy it is to blame us lake advocates as troublemakers.

Our persistence finally paid off. The Board intervened with the Planning Commission on behalf of lake residents. The fence change resolution at last made it to the Board, but not without one last surprise: In addition to limiting waterfront fences to 4-foot, see-through and no closer than 50 feet from the shoreline, a new lake zoning change was slipped in: Reduce setbacks from 50 feet to 25 feet! With regional, state, and national setback trends going in quite the opposite direction, we were shocked and once again had to call our lake resident coalition into action and the next Board meeting was packed. The Board approved the fence zoning
change but vetoed the setback change.

LESSON #5: Lake advocacy is not for the timid! Strengthen your lake association and long-term lake protection plans then stick with your strategy. Adapt as needed when obstacles are put before you. Don’t give up! Be persistent.

Did you know – the State of Michigan ranks dead LAST in the country for government ethics and transparency ( No Board
of Ethics; no State Ombudsman; no place to appeal. In the midst of our conflict, our state representative suggested three
options: take the township to circuit court, elect/appoint new officials, and take concerns to the media.

We took our story to the media. Let the public know what was going on; the resistance faced; the unnecessary time and money spent fighting vs. working together toward the betterment of lake protections. Two small local newspapers showed interest in our lake issues and kept the topic in the public’s eye. Articles and letters were published. Reader after reader came forward to tell us their stories of past conflicts; to express appreciation for our efforts; to say they’re cheering for us. As a result, our lake resident coalition became more empowered, more outspoken, and more visible lake advocates.

Our lake association was also actively involved in a water protection conference held in late 2016 at our township hall. It was co-sponsored by Michigan State University, the Huron River Watershed Council, Washtenaw County, and other groups. The highly successful event attracted over 75 participants and included lake residents and township officials from as far as 200 miles away.

LESSON #6: Use the media. Partner with other lake associations, townships, and water protection organizations. Build alliances and support. Educate fellow lake residents, local governments, and also let the public know what’s going on.

I’m proud of our improved lake protections but sad about the enormous effort and conflict required to get them. Our lake zoning challenge lasted more than two years and cost way too much time and money. At more than one heated meeting, I slipped my husband a note: We need to move! But after a good night’s sleep, I was back at it. Lake advocates are change agents and must do what is needed on behalf of our Michigan lakes. Someone must take the lead. Why not you?

Snorkeling Guide to Michigan Inland Lakes Reveals the Wonder to Be Discovered in Local Inland Lakes 

Inspired by the “beauty and excitement” observed while snorkeling in over a thousand Michigan inland lakes in a period extending from from 1992 to 1997, the book entitled Snorkeling Guide to Michigan Inland Lakes: Discover the Amazing Underwater World in 480 Michigan Inland Lakes! by author Nancy Washburne is a must have for veterans of the sport as well as for those preparing to enter the water outfitted with mask, fin, snorkel and underwater camera for the first time. For those that are comfortable in the water, Washburne points out that snorkeling is one of the “most therapeutic and energizing activities that the whole family can engage in” while also experiencing “so much color and a great variety of fish, large and small, along with the beautiful vegetation”. The book provides detailed information on the 480 inland lakes that Washburne found most interesting and colorful while snorkeling in over one thousand public access inland lakes in Michigan during a five year period in the 1990’s.

Snorkeling Guide to Michigan Inland Lakes: Discover the Amazing Underwater World in 480 Michigan Inland Lakes! may be purchased by visiting the website

To view a video produced by author Nancy Washburne that displays the color and wonder to be found while snorkeling in many Michigan inland lake visit

An MWA Action Alert: Encourage your State Legislators to Support Funding for the Michigan Clean Water Corps (MiCorps)

