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Southwest Michigan offers a wide variety of lakes for different types of recreation. Below is a listing of the major area lakes showing acreage sizes and lake type.

The lakes are categorized as follows:

  • Full recreation means the lake accommodates fishing, boating, water skiing, etc., and is designated by the "water skier" symbol.
  • The "fish" symbol designates typically smaller lakes that do not accommodate high speed boating. Usually, smaller boat engines and pontoon boats are common. However, few lakes have official boat size restriction, though the residents may have an understanding for the lake.
  • The third lake class is where watercraft engines are officially prohibited. Only boating powered manually or by wind is accepted and is designated by the "sailboat" symbol.
  • Lakes that interconnect by boat are designated by number and further defined for each lake.
LAKE ACRES
Bair 199
Bankson 217
Barron 207
Birch 295
Bunker 107
Cable 91
Cedar 269
Chain 35
Lake Cora 197

Christiann 179
Christie 211
Clear 240
Corey Lake 630
Crooked (Little) 103
Crooked (Big) 110
Dewey 223
Diamond 1,020
Donnell 246
Driskels 37
Eagle (Decatur) 198
Eagle (Edwardsburg) 379
Finch 114
Fish 340
Fish (Little) 139
Garver 77
Gravel 296
Harwood 122
Hemlock 64
Hutchens 64
Huzzys 80
Indian 500
Juno 218
Keeler 73½
Kelsey (approx.) 80
Lake of the Woods 289
Lewis 21
Lily 66
Long (Three Rivers) 211
Magician 528
Painter 103
Paradise 185
Pine 41
Pleasant (Edwardsburg) 80
Pleasant (Three Rivers) 262
Robbins 64
Round 194
East & West Saddlebag 103
Reynolds (North & South--Connecting) 97/36
Shafer 81
Shavehead 289
Skyhawk 48
Stone 148
Three Mile 137
Twin (Little) 46
Twin (Big) 63

About swimming beaches

An often asked question is which lakes have a sand bottom and which are "muddy". Unless the lake is a very small body of water, no lake is all sand or mud, but most have both. The prevailing winds in this region are from the West/Southwest. The wind currents push wave action towards the East shorelines of the lakes creating constant water movement which does not let lake sediments deposit along its East, North, and South shorelines. Consequently, on many lakes, the western shoreline will contain wetlands or lesser swimming conditions. However, a second factor is also at work: the shoreline contour. For example, a cove or bay will generally not have wave action resulting in sediment deposits and a "point" or peninsula can typically attract wind currents and have good beaches. So, just because you're located on the East shoreline does not guarantee a good beach or the West side a lesser one. A good sand beach does positively affect property value (just as its lake view). Upon DEQ approval, it is possible to place sand (or pea gravel) in your beach area to improve its condition.

Municipal sewer systems

The information below is provided to give lake buyers and lake owners a neutral position and broad range of the issues concerning the proposal of sewer projects for area lakes. This information is not intended to oppose, propose, or persuade a sewer project for any lake. When projects are proposed, area lakes have witnessed both substantial support and opposition.

Since 1990, some lakes have obtained municipal sewer systems in replacement of private individual septic systems. Typically, through the local municipality (Township) a Special Assessment District (SAD) is created which levies assessments against lake properties within the proposed sewer district. In Michigan, a SAD can be created by submitting signed petitions within a lake community constituting a majority of the land area within a proposed district. Thus, large owners within a proposed district will have a large stakeholder interest in its approval or denial. A project can also be created by a majority vote of a municipal board (or both). The area’s first sewer project was approved by Indian Lake (Silver Creek Township) in 1989 and installed in 1990 as a result of a favorable petition drive. From there, some other lakes have been following suit. The proximity and capacity of a nearby sewer treatment plant is tantamount to the ability of proposing a project and the costs to install and treat the waste. Some projects now are relying on new treatment facilities built specifically to serve the lake(s) as part of the project as municipal facilities have either reached capacity or are not located nearby. Usually, the sewer mains are a gravity line with periodic pumping stations to overcome terrain.

These projects have witnessed typically 20 year bond periods for re-payment of the sewer project by the lake owners. However, the Marcellus Township project was 40 years. Typically, lakes with sewer will have higher property values because many lake buyers seek this utility over a lake where individual septics are used. Practically 100% of lake buyers believe sewer projects are a benefit, because if the lake is harmed by septics, they believe, the property value or investment could be dramatically lowered. Lake buyers desire sewers because there is no limitation on bathroom use, dishwashers, or washing machines. Typically, lake buyers are not knowledgeable about private septics as most are residents from a metropolitan area where sewers are commonplace. Proponents of projects often voice environmental protection of a lake’s watershed as a key reason for sewers.

