Category Archives: News

Annual Meeting, Saturday June 8, 2013

Please come join us  Saturday, June 8, 2013
Where: Elberta Farmers’ Market Pavilion
When: 10:30am
A GREAT time to catch up to the happenings on the Bay this season, meeting new and old friends, in our favorite gathering place to talk about Betsie Bay!

Dredging Update,  Phragmites Treatment, Betsie Watershed Management Plan
Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy

As usual, there’s goodies to share but
WE NEED YOU to join in the conversations!


Earth Day – (well just about)

10:00 am – 10:30am or ?? when it’s clean
Start: Elberta Farmers’ Market Pavilion
End: When Trail & Beaches are cleaned!
Bring: Friends, Neighbors, Gloves, and Enthusiasm
We’ll Provide: Coffee and Goodies

Friends of Betsie Bay have been dedicated stewards of the Bay area for 13 years. We facilitate clean up efforts both in the spring and fall, partnering with the Alliance for the Great Lakes.

FoBB cares deeply about area land use issues, invasive species, and celebrating the natural beauty of this area. We support all community-based efforts to plan, preserve and protect the Betsie Bay area.

Rain, Sleet, or Snow… WON’T STOP US!!

Betsie River-Crystal Lake Watershed Grant

The Friends of Betsie Bay were officially notified the long awaited approval from the EPA for the Northwest Michigan Council of Governments (NMCoG) grant to begin the process of forming a Betsie River-Crystal Lake Watershed plan.

Basically, this will include the initial steps of forming a Board with all the of partnering organizations represented and creating a plan through lots of surveying, public outreach and educational efforts.

We hope to have news of more specific progress after January, when the grant goes into effect. This could be the key to helping us unlock larger federal grants for projects which are all dependent on issues needing to be identified through this planning process. GOOD NEWS! Stay tuned…

The Tobin Affair…an editorial note, Suz Mclaughlin

Not too long ago someone said to me “Whatever happened in the Tobin case?” When I responded, “We lost…” She said “It seemed to die without a whimper”. That got me to remembering all the effort, time and money the Friends of Betsie Bay invested in assisting the City of Frankfort to uphold their Master Plan for the Lake Street area when downstate developer, Marshall Tobin, first proposed the development of a large multi-family condo in this single family residential area and I came to one conclusion…We did not lose!

FOR TWELVE YEARS, in two major lawsuits of the different development proposals, the Friends of Betsie Bay steadfastly maintained the Frankfort Master Plan should be upheld to protect the neighborhood, the land use, and the Bay. For twelve years we managed to do just that with the guidance of our expert environmental lawyer, Jim Olson. That’s huge! We took this all the way to the Michigan Court of Appeals and they determined the Friends didn’t have a legal ‘investment’ to stand on.

These kinds of legal battles are never pretty and not many seek to become engaged in such a lengthy commitment. The Friends stood up to the plate and followed through, despite the odds. This was never about defeating Mr. Tobin; this was about the legal precedent this case would set for all of Frankfort in our planning and zoning efforts. Effectively, there is now a ‘spot zone’ in this area. Spot Zones are defined “…as a provision in a general plan which benefits a single parcel of land by creating a zone for use just for that parcel and different from the surrounding properties in the area…” ( We hope to continue our efforts to support the City to legally address this issue to protect the neighborhood and all of the City’s planning and zoning.

Many feel Mr. Tobin is unlikely to pursue his proposed development but at this point, that’s his legal right to do so. We were quite effective in reaching out to Mr. Tobin for last year’s first phragmites treatment and we plan to continue our relationship in a positive manner. That’s not dying with a whimper!

Phrag Front

In our ongoing attempt to control phragmites, we had our 2nd annual treatment in late September with Wetlands & Wildlife Solutions, Vickie Smith, owner. When discussion the plan for this year’s focus, Vickie remarked we will likely see a much higher rate of re-growth next spring (2013), then we were able to see this spring. The best viewing is actually right along the Elberta bridge on M22. The Luedtke ‘Boneyard’ also received the first intensive treatment of their phragmites colonies. These areas will continue to be our main focus for years to come. As explained in our spring newsletter due to the large phragmites stands upriver, which is currently outside of our abilities to treat, we will always have a phragmites issue downstream in the Bay area.

There is a bright note to this rather depressing thought…we have new partners who are also interested/invested in doing what they can to address this large (estimated 1 acre) stand. Both the Nature Conservancy (TNC) and the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy (GTRLC) with some guidance of the Benzie Conservation District have completed the mapping to identify specifically where the phragmites are currently established. FoBB led our first Phrag Float in 2010 and began the mapping process. It was reported that those stands, two years later, don’t appear to have grown too much larger, which is excellent news given the drought conditions. Phragmites LOVE drought conditions on the waterways! Perhaps having ‘big guns’ on some larger grant opportunities may be the key to final beginning to address this area of concern. We are very grateful for their partnerships.

We were not able to get more than three private property owners to be willing to pay for their property’s phrag infestation and this is a concern that FoBB will be trying to address. Two of the property owners are new on the Bay and the third was Luedtke’s, at the Boneyard area. The first treatment, paid entirely with matching grant money in 2011, we had about 90% of the private property owners around the Bay give us their full support and permission to treat their properties until 2013. However, as we are all aware, grant funding is becoming more scarce as we struggle through these economically challenging times. Friends of Betsie Bay are committed to seeking all the financial possibilities we can to continue with our mission. We cannot do this without all of our help.