Defined by a mission that is completely dedicated to preserving and protecting our vast treasure of high quality inland lakes and streams that perennially contribute immense ecological and recreational services that are known to be worth billions of dollars to our economy, and that provide the “freshwater foundation” for our unique Pure Michigan lifestyles, the outstanding collaborative partnership based organization known as the Michigan Clean Water Corps (MiCorps) is in need of our help. Funds derived from the Clean Michigan Initiative, a voter approved state bond issue that provided a long-term funding source for the water quality monitoring focused organization from 2003 – 2017, have now been completely exhausted. The lack of a sustainable funding source for MiCorps has already resulted in the suspension of the Volunteer Stream Monitoring Grant Program. Our readers should understand that program managers were able to conduct the 2019 Cooperative Lakes Monitoring Program only as the result of a one time grant provided by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. Readers should also be aware that without action within this fiscal year by the Michigan state legislature to provide the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) with a long term sustainable funding appropriation that allows the agency to fully fund and operate Michigan Clean Water Corps, these highly effective inland lake and stream water quality monitoring programs may soon cease to exist.

Therefore, Michigan Waterfront Alliance is asking our members and all who read this e-mail to immediately contact your respective state senator and representative via telephone or e-mail in order to express your support for these outstanding programs. Our state senators and representatives hear from so few of their constituents that your voice expressed via a phone call or e-mail carries a lot of weight on how they decide to vote on any given issue. Please know that your voice matters! Please take the time to contact your state senator or representative today regarding a stable, long term funding source for the Michigan Clean Water Corps!!!

Find Your Michigan State Senator

Find Your Michigan House Representative

We have provided a relatively short summary of the history of MiCorps and its programs to allow you to more effectively communicate with your state senator or representative.

The Michigan Clean Water Corps (commonly referred to as MiCorps) was created in 2003 through Michigan Executive Order #2003-15 in order to assist the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) in collecting and sharing inland lake and stream water quality data for use in water resources management and protection programs.

Employing a small, dedicated professional staff, MiCorps is an efficient, well run program administered by the Great Lakes Commission under the direction of Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) in collaborative partnership with the Huron River Watershed CouncilMichigan Lake Stewardship Associations (formerly Michigan Lake and Stream Associations), and Michigan State University.

Michigan Clean Water Corps (MiCorps) trains citizen volunteers to conduct lake and steam water quality monitoring; promotes and disseminates science-based methods to ensure accurate water quality data collection; implements effective quality assurance practices; facilitates on-line, readily accessible water quality data reporting and information sharing; and provides an open and readily accessible forum for communication and support among volunteer water quality monitoring groups in Michigan.

Comprised of two citizen volunteer monitoring programs, the Cooperative Lakes Monitoring Program and the Volunteer Stream Monitoring Program, MiCorps provides technical assistance to local units of government and non-profit organizations, including hundreds of lake associations and watershed groups distributed throughout Michigan.

Representing the second oldest citizen volunteer-based water quality monitoring programs in the nation, the MiCorps Cooperative Lakes Monitoring Program (CLMP) has been a critical component of Michigan’s inland lake monitoring program for over 40 years. Beginning in 1974 as a lakefront property owner focused Self-Help Program that offered only a single parameter – Secchi disk (water clarity) and involving only a few volunteers and their respective lakes, the CLMP now offers seven parameters, including Secchi disk, total phosphorus, chlorophyll-a, dissolved oxygen and temperature, aquatic plant mapping, exotic aquatic plant watch, and lakeshore habitat assessment. Since 1992, Michigan Lake Stewardship Associations (MLSA) (formerly Michigan Lake and Stream Associations) has administered the Cooperative Lakes Monitoring Program jointly with the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) under a Memorandum of Understanding. In collaborative partnership with the Great Lakes Commission, the Huron River Watershed Council, and the Department of EGLE – Michigan Lake Stewardship Associations continues to administer the CLMP with the assistance of Michigan State University’s Department of Fisheries and Wildlife. It is important to point out that the MiCorps CLMP has become one of the United States most successful programs involving several hundred citizen water quality monitoring volunteers and well over 300 participating inland lakes.

