Michigan Swimmer’s Itch Partnership

The Traverse City District Library was the scene of an August 25th meeting of the Michigan Swimmers Itch Partnership (MSIP), attended by LLLA President George Prewitt and LLLA Vice-President Nick Fleeaanis. Jim Vondale, from the Higgins Lake Property Owners Association, presided over the meeting, while the LLLA sponsored the meeting. The MSIP represents 13 lakes in northern lower Michigan.

Several lake associations gave presentations discussing what they have done to attempt to eliminate the swimmer’s itch (SI) problem on their lakes. Rob Karner, lake biologist from Glen Lake, discussed the three techniques they have used to reduce and attempt to eliminate the Merganzer Duck population on their lake. Those methods were (1) trapping and relocation, (2) harassment, and (3) hunting and killing.

Crystal Lake’s representative presented and discussed similar techniques, including raking the lake bottom to dislodge and remove snails. The delegation from Lake Margrethe also presented but did not seem to have as large a problem with swimmer’s itch as some of the other lakes.

A presentation was made John Lindley of Public Affairs Associates (PAA), a lobbying firm that has been hired by Higgins Lake to promote awareness of the problem of swimmer’s itch to the state legislature. Mr. Lindley’s presentation was focused on how the MSIP members must speak with one voice, and have a focus on a specific desired outcome in order to be in line for any state dollars that might be allocated to this problem.

Madelyn Messner, a Masters degree student from Oakland University, made a presentation on her research dealing with swimmer’s itch on eight lakes in our region, Lake Leelanau being one of them. Her research and data deals with the concentration of cercariae in the lakes studied. She also emphasized that this swimmer’s itch problem should be viewed as a watershed and water quality issue.

The last group to present was SICon LLC (swimmer’s itch control), represented by Dr. Curtis Blankespoor and Ron Reimink (pictured above). SICON was hired by Higgins Lake to resolve their swimmers itch problem, by trapping and relocating 97 Common Merganzers, as well as snail removal and monitoring infection rates. It is estimated that the cost of dealing with the SI problemon Higgins Lake (which is a very labor-intensive process) would cost in excess of $240,000.

Finally, the Lake Leelanau Lake Association will be one of four lake associations that will form a sub committee that will develop the basic core thrust for MSIP and what it expects will be done with any funds that are appropriated from the state legislature. This is exciting news, as our LLLA could be at the vanguard of solving this problem. Stay tuned … comments?

(Thanks to VP Nick Fleezanis for this report)


Mark Smith

Grew up in Petoskey, so perhaps one of the few people in Leland who headed south to end up "Up North". Graduated from U of M. Taught in Scotland for 10 years, came back to Leland in 1989 and taught English for 25 years at Leland Public School. Still teach part time for NMC. My lovely wife is named Marjory - three grown kids (two living locally) and three grandkids. We live on N. Lake Leelanau with access to both lakes Michigan and Leelanau Life is good!