By Paul J Sniadecki, MLSA Board Director
Riparians state-wide advise MLSA that the warm summer of 2020 has been assisting abundant growth of native plants and aquatic invasive species in many Michigan inland lakes. While aquatic invaders continue ravaging lake ecosystems, the funds to assist certain lakes in their struggle continue on hold at the state level.
Sarah LeSage, Aquatic Invasive Species Program Coordinator of EGLE’s Water Resources Division, confirmed the Aquatic Invasive Plant Control (AIP) grant continues to be paused for 2020. EGLE has not taken action on the program citing Governor Whitmer’s Executive Directive 2020-03 “Restrictions on State Discretionary Spending During the COVID-19 Emergency.” That Executive Directive states:
“… The critical response activities (to the COVID-19 outbreak) undertaken by state departments and agencies will have a significant impact on the state budget. In addition, the necessary restrictions put in place to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 are expected to curtail economic activity in Michigan and substantially impact revenue collections by the state treasury. In anticipation of these impacts, state government must take action now to limit its discretionary spending, to help ensure that the COVID-19 pandemic does as little harm as possible to both the public health and the fiscal health of this state…”
EGLE has furloughed many of its staff members to reduce operating costs and is doing its best to fulfill actions specifically required by Federal and State laws. MLSA notes that while the AIP program is paused, the funding currently available to pay out should remain untouched by State officials. The funds available to inland lakes is protected by MCL 324.41303 which provides:
(1) The inland lake aquatic invasive plant species control and eradication fund is created within the state treasury.
(2) The state treasurer may receive money or other assets from any source for deposit into the fund. The state treasurer shall direct the investment of the fund. The state treasurer shall credit to the fund interest and earnings from fund investments.
(3) Money in the fund at the close of the fiscal year shall remain in the fund and shall not lapse to the general fund.
LeSage further noted that EGLE’s Water Resources Division AIS work related to inland lakes remains in a mixed situation. Some other programs have been paused (e.g. some in person outreach), while other programs continue (e.g. distribution of outreach materials and AIS monitoring and response).
MLSA will continue to monitor the AIP grant program, and will work for additional funding of the inland lake aquatic invasive plant species control and eradication fund. One possibility would be the creation of user paid-for “AIS Control Stickers/Tags” for watercraft, as are required in a few other states.