Local officials work together to protect Lake Charlevoix

Watershed protection is indeed a team sport – as local officials, agency representatives and organizations demonstrated at a recent meeting in Charlevoix County.

Lake Charlevoix is one of Michigan’s largest and highest quality lakes, noted for its recreational opportunities, clear waters and connection to Lake Michigan. The watershed encompasses 332 square miles in Charlevoix, Antrim and Otsego Counties. There are 62 miles of shoreline.

More than 50 local officials and organization representatives gathered in Charlevoix County in Sept. 2013 to hear about ongoing efforts to implement the Lake Charlevoix Watershed Plan.

During the meeting, a representative from the Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council described the newly-updated Lake Charlevoix Watershed Management Plan, a community document very much like a master plan. The management plan was developed over several years in cooperation with over 27 local agencies, organizations and local governmental units. The plan helps inform stakeholders about the watershed’s characteristics, current health, threats and specific activities to protect or restore the lake.

A presenter from Michigan State University Extension talked about surveys conducted during the management plan development process. Those surveys concluded that there was strong agreement between watershed residents, local officials and shoreline property owners that economic stability depends on good water quality, that it is not okay to reduce water quality to promote economic development, and that quality of life depends on good water quality in lakes, rivers and streams. Focus groups of local officials concluded that there is support for master plan and zoning ordinance changes to protect water quality, but that there are challenges to working across community boundaries to coordinate protection efforts and to develop and enforce shoreline zoning ordinances. Based on these results, future implantation efforts include shoreline tours, yearly local official workshops and zoning administrator forums.

Participants in the meeting also learned about the new Lake Charlevoix Association Lake Guardian program, a voluntary effort where lakeshore residents and businesses can sign a pledge to protect the lake by, for example, maintaining a quality greenbelt, planting native species, taking care of their septic system and controlling runoff from their property.

Other speakers highlighted successful efforts including an innovative way to control streamside erosion, the new storm water control ordinance adopted by most Charlevoix County townships, and the local ordinance gaps analysis. They also heard about funding and assistance available from the local community foundation, land conservancy and state government.

At the end of the meeting, attendees strongly agreed that the program was worthwhile, that the watershed plan implementation efforts they heard about were very worthwhile, and that they definitely support new grant proposals to protect Lake Charlevoix water quality.

The positive results of this meeting demonstrate that water quality protection is a team sport, with greatest success when watershed residents, local governments and businesses work together. Visit the Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council website for additional information about Lake Charlevoix watershed protection efforts.

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