Proposal would make it easier to retrieve sunken logs in Michigan


A new Michigan proposal would make it easier to retrieve logs that are submerged in Lake Michigan. Photo: Lars Lentz. Retrieved from Wikimedia Commons.

Capital News Service

LANSING — Countless now-valuable logs sank to the bottom of Michigan’s lakes and rivers during the 1800s, when loggers floated their hauls on water due to lack of roads and railroads.

Now proposed legislation would make permits to retrieve them easier to get.

The goal is to eliminate roadblocks for a growing industry, said Chris Bailey, legislative director for Rep. Greg MacMaster, R- Kewadin, the main sponsor.

“Submerged logging is a small but growing industry throughout the country, with the majority of it being done in the Southern states. Making it easier to get permits in Michigan will attract more businesses to the state,” Bailey said.

Currently, a submerged logging permit requires a $3,500 application fee and $100,000 performance bond and applies only to the Great Lakes.

“The amount of money it takes to get a permit is outrageous. Paying the application fee doesn’t guarantee it would be approved, and no one can get the performance bond insured,” Bailey said, adding that high fees have discouraged business from applying.

The proposal would lower the application fee to $500 and the performance bond to $20,000.

Also, the proposal would deem permits approved if the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) doesn’t respond to an application within 30 days.

Its co-sponsors include Reps. Matt Huuki, R-Atlantic Mine; Frank Foster, R-Pellston; Ed McBroom, R-Vulcan; Joel Johnson, R-Clare; Holly Hughes, R-Montague; and Wayne Schmidt, R-Traverse City.

According to Bailey, the present law was intended to apply only to removing logs from the Great Lakes, neglecting the state’s vast inland lakes and streams.

Bailey said submerged logs are more valuable than other kinds and are popular for making high-quality furniture.

But Gary Lamberti, chair of the Department of Biological Sciences at Notre Dame University, said making it easier to remove wood from lakes and rivers would be terrible for the environment.

Lamberti said that submerged wood is essential not only to the animals that use it for habitat, but to the food chain as well.

“It jumpstarts the ecological community and it’s great for algae and the micro-organisms that start the food chain,” Lamberti said, adding that wood also plays more subtle roles, like trapping leaves that fall into the water and making sure they find their way into the food web.

According to Lamberti, many lakes and streams in Michigan have sandy bottoms that don’t support the ecosystem as well as wood. “Sand and fine particles are poor for biological activity because it moves around too much.

“We have been working hard to get wood back into streams and lakes. It’s shocking to think that this legislation would undo that,” Lamberti said.

He said that he has been working all over Michigan to put wood back into lakes and streams, including an effort with the U.S. Forest Service in the Upper Peninsula’s Ottawa National Forest.

“These ecosystems have a lot less wood in them than they used to. Our objective is to replenish the wood that has been taken out over time and get the amount back up to historical levels,” Lamberti said.

Jim Milne, chief of DEQ’s Great Lakes shoreland unit, said there are multiple ways to remove submerged logs, some of which could have a negative environmental impact.

“I’ve seen people attach floats to logs to get them to the surface or attach chains to the logs and hoist or drag them off the bottom,” Milne said.

He said removing submerged logs can stir up sediment on lake and river bottoms, which could adversely impact wildlife living in the water.

“Stirred up sediment could bother fish in the area. There could also be loss of habitat if the logs are being used by fish or other animals. If chains are used to drag the logs onto land, they could damage stream and lake banks,” Milne said.

According to Milne, the DEQ has issued 11 permits to three people to remove logs from the Great Lakes, but none since 2003.

He said that inland lakes and streams weren’t mentioned in the law because log removal from them is considered dredging, which requires a different permit.

Permit holders haven’t been able to start removing submerged logs due to legal and administrative obstacles.

“By law, we couldn’t issue permits after 2003. No permit holder has been allowed to start logging yet because the permits still haven’t been approved by the federal government and because of a lawsuit brought by various Native-American tribes to stop them,” Milne said.

