From the Office of the Director

Scott Faulkner, Executive Director
Muskegon River Watershed Assembly

Thank you for making 2022- so far – a year of real progress for our watershed, measured from any of our four foundational perspectives: environmental, economic, social, and sustainability.  So much good news, in fact, that it is tempting to sidestep for a moment the myriad, systemic challenges that remain for MRWA and the Muskegon River.  So, just to make things easy, I will simply refer to the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly in this summer update.

The Good.  On second thought, let us call this section GREAT.  From my view, your MRWA staff are advancing our Mission with speed, intentionality, and real passion.

Our Memorandum of Understanding with the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians is complete.  The partnership will enhance our already blossoming relationship to the benefit of  the watershed.  The Little River Band has applied to be the Non-Federal Sponsor on an application to the US Army Corps of Engineers for an advanced hydrological study for the Maple River Project.  This will commence very soon- with – not a misprint -NO matching funds required!

The MSU Center for Economic Analysis will complete its preliminary Maple River Economic Impact Analysis very soon.  Two important Federal and State funding sources, USFWS’s National Fish Passage Program, and the Great Lakes Sediment and Nutrient Reduction Program are targeted for two high impact Maple River projects and those will be announced shortly.  In short, in July 2022, the restoration of this abandoned river channel that lay fallow for over 150 years- the Maple River- is now underway! (Go ahead- read that sentence again!)

Our Watershed Moment Partnership challenge is meeting with great success the length of the Muskegon River. The growing list of perennial supporters is impressive.


  • Gerrish (Higgins Lake)
  • Lyon (Higgins Lake)
  • Cedar Creek (Maple River)
  • Bridgeton (Maple River)
  • Croton (Croton Pond)
  • Big Prairie (Hardy Pond)
  • Mecosta (Hydro locations)

Watershed Cities

  • Cadillac
  • Big Rapids
  • Newaygo

MRWA shows up in their communities to add measurable value in many forms. For example, we provide professional watershed management consulting for a wastewater treatment plant. We also secure funding, and provide boots on the ground for extensive bank restoration, and tree planting projects.  (See Marty’s related article)

Generous corporate donors have also taken note and are responding to MRWA in substantial ways because our individual Missions are in alignment.  MRWA provides a thoughtful vehicle for corporations to efficiently “do good” in their own back yard.

For example, the annual Trash Bash river clean up, launching next month, is on track to set new performance records.  This year co-coordinators Pat Jarrett and Sarah Himes are working together, devoting twice the energy to ensure our river is trash free from top to bottom.  They have recruited a legion of volunteers, from young families to college students to do the work and an impressive list of corporate sponsors to defray the costs.

MRWA believes in ongoing education in order to inspire our next generation of conservationists.   We are expanding our educational impact in 2022 starting with a unique education and public outreach partnership event centered on the Maple River project. The event is scheduled for September 13th at the Seven Mile Inn.

Grant and Holton Public School systems will each send fifty 8th grade Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) and Arts students for a morning of field education by experts in watershed sciences. (See Discover Maple River Educational flyer). These kids grow up and go to school in the Maple River project area, and it is our hope that they will want to be actively engaged in this major restoration effort. We believe they will realize the obvious value of their contributions and gain additional inspiration as they make their choice of career pathways.

The Discover Maple River event, in addition to sharpening MRWA’s education focus with elementary students, will also feature community outreach to Bridgeton and Cedar Creek Township stakeholders.  Those who live, work, recreate, and pay property taxes in the Maple River project area represent our most important audience.

To date we have secured a wide variety of corporate partners in support of the project, ensuring long term substantially, guaranteeing that we can finish what we start.

One last great thing- I could not be prouder of our small but sturdy team at MRWA- who truly walk their talk.  They are more than willing leave computer screens behind and get their hands dirty!  Like, really dirty.  Internally, in order to keep our priorities straight, we routinely ask the same question- Was this a good day/week/month for the watershed?  Our team knows what it takes.

The Bad: While we are growing in a healthy direction, MRWA, along with countless smaller environmental nonprofits, will likely face a difficult year in reaching our operational funding targets.  This may be particularly true during a time of national unease, in an election year during a recessionary economy, when individuals and corporate donors alike understandably tend to tighten the pocketbooks.

How to fix it? May I ask that you consider your donation to MRWA as a gift to your grandchildren and great grandchildren, and respond accordingly?  Leave them a Muskegon River in better shape than you found it.

Also bad:  Non-point source pollution is a serious threat to the environment but is difficult to trace, connect, and address.  Often the transgressors have no legal obligation to fix the problem.   Property owners are often the largest contributors to bank destabilization and erosion, just to get a little better view. We intend to address this issue head on in the coming months and years with an updated plan and significant funding

Another observation made in face-to-face visits along the entirety of the watershed is this: we face a challenge in presenting this watershed as a singularity to the wide variety of stakeholders along the full 219 miles.  This often results in disconnected, isolated decisions in a single community that may lead to the detriment of the watershed in its entirety.  That is how dams were built for 150 years.   How to fix it? See The Wrap-up.

The Ugly: 150 years of blatant, systemic abuse on the Muskegon continues today. The largest, persistent threats to the watershed remain lack of connectivity on the main stem, and aging dam structures along the tributaries. Throw in an enormous emergency spillway project, with construction-related deforestation, planned sand and gravel mining, and the total loss of a vibrant, cold water stream and 4 miles of pristine forest trail, and you’ve got plenty of serious UGLY.

The wrap-up- First, please go back and read the Good! As MRWA endeavors to support and actively pursue our Mission, at least today we find ourselves with a seat at most tables- we are highly connected with the US Army Corps of Engineers, our friends at the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians, USFWS, EGLE, DNR and Trout Unlimited.  We partner with permit applicants in recommending mitigation projects when the cry of public safety wins over environmental preservation. At least we are at the table, as we seek alternatives and creative adaptations to the impending 2034 FERC relicensing of the main hydros at Croton Hardy, and Rogers Dams.  MRWA is at the table, advocating and fighting for the gift that is the Muskegon.  Can she be reconnected? Can she flourish? Can we do better? The answer simply has to be yes- with your help.


Thank you.