About the Watershed
Watershed FAQ
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Crystal Lake and Watershed Association


Crystal Lake &
Watershed Association
P.O. Box 89, Beulah, MI 49617
Phone: (231) 882-4001
FAX: (231) 882-7810
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Concerns and Issues

Proactive watershed management to protect the integrity of Crystal Lake.

Historical Development

The era following the Civil War was a time for exhibition of the undeveloped regions and resources of the State of Michigan and intent to their early occupancy and development. The following excerpts describe the challenge of the frontiers of the Michigan Territory. .” (D. Bethune, Duffield, The Undeveloped Regions and Resources of the State of Michigan, with Some Practical Suggestions in Reference to Their Early Occupancy and Development, a lecture prepared for the Michigan State Agricultural Society, and delivered at Lansing, at Lansing, January 17, 1865, J.A. Kerr & Co., Lansing, 1865.)

“The Western slope, embracing the territory north of the mouth of the Muskegon river, and along its waters, including all that region already referred to as watered by the Manistee and other rivers emptying into Lake Michigan, is by far the best portion of northern Michigan for agricultural purposes.”

“Its favorable position in respect to the ridge running north and south, and dividing the waters of lakes Huron and Michigan, whose surrounding waters afford to it a peculiarly mild and even tempered climate, together with its rich soil and large tracts of hard timber, interspersed with pines, combine to make it a peculiarly desirable region for all settlers devoting themselves to the cultivation of the ground.”

“From Traverse City, in a south-westerly direction, a chain of beautiful lakes is found, forming the head waters of the Aux Bec Scies river. West of these are several quite large lakes lying near the coast, the principal of which is Crystal Lake, covering an area of 15 square miles, with deep, pure and cold water, surrounded by high banks, and capable of readily floating the immense quantities of timber now standing round about it, to points of shipment near the coast of Lake Michigan, and from which it is securely separated by a narrow strip of high sand banks, about a half a mile in width.”
(Note: This is the predrawdown period before the Outlet was breached during the "Tragedy".)

“Upon the banks of this beautiful sheet of water, and about seven miles from the Aux Bec Sies river, a settlement composed of stirring citizens of Ohio has latterly been made. These men, while opening the country on which they have planted themselves, have taken care to provide substantial institutions of learning for their children, and provisions for the foundation of a college have already been made.”

“The communication of this settlement (which bears the name of Benzonia,) with Lake Michigan, is by the waters of the river just mentioned; yet, in the improvement of the country, Crystal Lake may be made largely available, as its western limits are only two miles from the harbor at the mouth of the Aux Bec Sies river, where a town under the name of Frankfort has been organized, and where substantial improvements have been commenced, with a view of securing not only to that region but to the marine of the entire coast, a superior and permanent harbor of refuge.”

(Note: The idea of navigable access to Crystal Lake from the west directly to Lake Michigan was subsequently replaced by access from the southeast through the Outlet to the Betsie River in 1873.)

The “Tragedy” of Crystal Lake

Crystal Lake Watershed Management

The Crystal Lake Watershed is a valuable natural resource. Protecting the integrity of its high quality waters and unique environment is a worthy objective. Management of the Crystal Lake Watershed is important for three reasons: (1) to determine what we know about our Watershed from the past, (2) to plan to use our Watershed in an environmentally sustainable manner today, and (3) to implement projects to protect our Watershed for the future.

Crystal Lake Watershed Management - Web page includes Crystal Lake Watershed Management Plan and Watershed Management Definition.

Fish Advisories

The Fish Contaminant Monitoring Program (FCMP) administered by MDEQ is designed to assess chemical contamination of persistent toxic substances (PTS's) that bioaccumulate in fish. Contaminant data are used to determine whether fish from waters of the state are safe for human and wildlife consumption, and as a surrogate measure of other bioaccumulative contaminants in surface water.

The levels of PCBs in fish from Crystal Lake were near the threshold of the fish advisory. Recent data values were less than those for previous sampling periods and showed declines in concentration (which is consistent with the broader geographical trends in the Lake Michigan basin).