More recent sewer projects have witnessed an assessment cost range of $7,000 to $10,000 +/-per lake dwelling for sewer installation (again payable over the bond term with interest). This cost does not include connecting a dwelling to the sewer main which is an additional cost. Usually, the assessment amount is determined by a flat rate “tap” fee, plus, to whatever degree, a road or sewer main frontage amount based on a per foot fee. Accordingly, multiple lakes being captured within one sewer project is desired in order to spread the cost across many properties resulting in lower individual costs. A SAD can also have caps on the assessment so that property owners with large frontages are protected from substantial assessments.

The assessment is typically placed on the property tax bill but can also be mailed seperately. This assessment is apparently NOT tax deductible (on the federal IRS 1040) as real estate taxes are, but because it appears on the property tax bill, many will include it as a deduction whether valid or not. In almost all cases with recent sewer projects, properties will still have the assessment levied on the property and a real estate purchaser usually assumes the remainder at time of acquisition. In addition to the assessment, upon installation the lake owner must employ a licensed plumber to connect the dwelling to the sewer main. The one time cost is completely dependent upon each property’s terrain, distance to main, building design, etc. Sometimes sewage lift pumps with dosing chambers are needed as lower level basements or dwellings are located below the grade of the sewer main. Location of landscaping, driveways, trees, dwellings, etc., can all cause additional cost for this connection.

Monthly sewer utility bills are generally a flat fee regardless of water use. Typically, projects are witnessing $15 to $45 per month subject to increases.

Opponents of sewer projects point to the cost of the project and how it is spread among the lake owners. Other objections include water table concerns derived from taking water out of the watershed and sending it down a sewer pipe. Lake hydrologists usually deny this position as sewer projects do not withdraw enough water from a watershed to make an impact relative to the real reductions caused by wind & heat evaporation, weather, precipitation, and shoreline trees. Other issues include the temporary nuisance of project construction and disruption of roads, trees, and landscaping. Much of the opposition is born from owners that are convinced private septics are a good means of disposing of human waste that poses no or little environmental risk to the lake. Other opponents can be ones with newly installed septics or septics that provide adequate capacities relative to the owner’s level of seasonal use. Still others may have larger lots, good elevation above the lake, and simply believe there is no benefit to sewers relative to its cost.

Conversely, some proponents may want to build a new lake home or convert or expand an existing cottage, but are limited by a private septic or a small lot . Due to lower property values, lower investments, and greater distances from the shoreline, non-lakefront homeowners near a lake (or lake access) may have a lower level of support for projects than do lakefront owners. As a result, some projects then seek to exclude non-lakefront owners in order to better obtain the land area majority needed by petition signatures. Thus, the non-lakefront owners are not assessed or included in the proposed district. However, according to hydrologists, a lake’s watershed is typically far larger than just its shoreline whether or not a home is non-lakefront. If the non-lakefront owners are omitted from the district, then the individual cost per owner will increase as fewer dwellings participate.

Some lakes decide to study whether or not septics might be functioning or possibly leaching into the lake by placing dyes into the septics. If leaching is not found, then the call for a sewer project may be less meaningful. Others charge that even if leaching is not found, nutrients levels still can filter into the lake causing an outgrowth of aquatic plants & weeds thus increasing the organic level, algae, etc., of a lake. It is also evident that most of Southwest Michigan provides desirable soils for private septics offering good filtering as opposed to other regional areas where heavy clay soils are found. The underground hydrology, soil strata, etc., will also influence the ability of private septics affecting the lake water.

Any sewer project should entail much discussion, review, and professional study with the lake association, lake board, owners, and township board. There are engineering firms that specialize in these studies and can provide experienced information concerning the costs, burden, and benefits of sewers. However, most sewer engineers will have a financial reason to encourage a project.
Sewer projects are a large undertaking for elected officials and they are often caught in the middle of opposing groups that have and do become emotionally positioned for or against a project. In those cases where a project has been mandated by a township board as opposed to a petition of the majority ownership, the opposition can become substantial.

As of January of 2012, the following lakes offer municipal sewers:

Baldwin (2006)
Barron
Big Fish (2010)
Birch (2006)
Cable (2000)
Cedar , Big (Under construction 2012)
Christiana
Crooked Lakes (Big and Little, 2000)
Coverdale (Union, MI, under construction, 2006)
Dewey (2000)
Diamond (1992)
Donnell (mid 1990s)
Eagle (Edwardsburg, MI, 2003)
Finch (2010)
Garver (2002)
Gravel
Indian (Dowagiac, MI, 1990)
Indiana Lake (Union, MI, 2006)
Juno
Long (Union, MI, under 2006)
Magician (2000)
Painter
Paradise
Pleasant (Edwardsburg, MI, )
Round (2000)
Saddlebag Lakes (East and West) (2010)
Stone (parts of the lake)
Shavehead ( 2006)


Lake associations and boating restrictions

Some lakes will have lake associations where membership is voluntary. Some associations are very active and others concentrate on a few lake issues. Typically, annual member dues are inexpensive. Some lakes will have "no wake" hours where boats can travel at only minimum speeds. These hours will vary from evening time to early morning depending on the lake.



 

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