Little Traverse Bay Shore Survey (2015)
Shoreline property management practices can negatively impact water quality and lake ecosystem health. Greenbelts provide many benefits to the lake ecosystem, which are lost when shoreline vegetation is removed. Erosion and shoreline alterations (e.g., seawalls, rip-rap) both have the potential to degrade water quality. Nutrients are necessary to sustain a healthy aquatic ecosystem, but excess inputs from shoreline properties can adversely impact an aquatic ecosystem.
In the spring of 2015, the Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council surveyed Little Traverse Bay to document and assess shoreline conditions. The following parameters were surveyed for all individual properties: Cladophora algae as a biological indicator of nutrient pollution, greenbelt status, erosion, alterations (e.g. seawalls, riprap), nearshore substrate types, presence of wetlands, emergent aquatic vegetation, and stream inlets and outlets. This survey was funded by the Petoskey Harbor Springs Area Community Foundation and the Baiardi Foundation to update the Little Traverse Bay Watershed Protection Plan.
Survey results provide evidence of poor riparian property management practices that have the potential to degrade the Little Traverse Bay ecosystem. Cladophora growth was found at 41% of properties, with 8% of growths rated as heavy to very heavy density. Greenbelts were found to be in poor or very poor condition at 54% of shoreline properties. Moderate to severe erosion was documented at 3% of properties and shoreline alterations were noted at 60%. On a positive note, 19% of greenbelts were in excellent condition. Relative to other shoreline surveys in the region, Little Traverse Bay has a high percentage of properties with Cladophora algae, poor greenbelts, and shoreline alterations. However, the Bay has a low percentage of properties with heavy Cladophora algae and erosion. Comparisons with the shoreline survey conducted on Little Traverse Bay in 2002 show an increase in shoreline development, Cladophora algae growth, and shoreline wetlands.
Numerous best management practices help minimize negative impacts to water quality. Maintaining a buffer of diverse, native plants along the shoreline helps filter pollutants and reduce erosion. Rain barrels, rain gardens, grassy swales, and many other techniques mitigate stormwater runoff impacts. Improving shoreline property management will help protect water quality, strengthen fisheries, and improve the quality of life and recreation on the Bay.
To achieve the full value of this survey, these follow-up actions are recommended: 1) Educate riparian property owners about best management practices that protect water quality; 2) Send survey summaries to all shoreline residents, along with information about what each person can do to help; 3) Contact property owners confidentially to encourage them to participate in identifying and rectifying any problems that exist on their property; and 4) Organize informational sessions to present survey results and best management practices that help protect and improve lake water quality.