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.
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?