By Jessica Mathews /

The Hamburg Township board is mulling over how to best proceed when it comes to a very complex assessment to control invasive weeds on the Chain of Lakes.

At a recent meeting, the board discussed what were said to be some complicated issues and significant changes related to the renewal of the Huron River Chain of Lakes Special Assessment District Lake Improvement Project. The SAD encompasses the lakes on the Huron River Chain from Little Portage to Zukey Lake and includes the townships of Putnam, Dexter, Webster, and Hamburg in both Washtenaw and Livingston Counties. The program provides for treatment and harvesting of invasive weeds as well as the services of a lake scientist to prescribe treatment and report findings.

It was established via a resolution under Act 185 and not typical petitions. However, Supervisor Pat Hohl reported that the Washtenaw County Board of Public Works has indicated that for lakes other than Little Portage, Portage and Baseline – possibly Tamarack and Whitewood - petitions will be required. That involves approval from 2/3 of riparian and non-riparian properties. The SAD expires after taxes levied in December are expended for treatment in 2022. The endangered snuffbox mussel has federal protection, which limited treatments that basically include copper.

Hohl said there’s a lot going on and there are approximately 1,200 residents outside of Portage, Little Portage, and Baseline Lakes so it would be a very extensive petition process with a great deal of work in a short period of time. Further, he said it’s a tremendous amount of work to just get to next year when the assessment expires. Washtenaw County will draft the petitions but the township is responsible for distributing and collecting them.

Hohl stated that copper is the primary treatment approach for starry stonewort, which is one of the primary invasive aquatic plants the Chain of Lakes is treating for. It was also mentioned there could be a complete ban coming on using copper for starry stonewort.

Hohl said he brought it to the board for discussion as there has been some dissatisfaction with the program. He commented that what Washtenaw has done for Hamburg has been phenomenal, which are residents of Livingston County. Hohl noted that residents are dissatisfied but in his opinion, it has nothing to do with Washtenaw, it’s the limitations and mandates from the state and federal governments that bar effective treatment.

Some board members commented that it should be left up to residents to decide but felt if people aren’t happy then it probably won’t pass. Hohl commented there’s a high probability that a few lakes won’t pass it and thinks people will be reluctant because they now view government as the problem but don’t understand the disconnect between the permitting process as it is now compared to six or seven years ago.

Hohl said if the petitions don’t pass then the lakes won’t have treatment next year but then residents will likely be back in a couple of years requesting the township to do something again but the state still controls the permits. If copper won’t be available, Hohl said he’s not sure what else can be done to treat the starry stonewort – again stressing a scientific formulated approach has been used for treatment rather than haphazard methods.

Hohl was ultimately directed to provide the board with a draft petition at the next meeting and more discussion is expected to decide how to proceed.