Many readers might remember that White Lake in northern Muskegon County was listed as an Area of Concern for the Great Lakes back in 1985. As a result, a plan was created to restore and protect this important resource from years of industrial pollution and more recent urban development. While this plan tends to focus on polluted lake sediments and nearshore sources of contamination, the fact is that White Lake rests at the end of a 344,166 acre watershed that spans across three counties: Muskegon, Newaygo, and Oceana. The ultimate health of White Lake is tied directly to the watershed that feeds it.
To help understand the complexities of this system, the Annis Water Resources Institute (AWRI) of Grand Valley State University received funds from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) to prepare a Watershed Management Plan. This two-year project is intended to identify nonpoint source pollutants that impact the White River system, determine the sources of these pollutants, and develop a strategy that deals directly with their causes. Recommendations are likely to include "structural" pollution abatement techniques such as the creation of vegetative buffers. This vegetation stabilizes stream banks and acts as a filter for sediments and other pollutants that move over land toward open waters during storm events. Other physical improvements might include fencing to isolate cattle and other livestock from river and stream channels. Watershed management plans also consider "non-structural" techniques such as the preparation of master plans and zoning ordinances, which are specifically designed to minimize environmental impacts and encourage water quality protection and improvement. Finally, the development of a watershed management plan always involves a significant education strategy whose purpose is to engage and inform stakeholders regarding nonpoint source pollution concerns and the implementation of needed pollution controls.
An effective plan considers the experience and opinions of those that live, work, and play in the area. For this reason, AWRI seeks the support and commitment from various decision-makers and stakeholder groups. The White Lake Association, the Muskegon Conservation District, the White Lake Public Advisory Council, the MDEQ, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, and the US Forest Service are each playing a key role in the development of the plan. The White River Watershed Partnership (WRWP) is acting as the advisory group to the project. If you would like more information about this project please contact Nichol De Mol at email@example.com or 616-331-3092.