The MiCorps Volunteer Stream Monitoring Program includes a competitive grants program for water quality monitoring in wade-able streams and rivers under four different topical areas. These include Aquatic Macroinvertebrate Survey Grants that provide funding and support volunteer monitoring organizations interested in monitoring benthic macroinvertebrate communities and habitat characteristics in their streams and rivers; Aquatic Macroinvertebrate Survey Start-up Grants that provide funding and support to assist start-up groups in designing a volunteer monitoring strategy for their respective communities; Road/Stream Crossing Inventory Grants that provide funding and support to volunteer monitoring organizations interested in assessing the condition of road/stream crossings to protect and enhance streams throughout a target watershed; and Stream Flow Monitoring Pilot Project Grants that provide funding and support to organizations in order to establish volunteer-based programs in which staff and volunteers determine the total water flow of small streams.

Contact your state senator and representative today to express your enthusiastic support for a stable, long term funding source for these critical water quality monitoring programs!!!!

Find your Michigan State Senator

Find Michigan House Representative

Michigan Waterfront Alliance Holds An Exotic Invasive Starry stonewort Management Seminar

Nearly 100 concerned lakefront property owners, lake managers, aquatic invasive plant control practitioners, and DNR/DEQ employees came together on the morning of Friday, March 15th in downtown Lansing to discuss the current state of the science of managing exotic invasive starry stonewort. Michigan Waterfront Alliance would like to extend our heartfelt appreciation to the staff of Karoub Associates for hosting the event – your hard work and professionalism were evident throughout the course of the day! Thank you!

We would also like to extend an enthusiastic thank you to our expert speakers who each did a magnificent job of briefing our audience on the latest technologies available for managing the highly invasive starry stonewort. And, last, but certainly not least, we would like to thank the nearly one hundred folks who ventured out on a cold blustery March Friday to attend our conference – a big thanks to each of you!

Arriving in the Great Lakes region in the late 1970s, the rapidly growing member of the Characeae family has invaded several hundred water bodies in the past forty years, including many inland lakes, rivers as well as Lake St. Clair and Lake Huron. Commonly referred to as starry stonewort in reference to the star shaped reproductive bulbils that are formed on the translucent rhizoids of the species, the scientific name of the native of northern Europe and Asia is Nitellopsis obtusa. Capable of forming dense vegetative meadows of great height and coverage area, starry stonewort is a powerful ecosystem engineer that is capable of altering invaded ecosystems by preventing the growth of native aquatic plants, preventing fish from foraging and spawning, modifying aquatic food webs, and changing nutrient flow regimes.

Notorious for being “predictably unpredictable”, starry stonewort is a fierce competitor that possesses the ability to create conditions that are conducive to its own abundant growth and long term survival. Not well known to the scientific community, little is currently understood about the powerful asexual reproductive capability and growth processes of the species.

Conference attendees were also apprised of their legal rights under the Michigan Environmental Protection Act and Public Trust Doctrine by noted attorney-at-law Bill Carey of the firm Carey & Jaskowski PLLC.

To download the presentation of Dr. Doug Pullman, Applied Biochemists, entitled Starry stonewort Bio-Fundamentalsclick here

To download the presentation of Dr. Jennifer J. Jermalowicz-Jones, Restorative Lake Sciences, entitled Case Studies of Starry stonewort in Inland Lakes and Associated Management Methodsclick here

To download the presentation of Jason Broekstra, PLM Lake and Land Management Corporation, entitled Exponential Economic Impacts of Starry Stonewortclick here

To download the presentation of Paul Hausler, Progressive Ae, entitled Current Research Pertaining to the Biology and Management of Starry Stonewortclick here

To download the presentation by Scott Brown, Michigan Waterfront Alliance, entitled Exotic Invasive Starry stonewort: Biology, Preferred Habitat, Distribution, and Impacts on Inland Lake Ecosystems, click here

New Requirements for Michigan Boaters and Anglers to Prevent the Introduction and Spread of Aquatic Invasive Species

Michigan’s Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act (Act 451 of 1994) Part 413 has recently been amended with changes for boaters and anglers that take effect March 21, 2019. The changes are intended to strengthen protection for Michigan waterways against the introduction and spread of aquatic invasive species. Prior to the amended changes, the law only required that a person not place watercraft or trailers in the waters of Michigan if an aquatic plant is attached. In addition to this requirement, the new changes require all of the following prior to transporting any watercraft over land:

