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
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
• 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.