Consider the size of the Glen Lake/Crystal River Watershed. It covers approximately 30,000 acres. Subtract the 6,400 acres that is considered surface water and you’re left with 23,600 acres of land. That’s an exceptional 4 to 1 ratio of land to water!
The overwhelming majority of that land–16,500 acres, thanks in large part to the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore–is comprised of stands of northern hardwoods. Those forests serve vital environmental and ecological roles in our watershed. Also beneficial, but a distant second, are the open shrub and grasslands that cover 3,600 acres of land in our watershed.
Coming in third place, at 1,400 acres, is the only major human land use–residential homes. But keep in mind, residential activities tend to be clustered along our shores where they can have a significant impact on water quality. Due to the severe limitations imposed by soil and/or topography, we have very few sites suitable for crops like the cherries and grapes popular elsewhere in the region. Therefore, agriculture activities in our watershed are so low in acreage as to be considered insignificant. We also lack the major manufacturing and industries that are problematic in other watersheds. Our only significant industry is seasonal tourism, the impact of which is most highly concentrated during about 10 weeks of the year.
In summary, the “cover story” for our watershed is that the high percentage of forested land use protects scenic beauty while simultaneously providing wildlife habitat, groundwater recharge, and facilitating high water quality. Our watershed is uniquely and naturally positioned to be among the very best watersheds in the world! Let’s not take it for granted. We must put forward every effort to preserve and protect it.
One way you can help protect our surface and groundwater is to minimize or reduce your impervious surfaces whenever and wherever you can on your property. Increase the amount of surface on your property that is covered by natural vegetation and pervious surfaces. By doing this, you will facilitate infiltration of rain water and snow melt and eliminate runoff that causes erosion and sedimentation.
GLA is currently providing technical and professional counsel to two of the four local governments in our watershed. During March and April, Kasson and Empire Township boards will be considering passage of a unified well and septic inspection ordinance. GLA’s watershed biologist, Rob Karner, along with assistance from members of the Glen Lake/ Crystal River Watershed Protection Project has been presenting critical facts and providing answers to township official’s questions.
It is our hope that both townships will join Glen Arbor and Cleveland Townships in better protecting our surface and groundwater from septic pollution by adopting a unified inspection ordinance. This mandatory septic inspection ordinance also
includes drinking well inspections since malfunctioning septics can also pollute nearby drinking water. The price for an inspection is $300 to $500, the cost of which in most cases can be rolled into the property sale.
A point of sale or time of transfer of ownership triggers an inspection. The ordinance would apply to the entire township and inspections will be administered by the health department on behalf of the townships. Older systems, which may not meet current codes, are grandfathered in as long as they are still functioning. Septic systems that are not functional must be repaired. If the system cannot be repaired, then a new system would need to be installed and the latest sanitary building codes would apply. Information on multiple financing resources is available through the county planning department.
Please consider contacting Empire Township Supervisor Carl Noonan at firstname.lastname@example.org and Kasson Township Supervisor Greg Julian at email@example.com and share your thoughts regarding your position on this important water protection topic. You can also attend either the Empire Township monthly board meeting Tuesday, April 9 at 7:30 PM at the Empire Town Hall or the Kasson Township board meeting Tuesday, April 9 at 7 PM at the Kasson Township Hall.
It may seem far away yet we know how fast the weather can change – for the better– in northern Michigan! Plan ahead for a memorable time with family and friends by scheduling a Discovery Boat cruise.
Cruise Glen Lake and learn about it in ways that bring the GLA mission home. It’s all about the water, and what amazing water it is. Learn about water quality, ways to keep the watershed healthy, geology and how the area lakes and dunes were formed, plus so much more.
These cruises are great for the whole family! There are four Fridays available in July, and the first Friday in August. Times include 10:00 am and 12:45 pm departures. There are 10 open cruises– don’t delay and reserve your spot today.
The students pictured above were able to attend the recent Third Coast Conversation series kickoff event featuring a keynote by local author, Jerry Dennis. While there, students were able to participate in small discussion groups with concerned citizens and leaders from local, regional, and worldwide organizations. Groups explored the role freshwater plays in local history, culture and sense of place. Dennis challenged attendees to create a renewed sense of local pride in our water by helping develop a shared mythology of the Great Lakes and freshwater. But this is just one example of how the Leelanau School supports “protecting the watershed drop by drop.”
Promoting community engagement around environmental stewardship is nothing new at the Leelanau School. If you recycle, and we hope you do, you are probably familiar with the recycling drop-off location on Leelanau School property. But did you know that for nearly 90 years,the Leelanau Schoolhas served as custodian of approximately 2,000 feet of the lower reaches of the Crystal River and surrounding significant wetlands?
