Pigeon Lake goes no wake, Macatawa could be next

Rising Waters

PORT SHELDON TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — It’s dock raising time again at the Bale home on Ottawa County’s Pigeon Lake.

“This riser project is a $6,000 project for us, and it’s only a temporary thing,” lakefront homeowner Bart Bale said as he points to the latest effort to keep his dock above the rising lake waters.

Keeping the docks above water is just one of the challenges he and other homeowners on the lake are dealing with.

Erosion is another.

“Eventually, all this dirt begins to fall down. You can see the slope of the yard is beginning to fall,” Bale said as he points to the saturated backwashed area just behind his seawall.

Much of the erosion can be blamed on strong, storm generated waves.

But boats are contributors to the problem.

“As the boat wakes come through, it just gets worse and worse, and starts to undermine the seawalls and continues to erode the shoreline,” Bale said.

Homeowners can’t control the water levels and waves Mother Nature sends them, so they’re trying to control the waves that humans create.

Port Sheldon Township recently took advantage of a new state law that allows local units of government to ask the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to put six month slow-no wake rules on local bodies of water.

The Ottawa County Sheriff’s Department Marine Unit is putting additional patrols on the lake to enforce the new rules.

The fine for violating the slow-no wake order is $115.00.

“We will also take into consideration obviously that it is a new ordinance and the information still has to get out to the public,” Marine Patrol Sgt. Eric Westveer said. “But there will be increased enforcement and patrols on the lake.”

Erosion is the larger issues, but there are also safety concerns.

“Because of the high water levels and because of the erosion, parts of docks have been breaking away and those have been floating into the water, which can cause huge safety concerns for skiers, for tubers and for recreational boaters,” Westveer said.

Port Sheldon Township is among the first communities in the state to take advantage of the new law for Pigeon Lake. But News 8 learned Holland, Holland Township and Park Township have asked the state to allow them to put similar restrictions on Lake Macatawa.

>>Inside woodtv.com: Complete coverage of West Michigan’s Rising Waters

Lt. Tom Wanless with the DNR says the state’s recommendations were passed on to the three communities Wednesday. The recommendations include creating a slow-no wake speed for every vessel on Lake Macatawa.

It’s a move that could impact far more boaters than the much smaller Pigeon Lake, and not everyone is on board with the Pigeon Lake speed limit.

“The wake is not the major damage. The major damage is from the storms,” Steve Fuller said.

Fuller says he’s been through the same issue on Pigeon Lake as Bale and others.

But he disagrees with the no wake rule.

Fuller says the protected nature of Pigeon Lake compared to Lake Michigan, which is accessible by a ten minute boat ride from Pigeon Lake, is what drew him to the smaller body of water three years ago.

He says the damage is from the storms, and that can’t be legislated away.

“So rather than expecting the government to come in and say hey listen, no wake, which doesn’t solve it, you sill have the high water, you still have the storms,” Fuller said. “The people need to be doing what’s necessary to protect the property.”

Wanless says as of Thursday morning, nine communities on seven Michigan lakes have applied for a six-month slow-no wake permit because of high waters:

  • Approved: Pigeon Lake and Pigeon River in Ottawa County’s Port Sheldon Township
  • Approved: School Section Lake in Oceana County’s Colfax Township
  • In progress: Lake Macatawa in Holland, Holland Township and Park Township
  • In progress: Crystal Lake in Oceana County’s Hart Township
  • In progress: Manuka Lake in Otsego County’s Hayes Township
  • In progress: Thumb Lake in Charlevoix County’s Hudson Township
  • In progress: Lower Herring Lake in Benzie County’s Blaine Township

Wanless says the submit, review, investigation and approval process bounces between the municipality and state, with 10-day deadlines for nearly every step. Each community gets 30 days to review and respond to the state’s recommendation.

Communities interested in applying for a slow-no wake permit can do so online at http:///www.Michigan.gov/DNRlwcrequests.

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