Successful and effective phragmites treatment of private property requires neighbors willing to work and talk together! We clearly understand the affects on personal property values of letting phrags go wild. When you cannot access your waterfront property through the phragmites, you lose value to your property. When the phragmites establish dense colonies on your property, you lose water and gain more area for more phrags to establish. This then becomes a neighborhood issue. The Friends of Betsie Bay are seeking your input for how we can be of assistance in effectively getting blocks of neighbors to at least engage in conversations about becoming good stewards of your waterfront properties. Please let us know if you have any ideas that may be helpful in this educational effort.

Troubled Bay Waters

As many of you will already know, there was an unprecedented action taken by the Michigan DNR to help preserve the already stressed salmon as they fought to make their way upstream for annual spawning in near record low waters due to our drought status and seriously low water table. This ban lasts for a period of 5 years and basically prevents fishing from the Elberta bridge to Northstar (Elberta) and across to Eastshore Marina (Frankfort).

Benzie County is one of 83 counties identified by the USDA, as meeting drought conditions. Lake Michigan levels in early fall were reported to be around 577.5 feet, it was a bit lower then than late last winter and many expect the lake levels to fall anywhere from 6 inches to 1 foot further this winter. The current record low for Lake Michigan was in March of 1964 and was around 576 feet. It is projected we will surpass this recorded low this winter.

So, what does this mean…? Well, when you get a bunch of fish dying in the Bay or struggling to find a channel deep enough to get upriver THAT tends to get folks attention, especially the fishing community and those that depend upon that economic-base for their livelihood. People started lots of conversations with the dire need for dredging.

This led to a well-packed meeting in October with State Rep. Ray Franz, several DNR representatives, local officials and many concerned citizens. First topic was a stipulation via Mr. Franz for creating a more immediate process for shutting down the fishing which now takes about 20 days of legal postings. Then the discussion of dredging and all of the unused Federal funding that was available for just this scenario began in earnest with the vast funds seemingly held captive by the Army Corps. Wiser, more experienced voices such as Luedtke Engineering Company’s, President, Kurt Luedtke, disavowed the crowd of thinking Federal dollars would be made available for Betsie Bay. Dredging is a hugely expensive endeavor that requires a great deal of planning and permitting. Dredging basically involves removing accumulated sediments in waterways to maintain depth, improve water quality or to remove other contaminants. Storage and proper disposal of these sediments must be addressed and can become a challenge. In the Great Lakes, dredging may be required due to wind and wave action, which deposits sandy sediments in harbor mouths. In other instances, dredging is conducted in response to soil erosion resulting from agriculture and development, in other words…human impact.

So, where does this leave us…? In speaking both with County Commissioner, Don Tanner, a well-known local fishing guide, and Kurt Luedtke can show us two lines of pretty clear direction…

· First, some potential short-term benefits of just letting nature work it’s course and recognizing there will always be this kind of fluctuation on any watershed but perhaps global climate change (Yup, you heard it here!) concerns are clearly showing watersheds are not ‘bouncing back’ as quickly as they have in the past.

· Second, constantly reminding ourselves this watershed, as all, are complex systems that encompass much more than just the water levels and struggling fish. We know clearly that invasive species such as phragmites affect the hydrology of the watershed and may also affect water levels contributing to the huge loss of native wetland plant species. We also know how much land use can effect watersheds with things such as nonpoint source pollution, which may derive from many upstream sources and be difficult to regulate or even known existing point source pollution that dumps directly into the water. We also know we can no longer be satisfied with efforts that just work on eradicating invasives or correcting pollution sources, we absolutely must make a commitment to RESTORATION of the Bay.

This is where the Friends of Betsie Bay get to have a ‘Pat ourselves on the Back’ moment! We have been living up to our mission statement of being good stewards of the Bay by currently addressing, as best we can, the phragmites on the Bay AND we’ve managed for about 12 years to work diligently in a legal battle of a land use issue for the proposed Tobin development. This a HUGE accomplishment and deserving of our recognition…!

Thank you all for working together to be on the front lines of the long work we’ve done and the road ahead. If you’re interested in being a part of thinking with us, sharing your thoughts or getting a bit more involved, please email us:


August 28 – 30th, Inland Seas Schoolship in Betsie Bay

August 28 – 30th Inland Seas Schoolship will be in Betsie Bay to broaden their ongoing water-education efforts. BCWC and FOBB have reserved the Schoolship for the morning of August 30th to focus on kids having this great experience! Please see our latest newsletter for further details on this exciting opportunity coming to our community.

Newsletter with information of Inland Seas :   FoBB Newsletter spring 2012



Start: Elberta Farmers’ Market Pavilion
End: When Trail & Beaches are cleaned!
Bring: Friends and Neighbors
Gloves and Enthusiasm

We’ll Provide: Coffee & Breakfast Bites

Friends of Betsie Bay have been dedicated stewards of the Bay area for 13 years. We facilitate clean up efforts both in the spring and fall, partnering with the Alliance for the Great Lakes.

FoBB cares deeply about area land use issues, invasive species, and celebrating the natural beauty of this area. We support all community-based efforts to plan, preserve and protect the Betsie Bay area.