Traverse City News and Events

Torch Lake Takeover

By Beth Milligan | June 14, 2021

You don’t need to live on the shores of Torch Lake to know how breathtakingly gorgeous it is. A massive inland lake (the biggest in Michigan, by water volume), Torch Lake is known for its party-raising sandbars, its cavernous depths (nearly 300 feet to the bottom at its deepest point), and its pure, clear waters. Local legend has it that National Geographic once named Torch the “third most beautiful lake in the world” (though Northern Express couldn’t verify this claim). Certainly, MLive once named Torch Lake “Michigan’s own slice of the Caribbean” — a comparison others have made over the years, thanks to the lake’s picturesque shades of deep blue and seafoam green.

One thing that doesn’t mesh with Torch Lake’s reputation for resplendent beauty? Big blooms of brown algae, which have become increasingly common in the lake’s near-shore areas over the past decade.

According to Tom Joseph, a 26-year resident of the Torch Lake community, the algae situation hasn’t crossed over into crisis mode just yet, but that doesn’t mean it’s not concerning. While some property owners along the lake have noticed thick mats of algae sticking to the lake bottoms near their docks and beaches, Joseph says that — from his perspective, at least — the algae is not yet disrupting tourism, affecting property values, hurting lake-dependent businesses, or otherwise hindering overall enjoyment of the lake. In fact, Joseph says that tourists or other more casual users of the lake might not even be aware yet that something is amiss.

But despite the relative subtlety of algae growth in Torch Lake, Joseph says there are enough residents like him — watching the waters day in and day out, constantly monitoring for changes — to sound the alarm. For at least the past five years, the algae blooms in Torch Lake have been under the microscope. Organizations like the Torch Lake Protection Association (TLPA, for which Joseph serves as a board member) and the Three Lakes Association (which focuses on water quality preservation efforts for Torch Lake, Lake Bellaire, and Clam Lake) have been funding water quality studies and other research aimed at determining what is causing the algae blooms — and how those scientific processes might be reversed.

Read more about the potential "Torch Lake Takeover" of algae blooms in this week's Northern Express, sister publication of The Ticker. The Northern Express is available to read online, or pick up a free copy at one of nearly 700 spots in 14 counties across northern Michigan.

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