From the Office of the Director

Scott Faulkner
Executive Director Muskegon River watershed Assembly

I am proud to report that It has been a watershed summer at your Assembly! In the last few months, we formed strategic partnerships to explore a massive restoration project, while creating new key stakeholder relationships across nine counties. Most importantly for the future of the watershed, we began the often-painful process of challenging ourselves to think well beyond our traditional boundaries. It has indeed been a busy season.

Of course, our people at MRWA are the ones doing the very real day-to-day work, and I would first like to spend a moment on a very special person that many readers may know- Patricia “Pat” Jarrett, MRWA’s Office Manager.  For over six years, Pat has done so many back-office tasks exceedingly well, and this summer, she has set a new standard for her pet passion- Trash Bash!   This unique and growing event gives MRWA an opportunity to live our Mission, not just give it a nod of approval.  This year, Pat single handedly coordinated 32 Teams and 217 volunteers- see the related article.  Well done,Pat!  Our Muskegon River truly runs through her heart and soul!

Over the summer, your MRWA has actively supported local restoration efforts of all sizes including $130M proposed sewer project that encompasses the upper watershed origins, in Gerrish and Lyon Townships, the middle watershed in Croton, Big Prairie, and Mecosta Townships, and the lower section in Bridgeton and Cedar Creek Townships. Additionally bank stabilization and tree planting projects, a dam removal, and important scientific field studies were all funded by the generous support of our Members.  Thank you!

In Fall 2021, we are actively engaging the entire watershed with a powerful new combination of aligned stakeholders including

  • Township, County, and State agencies,
  • the US Army Corps of Engineers,
  • the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians and
  • the MSU Center for Economic Analysis.

Generous corporate contributions from DTE, Consumers Energy and Blue Triton, provide the inspiration to set our sights on new large scale projects in 2022 while a new and very supportive cannabis industry have stepped up substantially to assist MRWA toward even greater impact..

Take a moment to consider MRWA’s Maple River Restoration initiative, arguably the most ambitious and potentially impactful project in the 25-year history of the organization. River historians know that prior to the middle 1800’s, Maple Island existed as a rather large and prominent feature of the mighty Muskegon, created by a natural, even split (or anabranch) in the main river. Lumber companies installed a dam, blocking water flow in one branch to elevate water levels on the other side to keep logs moving downstream. Now over 100 years later, the logging industry in the watershed is only a historical footnote but this environmentally devastating feature endures as a reminder. As is often the case, future generations, with the MRWA serving as a catalyst, must find a solution.

MRWA now imagines breathing new life into the dormant Maple River, creating almost 5 miles of new, thriving fish habitat, expanding a rare wild rice stand, all while protecting and preserving productive farmland in Bridgeton and Cedar Creek Townships!  An incredible watershed component left for dead for 150 years can come back to life as we continue to grow our partnerships and funding sources.

Additionally the Maple River initiative establishes protocols for evaluating all new potential projects from three important perspectives:

  • Scientific and Environmental Impact: Is this project a net gain for the watershed?
  • Economic Impact: Does this project support and/or expand local economies?
  • People: Residents must live with the proposed project. What are their thoughts?

Given overall positive responses from all three perspectives, we then consider the project from the perspective of true sustainability. In this regard, we look to the accumulated wisdom of one of our most important partners: the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians (LRBOI). Their members emphasize the critical role of Traditional (or Tribal) Environmental Knowledge (TEK) in all we do. .  Please see the excellent article on TEK by MRWA Board Member and retired LRBOI Director of Natural Resources Jimmie Mitchell, which will assist the reader in understanding the crucial role of this partnership.

Unlike the unchecked business interests of logging 150 years ago- or hydroelectric power companies of 100 years ago, we want to truly bless future generations from all three of these important perspectives, and the Maple River project fits these criteria very well indeed

Moving forward in 2022, we ask that you further consider that the three operating hydro plants (Croton Hardy, and Rogers) on the Muskegon have an average age of 107 years, or about four to five generations, with re-licensing dates approaching in 2034.  Is it  time to start thinking more deeply about future generations- seven to be more specific, as MRWA actively engages with stakeholders to be found along all three sites? We think it is time to be creative, transparent, stakeholder- inclusive, and wise.

Your support allows MRWA to continue to show up strong along the watershed- from end to end, and we appreciate your active comments, criticism, encouragement, and support, as we work to live our Mission.  Thank you.