Our inland waterways are currently being devastated by the irreversible impacts of aquatic invasive species (AIS). Once lakes are infected, they can become unusable to all – and the 6-7 figure costs of simply mitigating the damage end up the responsibility of lakefront property owners. Guarding against the introduction of AIS is a chief concern amongst those opposing the current application.
The following is courtesy of resident expert Ralph Bednarz. Ralph is a Lakes Manager and Limnologist, retired from the MI Department of Environmental Quality The Rennie Lake Association (RLA) has developed a position statement against public access of watercraft to Rennie Lake via the GO-REC waterfront because of concerns about AIS introduction and infestation as well as the potential of overcrowding on the lake and boater safety issues. The RLA position statement was presented to the EBCT Planning Commission at the GO-REC PUD application public hearing on December 16, 2021 and reiterated to the Commission at the January 4, 2022 meeting discussion regarding the updated and expanded PUD application. The RLA will continue to advocate against public boat access of watercraft to Rennie Lake via the GO-REC waterfront.
What are aquatic invasive species (AIS)?
Michigan defines invasive species as one that is not native and whose introduction causes harm, or is likely to cause harm to Michigan’s economy, environment, or human health. Several invasive aquatic plant species have widespread distribution in Michigan including Eurasian water milfoil, Curly-leaf pondweed, Starry stonewort, Phragmites and Purple loosestrife. These species have significant harmful effects to both the environment and the economy.
Current state of AIS on Rennie Lake
Rennie Lake has small infestations of the invasive wetland plants Phragmites and Purple loosestrife but no other invasive aquatic plant species. The nearby Spider and Arbutus lakes have been infested with these species and other AIS via the DNR public boat launches on these lakes.
Phragmites has been chemically treated on Rennie Lake, including the GO-REC waterfront, and biological control is effective against Purple loosestrife. However, Phragmites occurrence along the Rennie Lake lakeshore has increased since being treated in 2012/2013 and a second plant-specific treatment is advised.
The bigger concern for Rennie Lake is the potential for the introduction of the other common AIS mentioned previously, as well as Zebra mussels, rusty crayfish, the New Zealand Mudsnail, Didymo (diatom) and other AIS watch list species via public boat access at the GO-REC waterfront.
Is the present boat station proposal enough?
Established boat wash stations run by trained technicians at public boat launches can slow the spread of, but not stop, AIS. Additionally, the boat wash stations need to have the capability of delivering high pressure hot water (120-140°F) and all boat surfaces, exterior and interior, and trailers must be cleaned, drained and dried to be effective. The last factor, drying, is critical. The DNR recommendation, after a boat has been cleaned and drained, is to dry the boat and trailer for 5 days in the sun prior to use.
A properly designed boat wash station with high-pressure hot water and cleaning equipment would need to be built and run by trained technicians 24/7 and all boats brought in by the public would need to be cleaned, drained and dried for 5 days prior to launching into the lake to reduce the chance of AIS introduction. Alternative watercraft AIS decontamination systems which use vacuum drying to remove residual water have recently been developed and marketed for watercraft AIS control.
The language in the updated PUD application Section 13 Addendum is inadequate to understand the watercraft AIS decontamination system proposed for the GO-REC site. The term “industry standard” is not defined and according to the “settlement agreement” does not include drying. Additionally, the boat wash supervision plan is not adequate to certify that all public boats brought onto the GO-REC campus are washed, drained and free from AIS prior to launching into Rennie, Bass or Spider Lakes while they are on GO-REC property.
Established boat wash stations run by trained technicians at public boat launches can slow the spread of, but not stop, AIS.
The only safe recommendation: Onsite watercraft only The Rennie Lake community’s recommendation to GOREC management and Rotary Camps and Services on several occasions has been to only rent human powered watercraft at GO-REC with use only on Rennie Lake, not cross use on Bass and Spider Lakes, or other waterbodies. This is the practice the Boy Scouts followed for six decades at the GO-REC waterfront and we are not aware of any issues with AIS, other than Phragmites, nor overcrowding during their tenure. By allowing only on-site rental watercraft and use only on Rennie Lake, both the number of watercraft and ability to guard against AIS are controlled.
Requested PUD Changes
Given the historical use as well as the risks of aquatic invasive species (AIS) infestation from the proposed public access of watercraft on Rennie Lake, the RLA asks the Planning Commission to:
Limit all watercraft access to Rennie Lake via the GO-REC waterfront to only GO-REC’s fleet of watercraft to be used exclusively on Rennie Lake.
Require wash station procedures to include drying.
Require GO-REC to sponsor an independent watercraft carrying capacity study before making any decision on the PUD Application permitting public watercraft to be launched from GO-REC property.
Let the Planning Commission know that we need to protect our lakes!