Looking Back: 2022 Year in Review

Each year the MRWA faces a unique set of challenges as we put in the work to achieve our stated mission:  to protect and restore the Muskegon River Watershed.  As a project based, environmental nonprofit organization we depend on a diverse group of resources to provide the funding necessary to accomplish our goals.

Grants offered by state and federal agencies represent by far the largest source of revenue but there are no guarantees. Competition is fierce.  It is critical that our objectives align with the stated goals of the funders, which can change from year to year. The amount of total available funds can vary based on political priorities.

Government agencies that support our work include.

  1. Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR)
  2. The Department of Environment Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE)
  3. US Forest Service (USFS)
  4. US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS)
  5. US Department of Agriculture (USDA)
  6. Great Lakes Commission

Based on any metric, 2022 was a great year. In terms of the number of grants approved and total funds allocated, the past twelve months have produced the best results in MRWA’s distinguished history. The real story behind the impressive numbers however, is the realization that our leadership team has positioned the MRWA for a very positive and sustainable impact on the health of the watershed.

While government grants fund watershed wide restoration projects that typically follow a timeline of one to three years, private foundations and corporate sponsors provide necessary annual support for local projects and outreach events. The Fremont Area Community Foundation has been an active steward of natural resources in Newaygo County for decades and the Ice Mountain Stewardship Fund has been a consistent source of funding. Blue Triton (formerly Ice Mountain Inc.) and the DTE Energy Foundation are supporters that are more recent. We are ever grateful for their trust.

2022 was also a year of significant growth for the MRWA in both near term capacity and long-range potential. For the first time post pandemic, we are operating at full strength and the difference is tangible. We now have a highly capable staff focused on a common goal: protect the resource while sustaining the organization. Heading into 2023 this is the team:


Scott Faulkner

Executive Director.
Scott celebrated his one-year anniversary last April and his impact on the MRWA is undeniable. His vision for the future of the organization is ambitious in terms of the size and scope of the projects that we take on. Moving the MRWA in this direction plays to his strengths since there is no one better at creating advocacy and driving consensus. Currently centered on his radar screen, The Maple River Project is one example of the potential he sees for significant environmental impact.



Marty Holtgren PHD

Principal Watershed Scientist.
Dr. Holtgren performs a variety of essential roles, most obviously representing the MRWA as an environmental consultant valued for his knowledge and expertise. As such, he has established a reputation throughout the state that reflects well on the organization. Perhaps more central to our success, he has been our primary grant writer for seven years with oversight of the entire process from conception to completion. In that regard, his record speaks for itself.



Sarah Marie Himes

Office Manager.
Sarah joined the organization as a part time assistant and recently earned a promotion to full time office manager. In her relatively short tenure, she has made an enduring impact, supporting legacy programs, and creating new outreach events. While engaging stakeholders in a variety of settings she has raised awareness of the organization and while creating mutually beneficial relationships.




Patricia Tice Jarrett

Grant Administrator
Pat has elected to transition from her full time role and is currently training her replacement to administer the financial responsibilities of the organization. She has handled her position very effectively for eight years and has sworn to leave it in capable hands. Pat will be focusing on working with Marty in managing the many MRWA grants while spending more time with her husband, Ed and her beloved English Bulldog Lilly.
We all owe Pat a debt of gratitude for dedicated service most notably during the challenging times of the recent past. She and Marty Holtgren were the only salaried staff for nearly two years and they worked together to keep the organization moving forward.



Colleen Lynema

Administrative Assistant
Given the number and complexity of new projects pending, grant administration is a critically important function now more than ever. Fortunately, Colleen Lynema has agreed to assume this responsibility. If you run a business or reside in Newaygo County, you are no doubt familiar with Colleen in her role as executive director of the River Country Chamber of Commerce. During the last ten years, she provided leadership and direction that allowed the chamber and the business community to thrive. She is just what the organization needs in the coming years as we take responsibility for a diverse and complex portfolio of funded projects.