In Crystal Lake, Lake Trout, Brown Trout, and Yellow Perch were caught in 1989; White Suckers and Lake Trout were caught in 1997; and Lake Trout were caught in 2000. Edible portions (fillet with skin on) of fish were analyzed for total PCB's, mercury, and several pesticides. With the exception of total PCB's in trout and suckers, fish from Crystal Lake were below "trigger levels" (defined by the USFDA) for all other contaminants. Crystal Lake is not unique in having an advisory for PCB's. Other large lakes with fish advisories include: Lake Michigan, Charlevoix, Elk, Glen, Higgins, Houghton, Manistee, and Torch.

Ozone Nonattainment

Benzie County was identified by the U.S. EPA as an ozone (O3) nonattainment area (see this Web page). The 8-hour level occasionally exceeded the National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) of 80 parts per billion. O3 is a photochemical oxidant and the major component of smog. In the upper atmosphere, it is beneficial to life by shielding the earth from harmful UV (ultraviolet) radiation from the sun, but high concentrations at ground level are a major health and environmental concern. O3 is not emitted directly into the air but is formed through complex chemical reactions between volatile organic compounds (VOC) and oxides of nitrogen (NOx). These reactions are stimulated by sunlight and temperature so peak O3 levels occur during the summer months. NOx are emitted by transportation and industrial sources. VOCs are emitted from autos, chemical manufacturing, dry cleaning, painting, and other sources. O3 causes health problems by damaging lung tissue, reducing lung function, and sensitizing the lungs to other irritants. Ambient O3 affects people with impaired respiratory systems and healthy adults and children as well. This decision may impact future air emission controls.

Ground-Level Ozone: (from
MDEQ Attainment/Nonattainment Web page)

"In the earth's lower atmosphere (also known as the troposphere - the layer of the atmosphere nearest the earth's surface), ground level ozone is considered bad. Ground-level ozone pollution causes human health problems, damages crops and other vegetation, and is a key ingredient of urban smog. Ground level ozone is created by photochemical reactions involving nitrogen oxides (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) or hydrocarbons in the presence of sunlight. These reactions usually occur during the hot summer months as ultraviolet radiation from the sun initiates a sequence of photolytical reactions. Ground level ozone can also be transported hundreds of miles under favorable meteorological conditions. Ozone levels are often higher in rural areas than in cities due to transport to regions downwind from the actual emissions of ozone forming air pollutants. Shoreline monitors along Lake Michigan often measure high ozone concentrations due to transport from upwind states."

Click here for Air Quality Index (AQI): Real-time data including Benzonia, MI, for Ozone (O3) (seasonal) and particulate matter (PM2.5).

Redesignation to Attainment for Benzie County

Based upon cumulative monitoring data and projected estimates of 8-hour ozone levels, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) petitioned the U.S. EPA on May 6, 2006, to redesignate eleven counties, including Benzie Co., to attainment status.

See this PDF document:
See here for PDF document details.)

The U.S. EPA subsequently proposed a rules change to approve and promulgate the State Implementation Plan (SIP) reflecting this petition:

The consequences are that Benzie Co., historically reknown for its climate and pure air, will no longer be designated as failing to meet the ozone standard.

Comments submitted by the CLWA in support of this action are found
in this 2-page PDF document (see here for PDF document details).

"A field of water betrays the spirit that is in the air. It is continually receiving new life and motion from above. It is intermediate in its nature between land and sky. We shall, perhaps, look down thus on the surface of air at length, and mark where a still subtler spirit sweeps over it." -- H.D. Thoreau, Walden, Chapter 9, The Ponds, 1854.

Road Ends Legislation

On June 27, 2007, the Michigan House passed legislation increasing the scope of public access to bodies of water from the ends of public roads. House Bill 4463 states that a marina can be built by a local government at the end of any public road which terminates at a body of water of over 2,500 acres. A companion Bill 4464 establishes recreational presumption for road end dedications. Of the ~35 large inland lakes potentially impacted, more than half (including Crystal and Platte Lakes) are located in NW lower MI. Local townships would have the option to adopt ordinances allowing docks of up to 250 feet in length and five feet in width to be installed at each road end to allow seasonal overnight moorings from boat slips or hoists from May 1 to September 30 to be allocated through a lottery or fee system. The legislation now is in the Michigan Senate Committee on Government Operations & Reform.

Recognizing that Crystal Lake was subject to possible regulation, the CLWA Board determined that these bills would neither protect nor improve the water quality of Crystal Lake, but to the contrary will negatively impact the water quality and be detrimental to the Lake and its Watershed. The Board of Directors for the CLWA publicly stated their opposition to House Bills 4463 and 4464; and urged its representatives in the Michigan Senate and Michigan House of Representatives to oppose the current version of the road end bills. The complete resolution sent to local and state officials on October 16, 2007, which contained nine reasons for this determination.

