The impacts of climate change on the Muskegon River Watershed are likely to be significant and will be most evident as a dramatic change in local hydrology. While the Muskegon River Watershed is expected to experience an overall increase in stream volumes, variation between high and low water levels may in the end prove more problematic as is the frequency and duration of storm events. This combination of effects is expected to have a net result of more streambank erosion. Property owners could address these erosion problems with the use of structural BMPs. However, research shows that the investment of broad and relatively expensive structural BMPs for the purpose of stabilizing eroding riparian lands may prove to be wasteful and ineffective. A better solution is to invest in reforestation, other vegetative BMPs along riparian corridors, and the permanent conservation of vegetated riparian lands as a way to afford long-term hydrologic stability.
Following the review of evidence presented, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) awarded the Muskegon River Watershed Assembly (MRWA) a $798,270 grant through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) Program. The 2 ½ year project began in October 2012 and is scheduled to conclude in June 2015. The project has as its goals to reforest 440 acres of riparian land, restore 28,050 lineal feet of streambank, and establish permanent conservation easements on 150 acres of riparian property. Grand Valley State University’s Annis Water Resources Institute is just one of several partners working on this project. Our job is to assist private property owners in the development of 10 Forest Stewardship Plans.
The “BMPs Implementation to Restore High Priority Riparian Areas” Project is expected to reduce sediment discharge to the Muskegon River by 113 tons every year. This reduction in sediment is expected to eliminate 1,153 pounds of phosphorus and 6,653 pounds of nitrogen annually.
For more information about this EPA GLRI funded project, refer to the MRWA website at www.mrwa.org. For more about AWRI’s participation in this project and the development of Forest Stewardship Plans.