This educational community of nearly 80 students and staff preserves the natural buffer along the banks of the river and protects adjacent wetlands; exercises best management practices that protect surface and groundwater by recycling solid wastes, uses eco-friendly cleaning products, composts organic wastes, minimizes pesticides, herbicides, and insecticides, and refrains from using fertilizers in close proximity the river. These efforts engage students, staff and visitors through education to promote wise use of natural resources and the protection of surface and groundwater.
Do you know of other organizations, groups or businesses in our community that support the ideals of watershed protection? Would you like to nominate them for GLA Guardian recognition?
Helisoma, Ram’s Horn Snail is an aquatic host to the newly discovered parasite in Glen Lake.
It’s a rare occurrence when a new species is found! But that is exactly what scientists believe has occurred right in our backyard. After years of studying Glen Lake water ecology and organisms, we are now faced with the discovery of a new parasite that could be part of the Swimmer’s Itch life cycle.
A team of scientists with Freshwater Solutions, LLC (FWS) in partnership with the GLA have been working on Swimmer’s Itch in our lakes for decades. Up until the 2018 season, research had focused on the one species believed to be the primary offender in causing Swimmer’s Itch in Glen Lake. The accessibility and affordability of qPCR technology have for the first time made it possible and practical to determine if other previously overlooked parasites could also be contributing to Swimmer’s Itch and to what extent.
So, in 2018, a new approach was used to collect and count every possible itch-causing parasite from all species of snails present in Glen Lake. Predictably, they found the other known itch-causing parasites that are assumed to play a minor role in Swimmer’s Itch. However, a never-before-identified parasite showed up under a microscope. This discovery initially confused and
dumbfounded the FWS team. Was it a sub species? Was it actually one of the known parasite species? Or–most extraordinarily– was it a new species?
After isolating and preserving the unknown parasite, sending it to the University of Alberta for further
analysis, consulting with the University of New Mexico where there is a library of known parasites, and having the parasite analyzed at the genetic level, preliminary results suggest that we have a new schistosome species.
“More tests and checks will continue in the coming months but be prepared to hear more about the announcement to the world that on Glen Lake and other lakes in our region, a new scientific species has been discovered,” says watershed biologist, Rob Karner, who is very excited about the find. “Once the scientific paper that details this discovery is submitted for publication and is
accepted, the fun part will be what to name it,” says Karner.
Karner also commented that, “the discovery speaks to the level of energy and sophisticated scrutiny that GLA is getting from our collective efforts with FWS and the exceptional talent possessed by their team.” At this point, experts are not sure if this new parasite causes itch or which avian (duck) species it cycles through. Hopefully, it does not cause itch but preliminary analysis suggests that it is very closely related to the known parasites in Glen Lake that do.
In order to better understand these questions and more, additional research is already planned for summer 2019. Stay tuned for
updates as we gain better understanding of how this and other itch-causing parasites are impacting our lakes.
The Glen Lake Garden Club has been a “Guardian” of Glen Lake for over 40 years. Each year its nearly 80 members contribute to conservation and community beautification projects around the watershed. On February 19 the Garden Club will be hosting our very own Guardian Ambassador, Tricia Denton. As guest speaker, Tricia plans to share information on the Glen Lake Guardian Program, highlighting key elements of the award-winning Michigan Shoreland Stewardship Survey with practical tips for taking care of our land to protect our waters, both seen and unseen.
Interested in learning more about the Glen Lake Garden Club or attending this event? Please contact Tricia Denton at 231-313-0359 to RSVP by February 16 to get on the guest list.
Then join us at the Glen Lake Community Reformed Church at 12:30 pm on February 19. Enjoy dessert and beverages in the community room followed by Tricia’s interactive session about water protection at 1pm.
Is all the land that drains water into Glen Lake and the Crystal River “created equal?” No. Are there portions of our watershed more critically and ecologically sensitive than others? Yes. Critical areas can be defined as portions of our watershed that have the greatest likelihood to affect water quality and aquatic habitat. The watershed map here shows the critical areas that in sum total equal about 25% of our watershed.
There are five categories of critical areas that include the following:
Riparian Corridors: (Blue) An area that includes land from the shoreline to a 1,000 foot setback boundary for Glen Lakes, Fisher Lakes, Crystal River, and Hatlem Creek.
Forested Ridgelines: (Yellow) These are the steep, forested slopes that harbor permeable soils susceptible to erosion that drain into the lake.
Hatlem Creek Subwatershed: (Red) An ecologically rich, diverse, complex wetland that drains into Glen Lake via Hatlem Creek
Crystal River Dune/Swale Complex: (Orange) An area classified globally as a rare and complex ecosystem.
Groundwater Recharge Areas: (Pink) Areas where the fastest and largest quantity of groundwater enters Glen Lake.
