KALKASKA — Kenneth Les wants to preserve what makes East Lake special.
For 30 years, Les and his wife, Carol, spend their summers in a cabin on the quiet shores of the lake tucked away in Kalkaska County, a world away from the hustle and bustle of Sterling Heights where they live.
It’s a place where they know all their neighbors, can throw a fishing line in peace and watched their children — and now their grandchildren — grow up.
“It is a small lake and it wouldn’t take too much for any weed to take hold here and completely degrade the lake itself,” Les said. “Having this monitored and treated is a godsend.”
The Orange Township board recently agreed to fund water quality testing and invasive species control for five years, at a cost of about $2,000 a year.
Few inland freshwater lakes undergo the regular environmental monitoring and testing the lake has received for years. Dennis Hansen, president of the East Lake Property Owner’s Association, credits the tests for the lake’s clean waters and peaceful shores enjoyed by residents, boaters and church and youth groups.
“If the lake goes bad, the property values go down and it’s bad for everyone,” he said.
The township board decided to continue directly fund the testing instead of going through the complicated process of setting up a special assessment district, even though more than 90 percent of property owners around the lake signed a petition in support of one.
Students from Northwestern Michigan College’s Grand Traverse Freshwater Society helped reduce the cost by volunteering to do half the tests. They plan to start the testing as soon as Saturday.
Student volunteer Chris Horvath said the tests would be for E. coli, dissolved oxygen and other nutrients.
“What can happen with small bodies of water is any increase in phosphates and nitrates can create significant algal blooms,” he said.
Chris Musselman, project coordinator for the East Lake project, said test results will be passed along to Professional Lake Management, a private company contracted to test and remove invasive plant species like Asian milfoil that can choke out native plants and reduce .
“That lake is important because it’s preventative,” he said. “It’s one of the few lakes where taking a preventative case and (nipping) an invasive problem in the bud.”
Orange Township Supervisor Bob Hoenicke said he was always cautious with tax dollars, but considered the testing important to preserve the lake’s clean waters.
“We work every day for the relaxation of keeping fresh healthy water around us,” he said. “It’s our responsibility to keep it this way.”