Grand Valley researchers work on projects to restore lake

Sediment cores are collected from Bear Lake.
Sediment cores are collected from Bear Lake.

Two Grand Valley State University researchers are working together on a pair of projects that are designed to help restore habitat in the area of Muskegon Lake, and assist in getting Muskegon Lake de-listed as an Area of Concern in the Great Lakes.

Al Steinman, Ph.D., and Rick Rediske, Ph.D., are co-principal investigators on a pair of projects in Muskegon Lake and adjacent Bear Lake. Steinman is also the director of Grand Valley’s Annis Water Resources Institute.

The planned improvements include a new design and engineering project to restore habitat in Muskegon Lake, which is connected to Lake Michigan, and a wetland restoration project just upstream from Bear Lake. Even though restoration efforts in the area have been underway for several years, some challenges remain.

Fish and wildlife habitats are still recovering, and fish and wildlife that live in the area are considered degraded. In the Bear Lake area, unwanted nutrient enrichment and undesirable algae are cause for concern.

The first project will involve removing debris at the Muskegon Lake Mill Debris site, a shallow 40-acre area along the southern portion of the lake that’s choked with old sawmill slab wood and sawdust from past operations. Debris removal there will contribute to broader restoration goals in the area, including restoration of an area of open-water wetlands.

The second project will involve reconnecting a 43-acre wetland site that used to be a celery farm to the Bear Creek and Bear Lake system. The goal is to help improve habitat for fish and wildlife. Another part of the project will be to monitor the phosphorus concentrations that could flow into the creek and lake from the wetland area after being reconnected. This phosphorus helps stimulate algal blooms, so it is critical to design the restoration to improve habitat without degrading water quality.

The West Michigan Shoreline Regional Development Commission is the lead organization on the projects. Grand Valley’s Annis Water Resources Institute will also get assistance from NOAA’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, the Great Lakes Commission, and the National Wildlife Federation.