How does your greenbelt rate? Do you have erosion, algae?
The 2018 LCA Shoreline Survey – How Healthy Is the Water’s Edge? 1.6 10/6/19
In early 2018, the LCA partnered with Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council and Zero Gravity Aerial to conduct a shoreline survey over the summer. The goal was to determine the current state of the lake’s greenbelt and shoreline. The study focused on three significant threats to lake health, nutrient pollution, greenbelt loss, and shoreline erosion. The condition of every parcel on the lake was recorded by observing the shoreline from the water’s surface and through drone imaging. Evaluation of the data was conducted by the Watershed Council.
We hope this data will help property owners improve their shoreland in ways that will help protect and preserve the lake. LCA is grateful to the Charlevoix County Community Foundation for their assistance in funding this survey.
Lakes, like humans, require a certain amount of nutrition to stay healthy. Like humans, lakes can also run into trouble with the intake of too many nutrients. Excess nutrients in lake water promotes the growth of both aquatic plants (macrophytes) and algae. While too many aquatic plants in your swim area might be annoying, excess algal growth can cause a host of problems including depleted dissolved oxygen, toxic algal blooms, and nutrient pollution.
Cladophora is a green algae that is used as an indicator for the presence of nutrients in lakes. It proliferates on solid substrates (rocks and logs) when excess nutrients are present making it easily seen along shorelines.
According to the survey, “noticeable growths of Cladaphora and other green algae were observed along the shoreline at 624 parcels (36.8% of the parcels surveyed). More than half of the parcels had “light or very light” growth while 78 of the parcels were labeled“heavy or very heavy.”
There are 2,199 parcels on Lake Charlevoix with 1,983 of them considered as “developed.” Of these properties, 1,371 have been altered with rock, boulders, beach sand, or sea walls.
In general, when shorelines are altered from their natural states, water quality suffers. When natural, deep rooted vegetation is removed from the greenbelt, stormwater runoff increases as does sedimentation from erosion. Lack of vegetation also reduces the abundance and diversity of aquatic life from minute crustaceans to game fish.
Greenbelts were scored from 0 (little or no greenbelt) to 7 (exemplary). Properties receiving a poor ranking (0, 1, or 2) totaled 37% of those surveyed, while 29% of the properties received a moderate ranking (3 or 4), and 34% of the parcels received a good (5-6), or excellent (7) rating. Large parcels along the eastern shoreline showed excellent, healthy greenbelts, however these tended to be largely undeveloped properties.
Your healthy shoreline supports wildlife, filters pollutants, reduces erosion, and improves water quality.
Shoreline erosion causes a host of problems for lakes. Sediments clog the gills of fish, insects, and other aquatic creatures. It smothers fish spawning beds and fills the spaces between rocks where small aquatic organisms live. Surprisingly, nutrients, like phosphorous, adhere to the sediments further compounding the algae problem. Healthy shoreline greenbelts with woody and herbaceous plants are an essential element in preventing erosion.
Symptoms of erosion included areas of bare soil, leaning or downed trees, exposed tree roots, undercut banks, slumping hunks of sod, excessive deposits of sediments, or muddy water.
Parcels were placed in four categories, none, minor, moderate, and severe. Erosion was found on 34% of the parcels, with 57% of those ranked “light” and 7% in the “heavy” category.
It was noted that properties with patches of grass at the water’s edge experienced some undercutting from wave action and ice shove. Parcels with artificial beach sand typically experienced loss of sand into the lake.
Looking at Trends
The current survey provides us with a snapshot of our lake’s shoreline health. By comparing the results from 2007 to the present survey we learn the following:
- The percentage of developed shoreline parcels increased from 85.1% to 90.4%.
- The total number of shoreline parcels with Cladophora increased from 17% to 37%.
- The number of parcels receiving a very poor or poor greenbelt rating declined from 45% to 37%.
- The number of parcels receiving a good to excellent greenbelt rating increased from 0% to 34%.
- The percentage of shorelines that have been altered with rock increased from 27% to 45%.
- The number of parcels with erosion issues has remained approximately the same.
The overarching goal of this survey is to encourage and help homeowners improve their property in ways that protect the lake. With that in mind, the full report will be available on our website later this fall. We will also be providing owners with private access to the data for their property . We encourage everyone to honestly consider their impact on the lake and then explore options to be better stewards of Lake Charlevoix.
Using data from our 2018 shoreline survey, and information from studies done on other lakes, our LCA environmental committee will commission a more in-depth study of nutrients and plant growth in Lake Charlevoix beginning in 2020. This study will include work that isolates the sources of nutrients entering the lake, especially failing septic systems and fertilizer run-off. We will also be working to procure grant monies to support this indepth and expensive research.
Cladophora, habitat loss, and erosion are all issues associated with the development of shorelines for recreation and habitation. Recognizing the importance of a healthy greenbelt and shoreline can go a long way in improving your shorleine. Property owners can contact the Watershed Council for more information on how to improve greenbelts and/or correct erosion problems.