A permit to remove submerged logs from the Great Lakes also needs U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approval.

Milne said the tribes’ lawsuit claimed the practice has a negative impact on natural resources. It has been settled, with the court siding with permit holders.

The 11 permits issued by the state are good until Jan. 1, 2013.

Notre Dame’s Lamberti said removing some wood from the water is necessary because “it can be a hazard to boats, kayakers and people using the water for recreation. It’s not cut and dry and a middle ground needs to be found.”

The bill is in the House Natural Resources, Tourism and Outdoor Recreation Committee.

19 thoughts on “Proposal would make it easier to retrieve sunken logs in Michigan

  1. For the first 15 years, let each private citizen that applies for a permit remove up to 20 logs. After that let companies in and make them pay a fee for each log.

  2. Isnt the threat of foreign species a bigger threat to our countries lakes and and streams than sediment being stirred from pulling our counties herritage from bottoms of lakes and rivers? Spread from a boat, or spread from migratory birds( a growing population on the verge of overpopulation?) All im saying is think outside the box. I come from a lakes tourist area in mn. We get hundreds of thousands of tourists each summer many of them own several boats have several lifts all disturbing “sediment”?No one makes a big stink about that fact because thats recreational not profitable .A true tree hugger should be smart enough to understand that salvaging dead trees should equal harvesting less live ones. Last but not least, underwater logging is not new!!! This has been going on for decades and there still isnt any scientific proof of any long term lasting damage. Read “underwater logger” i believe its out of print but find a copy, written fifty years ago. These logs that sit at the bottom of our lakes stand as a testament to the men who gave their lives harvesting them to the brink of their extinction. Now let the new age men bring them back!!

  3. Entrepreneur, has America forgotten what that means?
    Logging of any sort is hard work.
    The logs harvested must be located, recovered, dried, and processed, before they have any value at all.

    It’s not for the light hearted.
    It’s for the American “Cowboy” willing to take a risk. Risk his life, family, and financial resources, for a dream, a dream to “strike it rich”
    Just like our ancestors during the gold rush, the oil stampede, the industrial revolution.

    Lighting the fees would allow young strong hearted individuals, to pursue a dream, and bring to the surface timber that was harvested decades ago for the purpose of building furniture and household items to enjoy for decades to come, heirlooms.

    This is not big business trying to destroy wildlife habitat, these are Americans, exploring our forefathers treasures most are to afraid to go get.

    If we had charged a month or twos pay, and a 30-90 day waiting period to every American for a permit, prior to heading west, where would we be now?

  4. It’s undeniable that there will be some disruption, but my biggest objection to this remains the welfare mentality of the whole thing. Government should not be giving away public resources for free! (whether that be our public forests or taxpayer money)

    Sunken logs will most likely be retrieved but, at a minimum, there should be an open and public bidding process so that at least a fair value will be paid for the logs. Unfortunately, too many politicians look at public resources as their personal piggy-banks, either enriching themselves or their personal friends and campaign contributors. As they say, we have the best legislators money can buy.

  5. There is no reason why this should even be an issue on whether or not we can obtain the sunken logs our ancestors left for us on the bottoms of the great lakes. There is no evidence that it will or would impact the ecosystem of the lakes. The different species that use these logs for habitat in fact have a diverse ability to live on or within multiple habitats within the floors of the lakes. For example you can sink a tire on the floor of the lakes and it will grow into some species habitat after one-hundred and fifty years. By allowing the people to harvest these logs will impact the ecosystem minimally as an overall average within the lake.

  6. Lot’s of great comments and ideas here. Naturally occurring downfalls are much more common in Michigan unless you’re in the UP so I don’t know what all you logging dummies are talking about. I fish year round in Michigan on large and small streams. The amount of naturally occurring downfall logs and tree’s that can be extremely profitable from flooding and storms is unbelievable. Logging in Michigan has come to an all time low due to regulations and BS bureaucratic red tape as said above. It’s comical what the DNR and goBment have cooked up to keep the people out of the loop. Of course there needs to be laws and regulations but they are eliminating free lance business for their profit alone.

