House Bill (HB) 4554 became Public Act (PA) 218 of 2011 on Thursday, Nov. 10, thereby authorizing the state Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to issue new permits for the harvesting of submerged logs from Great Lakes bottomlands.
It also establishes a permit application fee for submerged log removal from the bottomland of an inland lake.
Under the previous law, the DEQ could not issue new permits after Dec. 31, 2003. All 11 permits issued before then were set to expire on Jan. 1, 2013. The permits are now to expire five years after they are issued or, for permits issued before the legislation took effect, five years after their effective date.
According to the DEQ, the Great Lakes Submerged Logs Recovery Program “provides for the legal and controlled recovery of abandoned old growth logs that were not captured and processed during Michigan’s logging era.”
These logs are considered a part of the state and, as such, the state receives proper compensation under Part 326 of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act (NREPA).
The value of submerged logs can be as high as $30,000 to $40,000, according to a legislative analysis of the bill. Recovered wood is used by custom furniture makers, artists, contractors, architects, and makers of high-end musical instruments.
Under PA 218, submerged loggers are required to pay 15 percent of the market price received from selling the logs. They must also pay a $500 submerged log removal application fee, as well as a $3,000 log recovery fee which is to be deposited in the Great Lakes Fund.
The application fee was previously $3,500.
A new application fee of $500 was also created for log removal from the bottomlands of an inland lake.
According to the legislative analysis, it’s believed that this new law will help create jobs since the number of logs in the Great Lakes is estimated to be in the millions.
State Reps. Hugh Crawford (R-Walled Lake, Wixom) and Eileen Kowall (R-Highland, White Lake) co-sponsored the bill, which was introduced by state Rep. Greg MacMaster (R-Kewadin).
“It allows for a good process to protect resources under the water in inland lakes, as well as Great Lakes, and allows recovery of some of those resources,” Kowall said. “Back in the logging days, the logs would be floated on the water, but some would get too water-logged and sink. Those logs are well-preserved and very valuable.”
While submerged logs can be removed from inland lakes and the Great Lakes with a permit, they cannot be removed from rivers and streams, according to Kowall.
“They can’t be removed from rivers and streams unless they are creating a log jam that interferes with navigation because they serve an ecological purpose in rivers and streams.”