– Removing all drain plugs from bilges, ballast tanks, and live wells
– Draining all water from any live wells and bilges
– Ensuring that the watercraft, trailer, and any conveyance used to transport the watercraft or trailer are free of aquatic organisms, including plants

This means that after trailering boats, and before getting on the road, boaters must pull plugs, drain water and remove plants and debris.  Additionally, the new amended law also incorporates requirements from Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources’ Fisheries Order 245 that will also help to prevent the introduction and spread of aquatic invasive species as well as fish diseases:

– A person shall not release bait fish in any waters of this state. A person who collects fish shall not use the fish as bait or cut bait except in the inland lake, stream, or Great Lake where the fish was caught, or in a connecting waterway of the inland lake, stream, or Great Lake where the fish was caught if the fish could freely move between the original location of capture and the location of release.

– A person, who catches fish other than bait fish in a lake, stream, Great Lake, or connecting waterway shall only release the fish in the lake, stream, or Great Lake where the fish was caught, or in a connecting waterway of the lake, stream, or Great Lake where the fish was caught if the fish could freely move between the original location of capture and the location of release.

Violation of the law is a state civil infraction and violators may be subject to fines up to $100.

To comply with the law and prevent the introduction and spread of aquatic invasive species, boaters

1.  CLEAN boats, trailers and equipment.
2.  DRAIN live wells, bilges and all water.
3.  DRY boats and equipment.
4.  DISPOSE of unwanted bait in the trash.

President Bob Frye’s Message for the March 2019 MWA Newsletter

Dear MWA Members and Friends,

I am pleased to report the following information regarding the MWA / DNR Parks Task Force phone conference meeting held February 6.

A.  Attending were: Ron Olson (Chief of Parks – DNR); Tammy Newcomb (DNR); Vicki McGhee(DNR); Sarah LeSage (DEQ); Jacklin Blodgett (DNR);  Anna Sylvester (DNR) ; Dennis Nickels (Waterways Commission Chairman);  Bob Frye (MWA); Scott Brown (MWA);  Lon Nordeen (MWA);  Christina Baugher (DNR); Barbara Graves (DNR);  Mike Gallagher (MLSA)

B.  New Michigan Boating Law (SB 1072 of 2018 (PA 0451 of 2018) went into effect in December 2018:

A person shall not:

* Launch or transport watercraft or trailers unless they are free of aquatic organisms, including plants

* Transport a watercraft without removing all drain plugs and draining all water from bilges, ballast tanks and live wells

* Release unused bait into the water

C.  The Secretary of State Office has agreed to include in each boater registration packet (close to 1 million over the course of the next 3 years – starting this year) the attached “New Boater Law Effective 2019” card.

D.  Michigan Waterways Commission has made combating AIS one of its top 5 priorities for 2019. Dennis Nickels who is the chair of the Waterways Commission and a Task Force member and will keep the Task Force updated as to what Waterways is doing to combat AIS in 2019.

E.  The MWA and MLSA have been asked to compile an accurate tally of all Michigan Lake Associations and Lake Groups costs for combating AIS.

F.  The passage of Bill 1136 (SB 1136 of 2018 (PA 671 of 2018)is a start for the DEQ to establish an AIS funding program. For 2019 there is one million dollars allocated to help Lake Association and Lake Groups cover their permit application costs for AIS control efforts.

G.  The following Draft Points of Consensus from the Oct 23 2018 Task Force meeting were agreed upon by the Task Force members:

1)  Michigan needs to strengthen statutory legislation and enhance resources for managing and preventing the introduction and spread of aquatic invasive species.

2)  If there are considerations of new public access sites by DNR, part of the process of due diligence will include evaluation and implementation of best management practices for the prevention of AIS.

3)  Not only the state but public and private access point managers and marinas need to work together to reduce the introduction and spread of invasive species and implementing best management practices at all launch sites.

4)  A method should be developed to share the costs associated with managing AIS on inland lakes to maintain recreational and environmental sustainability.

5)  Form a public/private coalition with the Michigan Waterfront Alliance and other interested organizations to provide guidance to the DNR in facilitating the steps noted above.