See the
Road Ends Resolution document sent to state and local persons. (PDF document, see here for details.)

Concerns for Property Owners and Visitors to the Watershed

Perhaps almost unspoken for each of us is that special “place near the Lake” where we live, work, play, and think. Lake and Watershed properties might seem to be the prime responsibilities of government, institutions, or individual property owners. These properties, however, are also the responsibilities of visitors and summer renters to insure that they are used wisely and maintained appropriately. There are many ways that we may look at the Crystal Lake Watershed -as a student, a visitor, an owner of watershed property (a “lakie,” a “townie,”, a “fudgie,” etc.). All of us have slightly different perspectives, but we all share the benefits -the use and enjoyment of our Watershed for fishing, boating, swimming, recreation, working, and living. We also share the same concerns for maintaining a proper balance between reasonable environmental protection and sustainable development. Together, we are all stewards of the environment that makes up Crystal Lake and its surrounding Watershed.

The supplemental brochures accompanying this
“Walkabout ” Interpretive Manual describe concerns that are common to all watershed property owners and users. "Watersheds: Where We Live" (U.S.Geological Survey) describes the importance of living in a watershed."Your Lake and You"(North American Lake Management Society, Michigan Lake and Stream Associations, and Michigan Department of Environmental Quality) describes steps to take to protect a watershed. Much of this advice is just good "common sense" in recognizing that a pristine watershed is different from an urban streetscape. Many of the best management practices (BM s) are directed at protecting a watershed, i.e. preventing "pollution" from whatever source that might despoil the environment and adversely affect aquatic ecosystems. It is much more difficult to repair damage to the environment from unknowing or uncaring activities.

This discussion is specific to the Crystal Lake Watershed. Several unique features and aspects of the Crystal Lake Watershed make it alternately very resistant or potentially vulnerable to environmental impacts. Concerns that you as property owners and watershed stewards should consider:

  • Septic Systems, Holding Tanks, and Sewers
  • Lawns, Gardens, Fertilizers, and Pesticides
  • Natural Greenbelts, Land Conservancies, and Scenic Vistas
  • Boating, Swimming, and Fishing
  • Litter, Trash, Garbage, and Household Hazardous Materials
  • Planning & Zoning
  • Land Use and Water Access
  • Construction and Development
  • Land Cover,Trees, Other Vegetation - the Viewshed
  • Critical Areas - Steep Slopes, Wetlands, Dunes, and Other Critical Habitats
  • Erosion and Shoreline Protection
  • Soil, Sediment, and Nutrient Runoff
  • Atmospheric Deposition & Ozone
  • Aquatic Vegetation, Fish, and Waterfowl
  • Algae, Bacteria, and Mold
  • Nonindigenous Plants, Animals, and Microorganisms
  • Aesthetics and Noise
  • Natural, Economic, and Social Challenges

These concerns (*) range from those affecting the entire Watershed to those within individual properties. Assessments of risk to human health and the watershed environment can be qualitative and quantitative. Decisions for risk control are rather subjective, but are ultimately based on the “bottom line ” -how much will it cost to prevent or to control. Management practices for risk control must be evaluated for effectiveness rather than assuming that problems are cured. Problems and solutions must be prioritized.

(*) This list of concerns is based upon an earlier publication focused on the Crystal Lake Watershed: Decker, R. William, Chair, Ad Hoc Committee, Benzie County Board of Public Works,
“Crystal Lake - Life or Death," A Lake Owners’ Manual, Benzie County, Michigan, 1987, 32 pp+8 figures. It is also based on related publications.

Please feel free to contact the CLWA is you have any questions or comments regarding any of these concerns. See our
contact information at the top of this page.

For general information, see:
Wandell, Howard, A Case for Lake Protection Management, Planning & Zoning News, Oct. 2003, pp 11-13. (PDF document, see here for details.)


About the Watershed

Watershed FAQ

Concerns & Issues

Management Plan

MDNR Boat Launch

Public Access Sites
About the CLWA

Water Quality

Education & Communications

Zoning & Land Use


Ad Hoc & Special Committees

Membership Form




Selected Web Links