    Taking logs within a regulated, PERMITTED amount weather LOGGED or NATURALLY OCCURRING would allow DNR to monitor the levels of sediment and required micro-organisms to sustain environmental standards while giving people like me another profitable operation to undertake.
    Pure Michigan

  7. Harold. I have a degree in Environmental Science, whats yours in? Complaining? I don’t believe for a second that the DEQ is going to allow removal of saw logs from delicate rivers like the Manistee for instance. There aren’t enough logs in there that aren’t buried to warrant the ridiculuos application fees. The logs that should and will be targeted are in bays and harbors where sediment hasn’t covered them. Once sediment covers them, the process becomes anaerobic (with no oxygen) and then the microbes cannot use them for food. Also, its a terribly difficult process to remove any buried logs to begin with. But, we’re all just arguing for nothing because the state, although they say they play the game, are making it so difficult to harvest these logs, there have been only 3 groups able to even try it! No one with capital is going to risk cash, equipment, and lives just to give the state a bunch of money that they will wastefully spend anyway (repub or dem it don’t matter, never understood the party bashing, they both are criminal). What about the little guy in the UP who owns the riparian rights 100 yds from the logs and can’t afford the permits just to harvest a few that roll up in the sand in shallow water? You need the permits in hand to take them to a facility like the one in Ashland to get money for them legally. The Yooper, thats the guy who gets the shaft………..thank you Michigan Lawmakers and DEQ for nottin, eh.

  8. What a load of crap!!! It’s VERY simple, the logs were “cut” down to begin with so REALISTICALLY they don’t belong in the water, WE PUT THEM THERE so WE should harvest them or REMOVE the damage WE caused. I’ve been to the U.P. and have seen the logs for myself. They’re logs that were harvested in the logging industry 100-150 years ago and sank during logging drives down the rivers and lakes especially in coves and bays so, WE caused the problem by logging. But NOW because these logs have significant value (thousands of $$$ per foot) depending on the species people want to cash in. The liberal tree huggers(pun intended) are crying about algea and animal habitats. SO let me get this straight Eco-Morons, If a ship load of tin cans accidentally was sunk in a Michigan river 100 years ago and someone discovered that these cans were now worth a fortune BUT fish lived in them, WE caused the accident, the cans don’t belong there. If the cans NEVER fell in the water there would be NO HABITAT! I am ABSOLUTELY NOT a logger nor an environmentalist, I just HATE people that try to FORCE their beliefs on people and THAT IS WHAT TREE HUGGERS DO!!!

  9. There have been studies done testing water clarity when removing a log compared to dropping and retrieving an anchor from the bottom of a lake. Guess which one disturbed more sediment. Why isn’t anyone crying about the thousands of anchors disturbing sediments in the lakes, the thousands of docks that are rolled in/out anchored/built in inland waters or the refuse dumped into lakes by older non-complient cabins/lake homes that surround so many of the waters we speak of. You can’t pick and choose what to bicker about if you can hold the hard line. Fish and other aquatic vertebrae had places to live well before some logger felled a tree that sunk 150 yrs ago, and guess what, they will find another home if the log is removed. Sediments settle, aquatic life moves on and so should we. Put people to work, lower the fees, enforce the laws. Just like most ventures involving natural resources, keep an eye on it/regulate it to make sure it stays honest and we will be okay.

  10. I cant believe that people would oppose bringing more job’s to Michigan. This state is in trouble cant you see that. There are way worse things being taken out of the lakes then some sunken logs. Sure a few crawfish might have to find a new spot to sleep but i would rather him be homeless rather then me. I personaly live by one of the largest inland lakes in michigan and it is filled with sunken logs. My community is falling apart the building industrie has shut down the forclosure rate is at an all time high and the one factory that is the life blood of the community has cut there employees in half. This sickens me that you people would rather a fish have a home and not a person. The sediment will settle minutes after a log removal in a lake i may have a concern on a fast moving river but a lake there should not be a problem. Please people if there is a way to create jobs then dont fight it regulate it plan it then enforce it.

