AWRI's work helps Muskegon Lake reach pivotal milestone

Muskegon mayor speaks with crowd during news conference
Muskegon mayor Ken Johnson speaks with members of the media during a news conference on May 24, announcing Muskegon Lake reached target goals for restoration.
Image credit - Kendra Stanley-Mills

Federal, state and local government officials gathered at Heritage Lake Park on Muskegon Lake on May 24 to announce decades of restoration and remediation efforts on the lake have been finalized.

Grand Valley’s Annis Water Resources Institute played an integral role in helping with the lake’s rejuvenation.

Muskegon Lake was designated an Area of Concern in 1987 after decades of industry waste and pollutants from sawmills and foundries contaminated the water and sediment and contributed to the loss of the natural shoreline. 

Since 2003, AWRI’s Long-Term Monitoring Program has sampled six sites across the lake three times a year, measuring physical, chemical and biological factors. The Muskegon Lake Observatory implemented a buoy system, which has been collecting hydrology and meteorological data since 2011. 

“AWRI has been proudly involved in the Muskegon Lake AOC for over 25 years providing scientific and monitoring expertise," said Al Steinman, AWRI's director.

"This work has included studies that include sediment contamination studies, fish toxicity, water quality, and habitat restoration. Our peer-reviewed findings provided the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency the confidence that our restoration goals are being met, which is a critical step in the eventual delisting of Muskegon Lake as an Area of Concern."

AWRI also contributed economic studies to its federal, regional and state partners. These studies helped researchers understand the economic impact of their efforts in restoring Muskegon Lake, said Erika Jensen, executive director with the Great Lakes Commission.

“As part of the work that the Great Lakes Commission helped to coordinate at Muskegon Lake through our National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration partnership, we were also able to fund some economic benefit studies through the AWRI,” said Jensen. “It was great to be able to work with a local institution to do that study and see the benefits to the community that they live and work in.”

Jensen said AWRI’s economic reports showed an 11 percent increase in visits to the lake following its restoration, and return visits to the lake from guests increased as much as four-fold per season. 

Muskegon Lake’s restoration also benefited local homeowners. Due to the shoreline restoration, total home values rose an estimated $7.9 million, said Jensen. Additional recreational visits to the lake added nearly $28 million back into the local economy.

“It was a great partnership with GVSU and AWRI of implementing, evaluating and learning, so we can inform future restoration,” said Julie Simmons, Great Lakes Restoration program manager for the NOAA Restoration Center. 

Researchers aboard the W.G. Jackson ship collecting data
GVSU researchers aboard the W.G. Jackson collect data from across Muskegon Lake on May 11.
Image credit - Kendra Stanley-Mills


Sign up and receive the latest Grand Valley headlines delivered to your email inbox each morning.