Lake Level Control

Lake Level Control

Under the provisions of Part 307 of Act No. 59 of 1995, Inland Lake Levels, the Water Resources Commissioner is delegated the responsibility of participating in legal proceedings to establish and maintain normal lake levels for lakes in Oakland County.

At present there are 54 lakes within the County that have an established normal level. The Water Resources Commissioner is the delegated authority to maintain the normal levels of these lakes. The lakes are located in five watersheds, distributed as follows: 34 in the Clinton, 13 in the Huron, 2 in the Rouge, 3 in the Shiawassee and 2 in the Flint.

A staff Engineer heads the Lake Level Program, which involves the operation and maintenance of 36 lake level control structures and 8 lake level augmentation pumps. In some cases, the level of more than one lake is controlled from a single structure.  There are two lake level control technicians assigned to monitor the lake levels and perform the day to day operation of the structures.

The regulation of a lake level provides for flood control, enhanced recreational use and protection of property values. The Water Resources Commissioner's Office is available to help facilitate the process of establishing a normal lake level with literature and technical expertise.

Frequently Asked Questions:

What is a normal lake level? 

Part 307 defines a normal level as "...the level or levels of the water of an inland lake that provide the most benefit to the public; that best protect the public health, safety and welfare; that best preserve the natural resources of the state; and that best preserve and protect the value of the property around the lake." The normal level is not defined as the highest level attainable for a lake.  A feasibility study is conducted to determine the normal level. A sample of the items the study takes into account are: Historical lake levels and seasonal fluctuations, location of septic tanks, sea walls, docks and other physical features, downstream impacts, fisheries and wildlife habitat protection and watershed hydrology.

What lakes have a normal level?

The following lakes have a legally established normal level.  This means there is a court order stating the normal level of the lake and designating the Water Resources Commissioner as the delegated authority to maintain the level.

 Bevins   Orchard
 Big  Cedar Island
 Bunny Run   Cedar
 Bush   Cemetery & Dollar
 Cass  Clear
 Commerce  Otter
 Crystal  Oxbow
 Dawson Mill Pond  Pontiac
 Duck  Schoolhouse
 Fox  Scott
 Greens  Silver
 Huff  Squaw
 Indianwood  Sylvan
 Lakeville  Tan
 Long (Commerce)  Tipsico
 Lester  Union
 Long (Oxford)  Upper Silver
 Loon   Upper Straits
 Lotus  Van Norman
 Louise  Walled & Shawood
 Lower Straits  Watkins
 Maceday  Waumegah
 Mickelson  White
 Middle Straits  Williams
 Mohawk  Woodhull
 Oakland  Wormer

How is a normal level established?

A petition signed by 2/3 of the lakefront property owners (land actually abutting the lake, not backlot owners) must be submitted to the County Board of Commissioners. The Board will initiate action to determine the normal level of the lake. Usually this action is the preparation of a preliminary feasibility study by a licensed professional engineer. The Board may require a cash payment from the petitioners to cover the cost of the study or $10,000.00, whichever is less.

Why doesn't the Water Resources Commissioner maintain my lake?

Not every lake in Oakland County has a legally established normal lake level. The Water Resources Commissioner only has jurisdiction when a normal level has been established by the court.

What is a lake level control structure?

A control structure is an artificial barrier used to regulate the level of the lake. The structure can be a dam, a weir, a pipe or any other such type barrier. The level of a lake can also be controlled by using an augmentation well or pump to put additional water into a lake or a pump can be used to lower a lake level.

Who pays for the lake level operation and maintenance?

A special assessment district is established by the Circuit Court for each lake level control structure.  The property owners who benefit from the lake level are assessed for the cost of constructing, operating and maintaining the structure. These property owners may be lakefront owners or backlot property owners with lake access.

What does the lake level technician do?

There are two lake level technicians and each is assigned particular lakes to monitor. Their duties are year-round and they are on call 24-hours a day to respond to emergency conditions. The level of each lake is regulated by making adjustments to the structures as weather conditions dictate. Lake water level readings are recorded by the Technicians.  Every effort is made to maintain the established normal level. Graphs of the recorded water level readings for each lake level control structure are available from the Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner's Office. The Technicians perform routine inspections and indicate the maintenance needs of each structure. Regular inspection ensures that the structures are in good operating condition and also permits scheduled maintenance and repairs.  The Technicians also operate the augmentation wells as needed.

Our lake wants a normal level, how do we get started?

You may contact the Water Resources Commissioner's Office at 248-858-0958 or by email at to obtain an information packet. The State's website also provides valuable information about lake management. Follow the links for Environmental Programs, Geological Land Management, Dam Safety.