AWRI plays key role in Muskegon Lake's ecological recovery
Muskegon Lake inched closer to its delisting as an Area of Concern by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency with an announcement on July 11 that two more impairments have been removed from the lake.
Dennis Kirksey, chair of the Muskegon Lake Watershed Partnership, made it official during a news conference at Grand Valley’s Annis Water Resources Institute, saying target goals had been met to address the degradation of fish and wildlife populations and the loss of their habitat.
AWRI has played a key role within the Muskegon Lake Watershed Partnership, providing ecological monitoring and data of the lake to its municipal, state and federal partners, said Al Steinman, the AWRI’s Allen and Helen Hunting research professor.
“We have played this role for the last 25, 30 years providing the technical and scientific expertise,” Steinman said. “We have been intimately involved in the development of the targets for restoration and provide the science behind restoration activities.
“There’s been a lot of people that have played a really critical, positive role in this whole process.”
Muskegon Lake was designated as one of 43 Great Lakes Areas of Concern by the EPA in 1985. The lake is in the final stages of remediation and restoration, only needing two final impairments to be addressed before it can be officially removed from the Area of Concern list, said Kirksey.
“It’s exciting though it doesn't mean we've arrived. It doesn't mean that the battle is done. It just means we are a lot closer to where we want to be and where we were 10, 15, 20 years ago,” Kirksey said.
The final two impairments involve investigating the spiking levels of phosphorus in recent years and the degradation of benthos or organisms living at the bottom of the lake. A strong population of benthos encourages a healthy food chain and helps support diversity of fish and wildlife.
Steinman and Stephanie Swart, the Muskegon Lake AOC Coordinator for the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy, said the goal is for Muskegon Lake to be officially delisted in 2024.