Michigan’s Muskegon Lake is getting a major overhaul. A nearly $3 million cleanup effort began mid-summer to get rid of old sawmill debris at the bottom of the lake and restore the local fish habitat — which includes the endangered lake sturgeon.

Plans for the Muskegon Lake Area of Concern Habitat Restoration project involves the removal of an expected nearly 123,000 tons of debris from the mill. Upon completion, the project will revitalize 11.4 acres of open water and emergent wetlands.

The project is funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration(NOAA), as part of a partnership with the Great Lakes Commission(GLC). The West Michigan Shoreline Regional Development Commission is managing the project and the Grand Valley State University Annis Water Resources Institute is monitoring it.

Muskegon Lake Project Background

The GLC and the NOAA have joined forces to restore several Great Lakes Areas of Concern(AOCs), considered the worst toxic hotspots in the region, according to the project website. An issue for more than three decades, Lake Muskegon was declared an AOC back in 1985, because of ecological issues caused by industrial challenges, shoreline alterations, and the filling of open water and coastal wetlands.

Several organizations have worked together since 1992 to remediate contaminated sediments and revitalize the fish and wildlife habitat. The GLC has received funding from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative since 2013, through its partnership with NOAA, to execute four projects managed by the West Michigan Shoreline Regional Development Commission. When these projects are finished, all work related to habitat restoration at the Muskegon Lake AOC is expected to be completed.

White Lake AOC Habitat Restoration Project

The Muskegon Lake isn’t the only local body of water subject to cleanup efforts. In 2012, the White Lake AOC Shoreline Habitat Restoration Project was completed, led by the Muskegon Conservation District and the White Lake Public Advisory Council.

A total of 10 sites at the White Lake shoreline and upland habitat were restored, which helped the EPA remove two habit-related beneficial use impairments. Some of the other outcomes included the removal of more than 8,000 linear feet of shoreline, creation or restoration of 38 acres of wetland habitat, restoration of nearly 15 acres of riparian and upland acres, removal of nearly 52,000 cubic yards of shoreline/submerged debris, and removal of 500 linear feet of sheet-pile seawall, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

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