By Sterling McGinn

Commenting on the recent controversy of the Big Manistique Lake dam, Luce County commissioner Brandon Wheeler said at the December Luce County Commissioners meeting that the dam may become the responsibility of Schoolcraft County.

“I have been working with a commissioner in Schoolcraft County, and apparently, they are working with EGLE (Environment, Great Lakes and Energy) over there,” Wheeler said. “In the midst of this, EGLE has determined that the dam is technically under their jurisdiction.”

The dam, which is located more than a mile down the Manistique River, regulates the water level on Big Manistique Lake, which is set by a 1978 court order at 686.0 feet above sea level.

Though the dam is in Schoolcraft County, the lake is in Luce and Mackinac counties. The dam has been overseen by both the Luce and Mackinac County Commissioners. One commissioner from each board, plus three individuals from Luce County and three from Mackinac County, make up the Manistique Lakes Citizens Advisory Committee.

“EGLE is telling us it is our responsibility, and we are the delegated authority,” said Schoolcraft County Commission Chair Paul Walker.

Schoolcraft County is not interested in taking over the dam, Walker said, but Schoolcraft County has been paying the dam inspection fee every three years, costing about $5,000 per inspection.

“EGLE has been very strict on lake levels, especially with dam-controlled lakes,” Walker said. This is due to the Edenville dam failure in 2020.

According to the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act, after the court determines the normal level of an inland lake in a proceeding initiated by the county, the delegated authority of counties where the lake is located must maintain that level.

The dam will be discussed at the Schoolcraft County Commission meeting on Thursday, December 28 at 5 p.m., which the Newberry News plans to cover.

“The days of manipulating lake levels are over,” Walker said.

EGLE will fine any individual who tampers with the dam, and the person may be subject to jail time.