Higgins Lake United

A Grassroots Effort to Find Ways to Improve the Water Quality of Higgins Lake 

Dear Higgins Lake United Supporter:

The proponents of a huge and expensive (well over $100 MILLION) Higgins Lake Sewer Project continue to try to garner support for their one size fits all system.  What they continue to omit is objective and balanced information about the sources of nutrients into Higgins Lake. The sewer project supporters cherry pick information from the dozens of reports on the lake  conducted over 50 years, only using the information they want you to know, and ignoring the rest of the  data and analysis that does not support their agenda.

Some of you may have received a letter asking you to change your NO petitions to a YES petition.  Unfortunately, the letter contains very misleading and  inaccurate information.  The letter claims that 79.2% of  phosphorous loading is due to septic systems.  This is simply unsupported by objective data.

The letter also claims that the sewer project can be  financed by grants and or loans. As you are probably  aware, after over 3 years of trying to get any form of funding, the sewer supporters have gotten absolutely  nothing. Their only recourse is to pass the over $100  million cost directly onto the sewer SAD lot owners.

That would amount to over $50,000 per lot, PLUS  over $500 per year for operations. Get out your checkbook....

As some of you know the Higgins Lake Land Conservancy has sponsored an ongoing analysis by the Tip of the Mitt to provide an objective third party analysis of the dozens of reports on Higgins Lake quality over 50 years. They have  released their interim report: (bold added by HLU)

"Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council is dedicated to
protecting our lakes, streams, wetlands, and groundwater through advocacy, education, water quality monitoring, research, and restoration


Best Regards from your Neighbors and Friends at HLU

Read on...


Tip of the Mitt Interim Report (July 2023)

By Jennifer McKay — Policy Director Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council

In 2022, Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council was contracted by the Higgins Lake  Land Conservancy to conduct a literature review of studies pertinent to the proposed Higgins Lake Sewer System and provide recommendations for the management of nutrient loading of Higgins Lake. The Watershed Council acknowledges that "completion of the literature review has been significantly delayed due to substantial internal staffing changes and transitions within our organization. We greatly appreciate the patience of the Higgins Lake Land Conservancy in recognizing our organizational challenges, as well as the desire to ensure the product is scientifically accurate and thoroughly evaluated."

Based upon our current research and evaluation, the Watershed Council is offering the following preliminary results from our literature review. 

Higgins Lake has long been noted for its high water quality and promoted as one of the cleanest lakes in Michigan. Despite this, concerns regarding water quality and pollution have existed by property owners and lake association's members for more than 40 years.  Since the early 1970s until current date, Higgins Lake has been the subject of numerous studies regarding the overall health and management of the lake, in addition to analyses concerning nutrient loading and more specifically phosphorus loading from septic systems. The overall preliminary conclusion based upon the literature review is that Higgins Lake is still an oligotrophic lake of high water quality. At the same time, as every lake in Northern Michigan, it has been impacted by the increase of human activity.

While a considerable number of studies have been conducted and reports developed for Higgins Lake, unfortunately, the information provided by the literature review indicates it has not been consistent, coordinated, or replicated to confirm trends in nutrient pollution. Even if preliminary data is acknowledged, there is not evidence to find causation that the primary source of nutrient pollution in Higgins Lake is due to septic systems.

The studies reviewed encompassed a time period of almost 50 years. Those studies included different methodologies for sampling, including depth, location, and time of year. In addition, some of the reports did not conduct sampling, but rather relied upon literature reviews and theoretical calculations or modeling. As a result, nutrient and phosphorus loading estimates attributed to septic systems varied greatly, from 17% - 99.6% (The 99.6% was a result of a conversion error in the report). At the same time, many studies identified a number of other sources contributing greater nutrient inputs to Higgins Lake, such as storm water runoff. It is also important to acknowledge that many of the initial studies occurred prior to the introduction of zebra and quagga mussels, which have undoubtedly altered the lake ecosystem of Higgins Lake. 

Based upon the preliminary review, the potential recommended actions for

Higgins Lake to reduce nutrient pollution will include:

• Gerrish and Lyon Township pursue septic regulation ordinances. Even as a

sewer project moves forward, it takes years to obtain funding and permits,

develop best management practices, and finally construct the sewer system. A

septic  regulation  ordinance  can  address  nutrient  pollution  now,  while

conversations are still occurring regarding the potential of a sewer system.

• Pursue a septic monitoring program for Lake Higgins. While a multitude of

studies have been conducted on Higgins Lake, it is recommended that a

consistent, multi-year monitoring program be instituted to be able to determine

if a trend exists. Also, new technology exists that can be used to identify

human fecal waste. Such testing would be more conclusive than previous

studies conducted.

• More information and recommendations will come in the final report.

Thanks for visiting Higgins Lake United! (Please note that this site is under development).  Please see our draft Alternative Proposals Page listed under Proposed sewer project.

The water quality of Higgins Lake is of concern to everyone who uses the lake.  We all want to ensure that our lake remains one of the most beautiful bodies of water in the world.

Higgins Lake United was organized by Higgins Lake area residents and property owners to find common sense ways to control and reduce the flow of nutrients into the lake.

What is the HLU intent and purpose?

Moving Forward, what are possible real alternatives? [NOTE THE ABOVE TOM INTERIM REPORT]

"The Higgins Lake Land Conservancy is pleased to announce that it has entered in a major environmental

review agreement with the Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council for a review and recommendation regarding the

proposed Higgins Lake sewer system.

The Tip of the Mitt Watershed Counsel has agreed to provide to the Higgins Lake Land Conservancy:

1) An exhaustive literature review of 20 prior environmental studies completed on the water quality of

Higgins Lake;

2) Complete a concise summary of the relevant data obtained from the prior studies.

3) Develop best practices recommendation as dictated by a review and compilation of the 20 prior studies;

4) Prepare a complete written report of the best practices recommendations; and

5) Make a presentation of the Tip of the Mitt findings and recommendations to the Higgins Lake Land

Conservancy Board."

This is the kind of comprehensive and independent evaluation that HLU supports.  We look forward to see the report in September of 2022. 

Higgins Lake Land Conservancy Link: http://www.higginslakelandconservancy.com/

The Tip of the Mitt Watershed  Council Link: https://www.watershedcouncil.org/

If you would like to be added to our email list or get more information, please email us at: Higginsunited21@gmail.com