On March 15 we conducted a quick-poll. Below are the results, with 794 people responding.
Considerations as We Work to Bring Back the Lakes
Based on the quick-poll results above, it's evident that, while everyone has a right to speak, FLTF simply cannot spend so much time responding to unfounded allegations. We will turn to focus our energy on helping people understand our policy positions and the processes we follow to get to the best solution for restoration. Here are our stated positions:
On Rights: The counties and everyone in the Four Lakes Special Assessment District have a legal right to their lake under Part 307 “Inland Lake Levels” of the Michigan Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act, 1993 PA 451, as amended, MCL 324.30701 et seq.
On Fault:There is an independent investigation team that FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) and EGLE (Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy) have implemented. They will identify lessons learned. These lessons will inform FLTF on dam design going forward. We want the independent team to remain independent, and while it is human nature to look for the villain, FLTF’s job is to help the counties and its citizens restore the future of our lake community.
On Fairness: FTFT agrees and is aligned with the lake property owners who believe it is unfair and unjust for them to bear the entire burden of this restoration. As a matter of public policy, it would be unprecedented to expect adjacent properties to pay for environmental restoration or repair of the natural resources damaged as a result of the dam failures while the dams were owned by Boyce Hydro Power.
On Benefit Upstream and Downstream of the Four Lakes: There is a benefit for Midland County downstream of the dams, just as there is a benefit for Gladwin County up-stream of the dams. The benefit is both economic and "Pure Michigan" (ecosystem, tourism, recreation). It is evident that both counties recognize this point, as both counties have stated such in their resolutions and petitions to the Circuit Court for Legal Lake Level orders. Over $3 million in foundation donations and corporate funding have come from downstream of the lakes. FLTF has greatly appreciated this financial assistance and is in partnership to make sure that every plan we have going forward includes preserving this economic and Pure Michigan benefit, as well as ensure that public safety is factored into our plans.
On Who Should Pay:
The lake property owners certainly receive benefit and will need to pay some assessment
The counties have acknowledged the benefit, and we are constructively working to understand their role in support the Four Lakes community, but FLTF also recognizes there are significant demands on the county budgets beyond the lakes. We do not expect them to make a decision, any more than we would expect the property owners to until we present the plan
The State of Michigan benefits, and it has acknowledged this through allocations of funds to help recover from the dam failures and restore the lakes. Our elected representatives are aware and understand we need more funds to reach a point where every lake can finance the construction to restore
The federal government has supported the recovery through the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service and has given FLTF a path for long-term financing. But while there are programs for the recovery, we believe they have an obligation to support us in restoration, given the past federal control of these dams. That being said, there are no obvious large grants, but all our congressional delegates understand the need as we go forward. Grants can help, and they should at least be there to help a community find a path to restore their future
To receive funding from the government requires we have a plan with community support for the plan. This is imperative. We also must define a specific need, and demonstrate we have done all we can to address the need. To date we have done that for recovery, we now need to do that for the restoration of the lakes. This will come with the feasibility study we're publishing in May.