Life On The Lakes: Aquatic Plants

Life On The Lakes Aquatic Plants


While I write this article, Michigan is somewhere between its second false spring, and its third coming of winter. Regardless, a string of balmy-for-February days invite some thought about what happens when the sun really shines —vegetation and plant growth in our inland lakes.

In a previous article, we touched on the formation of lake boards, and their role as a valuable tool in the management of inland lakes and aquatic vegetation. This month, we will touch on some vegetative background, as well as some permissions and permits one might need to work on their lake.

Aquatic plants are generally broken up into two groups: those that have roots, called macrophytes, and those plants that do not have roots, algae. While we may think of macrophytes as always growing from the lakebed, there are common floating exceptions, such as duckweed.

Plant growth in inland lakes is the result of a number of contributing factors, but the amount of light that penetrates the water and the amount of nutrients in the water are among the factors that lakefront residents may monitor most easily from day to day.

EGLE (Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy) puts a great amount of effort and science into propagating best management practices for aquatic vegetation in inland lakes through the Aquatic Nuisance Control branch of the Water Resources Division (a wealth of information is available on the “Aquatic Plant Management Information” website). Some of those methods, such as Ordinary High-Water Mark, building setbacks, and “green zone” buffers as an element of obtaining a bioengineering soft shoreline permit, provide durable and repeatable solution to managing rampant vegetation growth at its source by mitigating direct surface runoff into the waterbody. The majority of nuisance aquatic control measures our office receives questions about are annual or semi-annual short-range solutions, and the approvals necessary to implement those methods.

The short-term methods involve the physical removal of plant matter from the lake, sometimes by literally pulling the plants out by hand. EGLE allows for a Minor Project permit category for “Diver Assisted Hand Removal of Invasive Species,” targeted at vegetation such as Eurasian Milfoil in areas of 10 acres or less per year.

The other short-term method is killing the plants through the application of herbicides. Due to the risks to both animal and human life, EGLE closely monitors herbicide use and application. An interesting consideration regarding herbicide permits from EGLE is the presence of overall general permits, and individuals obtaining a Certificate of Coverage (COC) under the general permit. For example, EGLE may issue an outstanding general permit for non-native emergent floating plants such as non-native phragmites, and certain chemicals that have been pre-approved to treat non-native phragmites that a lake manager may apply for a COC to apply.

If you have questions about the permissions necessary to manage your lake, let us know!

Linnell & Associates was formed in 2009 in response to the homeowners’ need for assistance during the economic downturn due to the housing crisis. Since then, Linnell & Associates has transformed into a well-rounded law firm, with its focus on real estate matters.