Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act
Michigan has thousands of inland lakes. For over 40 years, Michigan’s lake board law has been used to implement lake improvement projects. This article provides an overview of lake board procedures and addresses some commonly asked questions regarding lake boards.What is the lake board law?
Lake boards operate under provisions of Part 309, Inland Lake Improvements, of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act, PA 451 of 1994, as amended (MCL 324.30901 – 324.30929). In organizing a project under Part 309, it is important that proper procedures be followed. A chronological summary of lake board procedures is provided in the flow chart below. Lake boards can be established either by petition of 2/3 of the freeholders owning lands abutting the lake, or by a motion of a local unit of government bordering the lake. On private inland lakes, a lake board can only be established by petition of property owners owning lands abutting the lake. A petition to establish a lake board should be reviewed by the local units of government bordering the lake prior to circulation to ensure the petition language is acceptable. If property is owned jointly or has multiple owners, all freeholders should sign the petition. To help discern signatures, the petition should also include a line for the owners’ names to be printed. The enabling resolution adopted by the local unit of government that establishes the lake board should clearly authorize the lake board to determine the scope of the project, and to establish a special assessment district to finance the project. If more than one governmental unit borders the lake, all should be asked to adopt the enabling resolution.
Who sits on the Lake Board?
Lake boards consist of the following:
- A member of the county board of commissioners appointed by the chairperson of the county board of each county affected by the project.
- A representative of each local unit of government or, if there is only one local unit of government involved, two representatives must be appointed.
- The County Drain Commissioner or his or her designee (or a representative of the county road commission in counties not having a drain commissioner).
- A waterfront property owner appointed by the lake board.
On lakes that have a lake association that represents a majority of lakefront property owners, the association may submit up to three names to the lake board from which the board shall make its selection. The waterfront property representative on the lake board has a four-year term. Local units of government may appoint one of their own to sit on the board or someone (such as a lake resident) to represent them. As such, a lake board is a partnership between lake residents and local units of government.
What is a lake board’s first order of business?
At its first meeting, a lake board elects its lakefront property owner representative. The lake board is also required to appoint a chairperson, secretary, and treasurer. Part 309 requires that lake boards retain a professional engineer to prepare an engineering feasibility study, and an estimate of costs and probable assessments.
The study is required to evaluate the feasibility of lake improvement alternatives and to determine the proposed scope and cost of the project. The study is important in that it provides the basis for decision-making and future expenditures.
What kinds of projects can lake boards undertake?