Life On The Lakes: Limits On The Lake

Life On The Lakes Limits On The Lake


A general issue we frequently see in practice is how regulations are placed on Michigan’s inland lakes. While many lakes exist within the jurisdiction of a single governmental unit (a city, village, or township, for example), a good number of lakes straddle the boundaries of multiple governmental units. When it comes to enacting laws or regulations on the lake, the question of which agencies are tasked with enacting uniform legislation, and which agencies are tasked with enforcing the enacted legislation is one worth considering. In this article, we will consider the example topic of enacting speed limits on inland lakes.

The Natural Resources Protection Act (“NREPA”) is a large statute, containing a wide range of subsections that control how we use inland lakes. “Part 801” of Subchapter 5 of NREPA deals with marine safety. Pursuant to the marine safety provision of NREPA, the Department of Natural Resources (“DNR”) may “regulate the operation of vessels, water skis, water sleds, aquaplanes, surfboards, and other similar contrivances”. MCL 324.80108 provides that the DNR shall prescribe special local regulations. As such, the local governmental unit often works with a state agency to create enforceable limitations.

As to the question of how the DNR gets involved or alerted to a particular need for regulation, it is often initiated by the governmental unit. Pursuant to MCL 324.80112, a majority vote of the applicable township board or city/ village council on a resolution requesting DNR assistance is required to initiate the request. In a typical example using motorboat speed limits (or the creation of a no-wake zone) as our hypothetical, the local government would vote to seek the DNR’s assistance, in which case the DNR must assist.

After a site visit and assessment, pursuant to NREPA, the proposed ordinance drafted by the DNR is subject to public review in the municipality where the ordinance is to be enacted and notice of the ensuing public hearing is published in a local paper. An interesting twist in the enactment of a DNR regulation is that that local governmental unit may approve or disprove the DNR ordinance as proposed, but the local government may not, on its own accord, modify the proposed ordinance. In sum, it is a take it or leave it proposition.

If you have questions about starting the process of petitioning for a local regulation, we’re happy to help. Contact us at

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.