  11. I’ve seen Ax Men a few times, too. It turns my stomach to see the wholesale destruction of our public forest land. We keep clearcutting forests as if there’s no tomorrow. We haven’t learned a @#! thing since the robber-baron days of the 1800s!

  12. ive been watching ax men on the history channel. i see these guys make big bucks removing logs from rivers. im a Michigander and im a fisherman and hunter. i think keeping our natural resources is great! but taking logs out of the river is no more destructive then cutting down trees and uprooting land for house and buildings. so why complain about taking logs out versus elimination of our forest and woods for city grow? im 22 i work in a shit hole factory and this is my ticket for making a better life for myself. face it we live in Michigan and this state sucks for good jobs! this would bring jobs to this state not many but still there are jobs. i think all permits should allow a limit to how many you can take out not including the size but a limit on individual logs. maybe a small percent of the profit from a log to the state just to keep them money hungry pigs satisfied? i sure hope the bill passes so i can start fresh in this state!

  13. My buddy knows a guy that pulled logs out and built a log cabin with them. Way before this permit business.

  14. I think that the idea of opening the streams and lakes to have logs that were harvested back in the day of logging is a great idea. Obvously it is going to require a permit process and the state will get revenue (it needs all it can get). It will also give small business oppertunities to the state and get people back to work. This work is not easy, and it is not cheap so it is not for everyone. So in the end if it is regulated the state will get money, and people will get back to work, and the environmental impact will be low as long as the loggers follow the propper procedures while recovering logs, and those who do not comply will be regulated by the DNR.

  15. I’m sure that if the state does allow inland log retrieval that the beurocratic red tape involved will eliminate small businessmen will not have the funds to procure permits and proper techniques thus leaving it for the rich to get richer. I’ve been waiting to see an open, regulated permit process since the first logs were pulled from the great lakes. I hope that there is an environmentally sound process that both side can benefit from

  16. Well first off these are logs that fell into the water from the logging companies, so “natural” is not the word i would choose. second for you two tree hugging hippies these logs have a potential to be worth lots of money but many are not as profitable as one might think. as for the permits it is better that they are being reduced in price because one permit only covers 347 acres, plus the state gets royalty from the profits of the company pulling logs. Ok i might be a little bias because i am a commercial diver and this is my livelihood and what makes me money to put food on the table for my family.

  17. Yes, let’s disturb, disrupt, damage our streams and lakes once more by dragging buried logs out of streams and lakes that were severely degraded by those same logs a century and more ago. Let’s return to the days of the Robber Barons who took, then, ran with their profits leaving millions of acres of MI devastated. Let’s once again allow corporations to pillage and plunder, so that taxpayers can once again be forced to pay for the re-healing and rehabilitation of MI’s lands and waters.

    In fact, let’s not even charge a permit fee or a performance bond. Better yet, let’s not even require a permit and open it wide open to anyone who has a piece of equipment and a chain and the desire to make a few bucks. The Repuglican legislature is making it an equal opportunity free for all to get rich by any means available, no education, no restriction, no regulation applies.

    Let’s take it one step further, why require fish, game or trapping licenses, seasons, limits, regulations or restrictions. Open up state forests to commercial and personal logging and firewood cutting, and burning to enhance berry picking. My needs for these products of state lands and waters are as great as those of the log salvager’s.
    WHY NOT make it equal opportunity for all of MI’s resouces?

  18. Once again, I see that it is Republican lawmakers who want to give away our public natural resources for free, after a small application fee. These logs can be worth thousands of dollars each, yet Republicans want to give them away for free? That’s not even considering the vast negative impact upon fisheries–again, at a cost of potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars. Leave the logs for the fish and the countless invertebrates that depend upon them!

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