In 2015, The West Michigan Shoreline Regional Development Commission (WMSRDC) marked its 45th anniversary as a highly effective regional planning and development agency. WMSRDC currently serves 120 local governments in Lake, Mason, Muskegon, Newaygo, and Oceana Counties.
The Muskegon River watershed has benefitted greatly from their activities, most notably:
- Over $10 million invested in natural fish and wildlife habitat restoration along the Muskegon Lake shoreline from 2009-2013
- An additional $12 million for water quality improvements in the Muskegon River/Muskegon Lake Watershed
Because of these and other major projects, WMSRDC will deserve a large share of the credit for the upcoming EPA decision to remove Muskegon Lake as an “Area of Concern in the Great Lakes”. Kathy Evans, the organization’s environmental program manager, recently earned induction into the Michigan Environmental Hall of Fame.
Currently WMSRDC is working with West Michigan Watershed groups and regional planning partners to develop a West Michigan Water Quality Plan and a funding strategy to implement clean water practices.
Our Approach to Invasive Species
by Gale Nobes
In 2015, we began a major 2-year initiative specifically designed to reduce the impacts of non-native invasive species in the coastal wetlands of Muskegon and Bear Lake at the south end of the Muskegon River. We received a Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Grant through the USEPA to implement efforts that will help remove Muskegon Lake as an “Area of Concern” in the Great Lakes.
Improving degraded shoreline habitat will help remove one of the beneficial use impairments of the AOC designation. We employ multiple strategies in this management effort including education, coordination and organization, monitoring, and actual removal.
Our staff has targeted five species for removal with an emphasis on Phragmites australus or Giant Reed. The reduction of these aggressive aliens will provide habitat benefits not only to Muskegon and Bear Lake but potentially to much of the Muskegon River as well. The following is a summary of the project to date.
Last year saw the treatment of 65.6 acres of Phragmites and Purple Loosestrife impacted coastal wetlands. This was made possible through the cooperation of 199 private and public landowners. This included not only residents, but also 4 local units of government. 11.9 acres of upland habitat were also treated to address Spotted Knapweed and 2 other invasives. The project accomplished 155 % of its’ targeted acreage. The 2016 treatments are now complete, and because of the effectiveness of year one treatments, we have been able to treat additional acres and assist 50+ more landowners, compared with the 2015 numbers. Additionally we performed maintenance treatments on five existing habitat restoration sites. Total project acreage is estimated at 126+.
The public was informed and engaged through public meetings designed to educate, coordinate, and train residents, partners, and the concerned public. This included sessions in how to access and use the Michigan Invasive Species Information Network website for reporting invasive species locations and education related to Michigan’s invasive species. Early Detection and Rapid Response and plant ID were part of those training sessions. At least seven treatment training sessions for landowners wishing to maintain control of Phragmites on their own property have been completed. Public awareness of the project goals was also accomplished early in the project timeline. The project has exceeded its target goals.
Phragmites surveys were also undertaken to update data acquired during a Phragmites survey conducted in 2012. Surveys were conducted in 2015 and 2016. This survey data will be used to inform management efforts by local stakeholders and project partners including MRWA, and to monitor the status of Phragmites in our Muskegon and Bear Lake wetlands. Along with the plant survey, data collection points were set up to facilitate the evaluation of the treatments and to track plant response to determine treatment success over the project period. This data will allow for the update of the Biodiversity Protection and Phragmites Management Plan for Muskegon Lake.
In 2015 we initiated the exploration of a sustainable management process/method for oversight and guidance which culminated in the establishment of an invasive species sub-committee of the Muskegon Lake Watershed Partnership (MLWP). The MLWP habitat committee provides technical input and guidance to stakeholders pertaining to habitat issues.
To affect public acceptance and improve future efforts at management, the project targeted youth education and involvement by working with 3 local 6th through 12th grade schools, Muskegon Community College, Muskegon Lake Stewardship Volunteers, and other interested partner organizations.
The outcomes for the project will be a reduction in the targeted invasive species to manageable levels and an informed citizenry with the tools to protect valuable habitat resources in the lake and river watersheds into the future.