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Appeal of DNR's watercraft controls a risk

Bloomfield Township has been blessed by Mother Nature with 10 beautiful lakes of varying sizes and homeowners who share similar standards of how they wish to maintain life on their waterway. A majority of those homeowners have agreed to preserve their way of life by sustaining no motorized boat regulations on their lakes, and whether by law or common edict, they have been able to continue the quiet on their waterfronts.


In the last year, Bloomfield Township petitioned the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) with the goal to maintain no motors of any kind on certain township lakes, and to have the DNR create an enforceable regulation. As township clerk Martin Brook explained at a recent township board of trustees meeting, they wanted to preserve the way it had been, with no motor boats of any kind on the lakes, with an added prohibition of high electric motorization to include other kinds of water transport because of the way technology is changing.


As part of the process required by statute with the DNR, a number of public hearings were held, with over 170 local residents, local elected state legislators, county and township officials attending, all supporting – insisting – on maintaining local control on each of the lakes, to allow each lake board the ability to make the decisions for their waterway.


During the public hearing process, Bloomfield Township and its residents learned that what they believed was a no motorized law on their lakes was actually not an enforceable ordinance. What had been adopted ordinances in place in the township that had allowed waterways to be no motorboat environments since 1970 – turned out to never have the approval from the DNR.


In a split-the-baby-in-the-bathwater decision, the DNR came back with a ruling on March 28, which determined that local implementation was not warranted. The lakes are permitted to be slow no-wake waterways, but the agency determined that an ordinance that required no internal combustion engines and limited-sized electric boats on the lakes was not required.


Slow no-wake boat speed means a very slow speed on a lake whereby the wake or wash created by the boat would be minimal. To be an enforceable ordinance, a lake board would have to put up signs around the lake.


The choices before Bloomfield Township are to adopt the DNR's ordinance, reject it or to appeal it.


While residents and some trustees do not want to adopt the ordinance, or if they do, want to immediately appeal it, we agree with township attorney Derk Beckerleg, who flatly said an appeal would be “futile.”


He noted, for one, that noise is an “aesthetic,” meaning it's different for each person. One's loud clamor may be someone else's minor din. A slow no-wake ordinance is a win for Bloomfield Township, as it eliminates a safety issue that can arise with fast motor boats, and generally creates little noise issues. Beckerleg wisely urged trustees to approve and adopt the slow no-wake ordinance for all of the township's lakes now, in time for boating season, for this summer, in order for it to be enforceable. If not adopted at all, it could be a free for all on the lakes, with any kind of motorized watercraft permitted – the exact opposite of what residents want.


Further, an appeal, which could take over a year, could force the director of the DNR, the only individual who can and will hear the appeal of the agency, to pull the slow no-wake ruling in its entirety – again, the reverse of peaceful lake living for township residents.


Accept the win Bloomfield Township. Going slow on a lake means living good.

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