August 20, 2014 - By Meg Peters
Review Staff Writer
In order to treat invasive algae and weeds in Lake Orion, the Orion Township board approved its biggest Special Assessment District (SAD) Monday involving 809 lakefront residents.
The SAD was proposed by applicant Lake Orion Lake Association (LOLA) which informed residents in the spring of the possible assessment to be included on the winter tax bill.
Since then, 71 percent of the lake front owners signed a petition in favor of the SAD. Sixty five of those lakefront owners were in favor of it and 27 on the opposed list.
Although the SAD was community initiated, the township set the roll and cost for each lakefront owner over a course of two public hearings.
Assessments were broken up into three chunks.
Lots with less than 50 feet on the lakefront will be charged $83.45 once a year. Lots between 50 feet and 100 feet of lakefront will be assessed $111.24, and lots more than 100 feet will weigh in at about $135.
"There is no perfect way to do this," Township Supervisor Chris Barnett said at the meeting. "It's been looked at 100 different ways and that's how it came down to these three buckets. If there is 100 different ways to do this it will be very hard to organize these on the tax bills."
Barnett said the township would not organize a SAD unless there was adequate support from those affected in the district.
President of LOLA Jerry Richards said the division of costs appears to be fairly and uniformly assessed.
Of three bidders, LOLA chose PLM Lake and Land Management Corp to conduct the lake-wide treatment program using certified chemicals to control the spreading of the invasive aquatics starry stonewort and Eurasian milfoil. The program will cost between $75,000 and $80,000 and will be charged for a minimum of eight years. Government bodies are not subject to SADs therefore Green's Park will not be assessed.
Many individual residents have used PLM to treat their lake front properties over the years, Richards said.
PLM conducted a study last summer and found that starry stonewort covers 25 percent of Lake Orion.
Steve Hanson, the Eastern Michigan Lakes Manager for PLM, said if invasive aquatic species go untreated they will eventually eat away the native plant diversity in a rapid time frame. He has seen Starry stonewort grow in lakes as deep as 25 feet, and as shallow as seven feet, which is a concern for Lake Orion which is shallow in many areas.
PLM will treat Lake Orion with herbicides, which Hanson said are completely out of the water column in one or two days. All of their products are approved by the EPA and will be applied in lethal dose concentrations.
None of the chemicals are carcinogens, Hanson said at the first public meeting, and are targeted for only the specific weeds and algae. Harvesting, or cutting, is not a good option because it can continue the spread of one of the targeted species, Eurasian water milfoil.
PLM will reduce the invasive species, but cannot eliminate them. After the approved SAD terminates in eight years, the applicant may opt to generate another special assessment district.
About 20 residents affected by the SAD publically recorded their opposition or approval in order to take it up with the Oakland County Tax Tribunal if need be.
"I was really surprised this decision was happening so quickly," north shore resident Wendy Taggart said. "I don't believe anybody has had enough time to investigate the short term and long term effects of this [the chemicals]."
Other residents were in favor.
"We couldn't get our boat out for two or three years unless we dragged the lake," Alex Hiller said in favor. "I've seen what happens when you don't do it. These are not regular weeds. It's stuff that's going to turn the lake into a meadow. I've seen it happen."