Elk River Chain of Lakes -
Watershed Implementation Team

A collaborative effort

The Elk River Chain of Lakes-Watershed Implementation Team (ERCOL-WPIT) was formed in 2011 to implement activities pertaining to the Elk River Chain of Lakes in the Grand Traverse Bay Watershed Protection Plan. Organized by The Watershed Center and Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council. ERCOL-WPIT engages lake associations, local governments, area nonprofits, and interested citizens in collaborative efforts to protect and preserve water quality throughout the entire watershed.

With leadership from The Watershed Center and Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council, ERCOL-WPIT guided the development of the separate subwatershed plan for the ERCOL watershed. The Elk River Chain of Lakes Watershed Plan, currently at EGLE under review, provides a framework for proactive management steps that protect and enhance the quality of resources while working to address the systems most impacted by human development.

ERCOL-WPIT currently has three areas of focus for collaborative efforts:

  • Lake levels: high lake levels between 2013-2019 caused flooding and damage to numerous properties along the chain of lakes. Lake levels are managed by Antrim County through its operation of Bellaire Dam. ERCOL-WPIT is working closely with the Army Corps of Engineers and Antrim County to conduct a hydrologic and hydraulic study of the chain of lakes.

  • Shoreline protection: In 2020, The Watershed Center convened a group of stakeholders and local government officials to develop an Action Plan to address high urgency, high impact issues throughout the chain of lakes. One identified priority was to protect and restore natural shorelines. As part of this effort, ERCOL-WPIT is working to strengthen, develop, and enforce setback and/or vegetated buffer ordinance and educate landowners, policymakers, and contractors about tools to protect shorelines.

    Shoreline Protection Action Plan

  • Septic system management: Another identified priority of the Action Plan (see above) was to ensure all septic systems function in a way that protects public health and water quality. As part of this effort, ERCOL-WPIT is working to educate and advocate with local officials to get local septic tank inspection ordinances passed, share information with landowners to education them about their choices, and advocate for a state-level policy or ordinance.

    Septic System Management Action Plan

Additional topics being discussed and addressed by ERCOL-WPIT include:

Previous ERCOL-WPIT efforts include:

Interested in learning more about or participating in ERCOL-WPIT? Please contact Christine Crissman at ccrissman@gtbay.org or 231.935.1514 x1.