H. The following “Steps Forward’ proposed by MWA were read and discussed by the Task Force:

Step I.  The DNR and MWA agree that Michigan’s environmental statutory and administrative framework needs to be enhanced in an effort to mitigate the introduction of aquatic invasive species
(AIS) into Michigan’s lakes and streams.

  • MNREPA (MichiganNatural Resources and Environmental Protection Act) should be amended to compel a boat owner to submit to inspection and or wash his or her watercraft immediately prior to launching the watercraft into a body of water.
  • Sanctions should be imposed for an owner’s failure to comply with MNREPA as amended.
  • All marinas and launch sites (public and private) should be required to have qualified boat inspection personnel and or boat washing facilities on-site.

Step II.  The DNR and MWA recognize that to effectively combat the spread of AIS, it will be necessary to secure material funding sources from the public and private sectors.

  • The DNR, with the support of MWA, will lobby the legislature for a meaningful line item budget to initiate the funding of a campaign to mitigate the introduction of AIS into Michigan’s lakes and streams and to fund AIS remediation efforts in Michigan’s lakes and streams.
  • The DNR, with the support of MWA, will initiate a user fee at all public launch facilities, which will be earmarked for AIS prevention and remediation.
  • The DNR, with the support of MWA, will implement a fee structure to be levied on private commercial marina operations, which will be earmarked for AIS prevention and remediation.

Step III.  The DNR and MWA will coordinate AIS efforts with local units of government to ensure local government participation in the mitigation of AIS.

  • The DNR will provide positive and enthusiastic technical and scientific assistance to local units of government that wish to establish special assessment districts or lake improvement boards to combat AIS.
  • MWA will provide technical assistance to local units of government to establish lake improvement boards.

I.  Scott Brown invited all present to attend the Starry Stonewart conference hosted by MWA on Friday March 15 at Karoub associates.

J.  The MWA and MLSA have agreed to participate in the following AIS awareness efforts:

  1. Placement of Clean, Drain, Dry signage at private and public boat launch sites with stencils provided by Parks.
  2. Landing Blitz DNR and MWA/MLSA challenge –
  3. Social media blitz DNR and MWA/MLSA challenge – Promote the New Boating Law / Boater Card info through MWA and MLSA  contacts list, Riparian magazine and social media.AIS rack card.



Bob Frye, Michigan Waterfront Alliance, President



Action Alert: Call Your MI House Representative to Support Senate Bill 1136

Michigan Waterfront Alliance

Action Alert

Your Assistance is Needed to Help Ensure that Legislation Establishing a First Ever Inland Lake Aquatic Invasive Plant Control and Eradication Fund is Passed by the Michigan House of Representatives

Passed by the Michigan Senate on Tuesday, December 4, 2018, the Michigan House of Representatives is right now considering legislation that would establish a first ever Inland Lake Aquatic Invasive Plant Control and Eradication Fund. If passed by both the Senate and House in the few remaining days of this legislative session, and signed by Governor Snyder, the bill would provide Michigan lake associations, and/or inland lake communities hosting public boating access sites, and that have established exotic invasive aquatic plant control targeted Special Assessment Districts, the opportunity to apply for and receive state funded grants that would serve to partially offset the cost of funding local projects designed to control or eradicate inland lake aquatic invasive plants species such as Eurasian water milfoil and Starry stonewort.

Sponsored by Senate District 14 State Senator David Robertson, and pro-actively supported by the Michigan Waterfront Alliance, Michigan Lake Stewardship Associations, and the Michigan Aquatic Managers Association, the legislation would also enable the ability of successful grant applicants to fund project related administrative costs such as mandatory MDEQ aquatic nuisance control permit application fees with grant dollars.

Please contact your state representative via telephone or e-mail as soon as possible to express your support for this important legislation. Your direct involvement in the democratic process will help ensure that the legislation becomes law!

Click on the links below to download and read the proposed legislation, and to find out how to contact your representative.

On behalf of the Officers and Board of Directors of the Michigan Waterfront Alliance, thank you for your support!

Click here to Download and Read MI Senate Bill 1136

Click here to Download and Read a Summary of MI Senate Bill 1136

Click here to Locate Contact Information for Your Michigan House Representative