Keego Harbor used grant money from the state to hire the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office Marine Patrol for patrols on Cass Lake.

Keego Harbor used grant money from the state to hire the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office Marine Patrol for patrols on Cass Lake.

File photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Keego uses grant money for Sheriff’s Office Cass Lake patrols

By: Mark Vest | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published June 12, 2024

 Keego Harbor Mayor Rob Kalman is pictured with an employee of the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office Marine Patrol. Keego has contracted with Oakland County for patrols on Cass Lake this year and next.

Keego Harbor Mayor Rob Kalman is pictured with an employee of the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office Marine Patrol. Keego has contracted with Oakland County for patrols on Cass Lake this year and next.

File photo provided by Rob Kalman


KEEGO HARBOR — Keego Harbor City Councilman John Fletcher previously stated that “it gets crazy” on Cass Lake.

In recent years, one way the city has tried to help remedy that is by contracting with the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office Marine Patrol to help patrol the lake.

Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard reported that the county was “busy out there” last year, logging approximately 825 hours on Cass Lake, which included issuing 48 tickets, writing 371 warnings and conducting 373 safety inspections.

Bouchard discussed what it is that communities get when they contract with Oakland County.

“They get a very focused, very well-trained in marine activity unit,” he said. “We’re the largest marine unit in the state of Michigan, so it comes with that expertise, that equipment and those capabilities. We have search and rescue, we have dive, we have all of those things, plus a host of different kinds of water assets — whether it’s  jump boats or larger boats or rescue boats, hovercraft. We have a lot of options for us to make an impact on whatever the situation might be.”

According to Keego Mayor Rob Kalman, a $100,000 grant the city got from the state is being used to pay the county for patrols this year and next year.

The money helps provide county protection on the water, with the Keego Police Department patrolling the land near Cass Lake.

“I want people to come to Keego Harbor and enjoy our lakes,” Kalman said. “I want them to have a safe experience while they’re enjoying our community. We’re fortunate that we were able to obtain a grant from the state of Michigan to help pay, in entirety, the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office Marine Patrol … for this summer and next summer.”

Kalman described the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office Marine Patrol as “very professional” and said that he can think of many instances when they’ve helped residents.

He has also taken notice of another way the county has been conducting its business on Cass Lake.

“Most of their time on the lake has been giving warnings as opposed to ticketing people,” Kalman said. “They give helpful advice to boaters to ensure safety. … The goal is not to generate tickets; the goal is to provide public safety.”

According to Bouchard, last year there were 24 calls for service and 33 citizens assists.

“So, they respond to a variety of things, but probably foremost — and I think we had less of it last year because we started to increase our presence — is we used to get a lot of complaints about raucous behavior on the lake or reckless boating on the lake,” Bouchard said. “I think our regular presence has tamped that down quite a bit.”

The Cass Lake sandbar has played a large part in issues that have been reported on the lake. Fletcher previously reported that people have stood in the sandbar, thrown trash in the water and urinated there.

“It’s pretty nasty,” Fletcher previously stated.

Bouchard is aware that the sandbar has led to problems around the lake.

“There’s certain behavior that was getting out of line on that sandbar, and it was disturbing the lake and the homeowners,” he said. “So, having a regular presence can have an impact on that.”

Although Bouchard declined to reveal patrol schedules in order to not be predictable, he did share that the county could have one boat or multiple boats on the water at a given time.

Even lakes that don’t contract with the county get attention from the marine unit.

“We’ll do periodic patrols,” Bouchard said. “We’ll respond to complaints or problems, and obviously, any emergency. We have what we call jump boats that we can move around and drop into different lakes, periodically. Obviously, with 450 lakes, we can’t be everywhere, but we try to put our presence where it’s needed.”

Bouchard shared what led to the county contracting with communities and lake associations for specific patrols.

“We grew that opportunity significantly after the downturn of 2008, because my budget got so heavily cut I couldn’t afford a lot of the things that we used to do, and it’s never come back, quite frankly,” he said. “I had to cut 160 positions, and we’ve never got those back. So we had a lot more full-time marine deputies in 2008 than we do now, and the only way, without having that money replaced back into our budget that went away in 2008, is to offer the opportunity for communities and lakes to contract.”

Disturbing the peace and littering in the water can be major issues, but there can be even more serious problems when proper precautions aren’t adhered to.

Bouchard said that equipment issues and alcohol are the two biggest issues that lead to drownings in Oakland County.

“If you’re (going to) drink, then know that it has an effect on you that’s magnified by sun and heat exposure and outdoor activity,” he said. “If you’ve been drinking quite a bit, I would suggest that you put on a flotation device. We’ve had numerous drownings where somebody that (was) drinking quite a bit jumped in and then drowned. And the other thing is operate what you know and what you’re safe operating.”

Bouchard also shared a note of caution about personal watercraft.

“The only way you’re (going to) change your direction is to have a little bit of throttle and operate a change in direction utilizing the steering,” he said. “The reaction for a lot of inexperienced people on a Jet Ski is when they’re approaching … another boat or a dock or a person, they let off the throttle, and now they just become a torpedo.”

Bouchard suggests that individuals get certified in whatever kind of watercraft they want to operate. His tips for staying safe on the water include having a safety check performed on watercrafts, which includes checking the lights, following the rules when on the water, understanding boating laws, and making sure that the proper number of flotation devices are on watercrafts.

To learn about certification requirements and age limits, call the county at (248) 858-5000 or send an email to

If there is an emergency on the water, individuals should call 911. For non-emergencies, call (248) 858-4951.

Bouchard is a proponent of the positives that result when municipalities and lake associations get assistance from the county to help patrol lakes.

“If they’ve got issues on the lakes, the best way to approach it is with a regular presence through a contract,” he said.