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HomeColumns, Opinions & Misc.Is sewer project in Higgins justified?

Is sewer project in Higgins justified?

Efforts to do an end run around Higgins Lake residents and compel a new community sewer system without a public referendum have been given a major setback. The Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council, an established and respected nonprofit organization, is completing its review of the claims by the Gerrish Lyon Utility Authority (GLUA) and are concluding that the “science” used to justify the $100M+ sewer project is problematic. This was recently disclosed in a preliminary report.

This review of the published information relied on by GLUA was commissioned by the Higgins Lake Land Conservancy as a way of judging the validity of claims by STEP sewer advocates that private septic systems are primarily to blame for what they believe is significant lake pollution. This report concludes that the case for this is not scientifically substantiated as GLUA represents it.

The principle argument made by GLUA and supporters is that private septic systems in the Higgins Lake watershed are the primary and most important cause of “lake pollution”. The Tip preliminary report questions not only the degree of pollution on the lake, but the GLUA contention that private septic systems are the primary culprits. Given this new information, it becomes difficult to understand how state grants or bonds could be forthcoming to finance the project. Local citizens around the lake have been asking for a vote on this decision, but GLUA and township officials have pressed on under the technicalities of state law 188 to prevent a public vote on this huge infrastructure project.

Among the aggravating factors involved in this campaign is the contention that large lakefront homes will only have to pay the same amount of long-term debt and operational fees that someone in a cabin a half mile from the lake would. Some locals believe that the more affluent supporters of the community sewer system are financing this project by requiring less well-off citizens to subsidize them. A local group known as Higgins Lake United (higginslakeunited.org ) has been arguing to let citizens vote on this issue, but are a David, not a Goliath, when it comes to the costs of advocacy.  HLU supporters believe that a community septic system will lead to the urbanization of the Higgins Lake region.

Thus far, GLUA applications for state grants have been denied because the sewer project has consistently scored too low for funding priority. Meanwhile, a private septic system ordinance is being worked on by the Lyon Township supervisor, Larry Maduri, to inventory and improve private systems in the lake watershed area. The GLUA group has so far ignored the Tip of the Mitt report and is pressing on with a signature petition drive to reach a number that keeps people from having a vote. Opponents to the STEP campaign are not going away.

Phillip Robinson
Higgins Lake

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