Central to the mission of the Glen Lake Association is to ensure that these critical areas are not degraded. Fortunately, much of these critical areas lay within the boundaries of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and will be preserved and protected for generations to come. However, the Riparian Corridor, where homes occupy nearly 98% of buildable lots along the shore, can pose a significant threat to water quality. Also, areas of strong groundwater recharge mean what you do to your land will impact the surface water of the lake very quickly.
If you live within any of the boundaries of these critical areas of our watershed, consider taking the pledge to protect and join our Glen Lake Guardian program. By doing so, it will provide our waters with the best protection we can offer. After all the lake and river give us, shouldn’t we in turn give back by living responsibly? It is a win-win for both.
For more information about critical areas in a watershed click here.
Groundwater is water that has filtered through the ground and lies “perched” on bedrock or clay. Some of it comes from rain and snowmelt, some of it from during and even before the time of glaciers. This water flows, pulled along by gravity. The flow is either fast or slow depending on the topography and coarseness of the soil. Steep slopes and sandy soils will have faster groundwater flow and low slope gradients and heavy clay soils will yield slower groundwater flow. Either way, the groundwater eventually makes its way to Glen Lake and the Crystal River.
Why does all this matter? Water that enters the soil will travel through, picking up and carrying pollution along the way, eventually delivering toxic chemicals into the lake, including PFAS, excessive nutrients, or harmful bacteria from improperly functioning septic systems.
A lack of natural groundcover can reduce groundwater recharge by causing run-off of rain and snowmelt. When water flows over the ground surface, it can pick up sediment and pollutants, carrying them directly into the lake. Natural vegetation like trees, shrubs and native grasses help intercept this water, allowing it to go into the soil. Vegetation also helps keep water in the ground by protecting against evaporation. Do your part and protect our water, seen and unseen. Groundwater or surface water, they are all connected. Remember our GLA saying, “It’s All About the Water!”
This topic is a reminder that it’s especially important to be mindful of what we put in and on our land. This applies to upland and inland areas, too, not just along our shores. We have to consider the whole watershed. Even miles from the shore, the groundwater from these places eventually makes its way to the lake. Groundwater not only replenishes Glen Lake, we also depend on it for our drinking water. Shorelander or Uplander, we all bear the responsibility to protect the land, in order to keep our groundwater unpolluted.
Some recent Michigan news headlines have featured images of foamy lake and river water attributed to excess levels of PFAS (per-and polyflouroalkyl substances), a class of over 3,500 human engineered chemicals developed since the 1940s. Without knowledge of how they would affect the human body or ecosystems, these substances have been incorporated into a wide range of products including: firefighting foam, non-stick coatings, water repellant clothing, stain resistant carpeting and fabrics, floor cleaners, waxes, paints, insect traps, microwave popcorn bags and more.
In addition, perfluorinated compounds, a subgroup of PFAS, have been referred to as “forever chemicals” because the chemical bond that holds the molecules together is the strongest chemical bond. Some PFAS compounds, perfluoroalkyl acids are also highly mobile in water and are bio-accumulative, meaning they build up in organisms faster than they can be excreted. The human health impacts of these substances are still poorly understood but have been linked to a number of health related problems including but not limited to certain types of cancers.
The GLA has been doing its part to stay up to date on this emerging water/health issue. Several members of the GLA board and Guardian Ambassador Tricia Denton participated in an international “virtual town hall” on threats to groundwater sponsored by Circle of Blue, Bridge and Detroit Public TV. The GLA also sponsored Rob Karner, Watershed Biologist, and Tricia Denton, to attend the annual Michigan Inland Lakes Convention in Grand Rapids, Michigan where among the many seminars that were attended, one featured a workshop on two PFAS subgroups PFOS and PFOA.
In the wake of news related to contaminated sites, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) conducted testing of municipal water systems and schools across the state. The private municipal water system for many of the residents of a neighboring lake in northwest Lower Michigan–Walloon Lake–was part of this statewide testing. Interestingly, PFOA and PFOS chemicals were found to be present in the drinking water but in what is currently considered to be low and “acceptable levels.”
Because the Glen Lake area is not served by any municipal water systems, we were not part of the statewide testing,
and do not have any indication that we are at significant risk for high levels of PFAS chemicals. However, we are exploring testing options
for our lake and a small group of selected water wells that have traditionally been used for baseline testing of other substances in the
past. Rest assured, we will keep you up to date as we discover more about this emerging topic as it applies to our watershed.
There is so much more to know and learn. For more information about this evolving subject, please click here: PFASFactSheet.
To learn more about PFAS, listen to podcasts or review transcripts from the groundwater “virtual town hall” referenced in this article, please visit Circle of Blue.
Hurry and register for this interesting and educational inland lake workshop before the Tuesday, Jan 8 deadline.
“Introduction to Lakes” is offered in a convenient self-paced online format, and is designed for anyone interested in lakes, including lakefront property owners, lake users, local government officials, lake managers and educators.