The Oakland County Sheriff’s Office Marine Unit patrols Cass Lake.

The Oakland County Sheriff’s Office Marine Unit patrols Cass Lake.

File photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Marine safety patrols increase this summer on Oakland County lakes

By: Mary Genson | C&G Newspapers | Published July 12, 2022


OAKLAND COUNTY — Oakland County is home to more inland lakes and registered boats than anywhere else in the state. To ensure residents’ safety this summer, the Oakland County Board of Commissioners is piloting a program to increase marine safety patrols on Oakland County lakes.

The Oakland County Board of Commissioners passed the pilot program unanimously during the 2022 boring season meeting on June 23.

Oakland County Commissioner Kristen Nelson represents Keego Harbor, Orchard Lake and Sylvan Lake, as well as portions of Waterford and West Bloomfield townships. She said her constituents’ concerns drove this project.

“Truly, this resolution is the result of trying to find some solutions to ensure more safety on our lake,” Nelson said.

As soon as boating season starts, Nelson said, the phone calls and emails start coming in from constituents concerned about the safety of the lakes.

The Oakland County Marine Patrol Division contracts with various entities to provide patrol services on the lakes for a fee.

The Oakland County Board of Commissioners has approved an additional $50,000 for the Oakland County Marine Patrol to increase patrols on the lakes.

The county Marine Patrol and Water Rescue Unit is responsible for over 450 lakes, 70 square miles of water, five major rivers and 3,000 miles of shoreline.

“Anything we can do, obviously, to help keep our waters safe and fun is good for Oakland County and all that use its amazing waters,” Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard said.

The Oakland County Sheriff’s Office determined the five lakes that have been picked as the highest priority lakes based on their boater activity, the number of calls for services and the reported incidents from the last few years. These top priority lakes are Cass Lake, Orchard Lake, Lake Oakland, Woodhull Lake and Lake Orion.

“Hopefully, it will provide some form of relief knowing that we are providing that increase in marine safety patrols, and it is directly as a result of constituents interacting with government,” Nelson said.

Nelson said she is most excited about the amount of participation from constituents through this process that occurred in order to make this pilot program happen.

“People make it happen, and I am just so thankful that constituents are participating in their government and calling their commissioners and letting them know of their concerns, especially as we lead into one of the busiest times on our lakes, which is going to be the Fourth of July weekend,” Nelson said when the news was announced.

In addition to this pilot program, the Sheriff’s Office also increased patrols specifically from July 2 to July 4 as a part of Operation Dry Water.

“We are going to be specifically looking for people that are operating under the influence of alcohol or drugs because we know that that, statistically, is the greatest component for having an injury or fatality in the water,” Bouchard said. “That is an effort that is heightened during the July Fourth weekend, but it’s something that we’re always doing.”

Bouchard said he thinks a long-term solution would be better funding from the state of Michigan based on the allocation and registration of boats so they could increase their marine patrols regularly.