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DNR watercraft controls for township lakes

By Dana Casadei


At the Bloomfield Township Board of Trustees meeting on Monday, April 8, there was extensive discussion about the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) local watercraft control findings and resolutions surrounding 10 lakes within the township.


While some aspects of the ruling went the way the board wanted – having each lake be a slow no-wake waterway, for instance – others did not, including the omission of the agency implementing an ordinance that required no internal combustion engines and limited-sized electric boats on the lakes. 


There were adopted ordinances already in place in the township that has allowed waterways to be no motorboat environments since 1970, but it turns out that approval has never been obtained from the DNR, causing a variety of steps to be taken over the last few years.


The DNR provided an initial investigation in the spring of 2023, during which time the DNR implied that a local watercraft control was not warranted.


Since then, hundreds have shown up to public hearings – ranging from local residents who live on the lakes to local elected legislators, and there have been dozens of written comments and eventually the DNR’s decision provided to the township this past March did in fact allow for a slow-no wake ordinance and a basis for local watercraft control.


Clerk Martin Brook commented at the meeting that more than one time at the public meetings that the DNR would say they can’t make everyone happy but, in fact, keeping the slow-no wake ordinance and maintaining them as no motorboat environments, as well as no high-powered electric motors, would have made everyone happy. 


It would have also kept the adopted ordinances and let things keep running as they had been.


Have these ordinances really been followed even though they weren’t even enforced by the DNR for all these years? Yes. 


“Those ordinances have been adhered to because it’s the desire of the local residents,” Brook noted. “We’ve really had a strong uniform voice from all the lakes, supporting to maintain a no-motorboat environment and expanding it to high-powered electric motors so we can maintain safe and quiet enjoyment of the lakes.”


While township attorney Derk Beckerleg did not agree with the DNR’s decision, he also didn’t mince words about the likelihood of filing an appeal against DNR’s decision. He said if that was the way the board decided to go, he didn’t have high hopes for the outcome, noting it's chances were “futile.”


He had multiple reasons for this, with the largest being that the appeal would be going directly to the director of the DNR, who is the director of the group of people who already said no to the motorboat ordinance. 


Beckerleg noted that in his legal opinion there are some major risks in appealing, with a small likelihood of prevailing. 


“I think we’re kidding ourselves if you think we’re likely to see a different result,” he said. “Is that the best way to spend taxpayers money?”


In spite of the DNR’s ruling, Beckerleg pointed out they had still achieved a major victory in protecting lakes safety through their ruling to support “that on each of the 10 lakes it shall be unlawful for an operator of a vessel to exceed a slow-no wake speed.”


The DNR’s ruling was the same for all 10 of Bloomfield Township's lakes. 


Many trustees agreed with Beckerleg, noting it may not be worth the risk, with the ultimate decision being to adopt all 10 ordinances as presented, then consider whether or not they want to appeal any of the ordinances at their meeting on Wednesday, April 24.


The motion was made to present the motion and bring it back for adoption at thenext meeting passed 7-0.


Brook said he would have a list of lakes that he thinks would make the strongest case to appeal at the next meeting.

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