Sarah Krzemien

DTE Energy Fellow
Sarah is the newest member of the team and joins the MRWA by virtue of a two-year fellowship grant from DTE Energy Foundation. She will work closely with Marty Holtgren preparing grants and managing projects. The timing of her arrival is fortunate when considering the expanded workload.




2022 Highlights

Maple River

The Maple Rive project, when completed will stand as the largest restoration initiative in MRWA’s 25- year history and will address watershed damage dating back over a century to the lumber era. Today’s headline reads “progress”! Along with our partners at the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians and the US Army Corps of Engineers, we have recently launched the first phase: a $500,000.00 hydrological study to define the environmental effect and the resulting impact on local residents. This is the first critical step in a long journey.

Discover Maple River

Our goal is to establish “Discover Maple River” as an annual outreach event with a defined target audience: area stakeholders and residents who have a natural interest in our progress. Those who live, work, recreate, and pay property taxes in the Maple River project area represent our most important audience.

Additionally, we want to reach out to the younger generation, who are eager to learn about the natural world. We hope those who grow up and go to school in the Maple River project area, will be actively involved as the project takes shape.

Without question, the inaugural session on September 13 th at the State Game Area shows great promise thanks to Sarah Himes who created a substantive event with impressive results.

A large and enthusiastic group of Bridgeton and Cedar Creek Township stakeholders welcomed the opportunity to hear an up to the minute progress report from Garrett Ray of the Us Army Corps of Engineers.

Additionally, nearly one hundred seventh and eighth students from Muskegon and Newaygo County Schools turned up for a day of hands on learning. MRWA directors Cindy Fitzwilliams-Heck PHD and Melanie Manion joined Marty Holtgren as instructors for the day.

Based on comments we received our guests enjoyed the day, which included a catered meal and musical entertainment provided by our own Scott Faulkner and his daughter Carmen. Everyone we talked to is looking forward to gathering next year to catch up on the latest news. Making new friends is always a benefit for the organization. Thank you Sarah.Trash Bash

Trash Bash

The annual river cleanup event has continued to build momentum for the past four years since Pat Jarrett initially assumed the leadership role in 2018. The current Trash Bash completed in August was no exception as Pat and Sarah worked together to produce the best results to date.

According to Sarah’s reporting taken from completed surveys, “we had 38 teams and 280 volunteers. Riverside Fireflies, the team sponsored by Lume, was the largest with 39 members. All together, we estimate conservatively that our participants hauled over one ton of trash from the river.” “Much of the sponsor funding we receive is used for prizes and performance incentives including a kayak and a Traeger grill as a grand prize. We displayed everything in a store front on Main St. in Evart. It was very cool and the talk of the town. We had a blast setting it up, and it was a great teamwork moment for MRWA.”

Dam Removals

In 2020, the MRWA began the task of compiling a list of dams within the watershed that would be appropriate candidates for removal while developing initial design plans and removal cost estimates for those selected.

The first three targeted for removal were a small dam on Kinney Creek, a more substantial structure on the Little Muskegon River near the village of Altona and an obsolete dam on Twin Creek, a cold-water tributary of the Muskegon River. The Kinney Creek and Twin Creek jobs are complete while the Altona Dam project is currently in the planning stage.

GLRI Tree Planting

The stated goal of the project, funded through GLRI, is to reduce Non-Point Source Runoff and improve water quality through implementation of green infrastructure within the Muskegon River Watershed. To accomplish the objective we successfully planted 750 trees over 300 acres at thirteen locations in four counties within the watershed:

1. Osceola County: City of Evart
2. Mecosta County: Paris Park, School Section Lake Veterans Park ( both Mecosta County Parks)
3. Newaygo County : Ed H Henning County Park, Sandy Beach County Park, Bridgeton Township boat launch and Maple Island boat launch, and four separate locations in the City of Newaygo
4. Muskegon County: City of Fremont and City of Muskegon

We completed the project on time at the end of July and we now have a measurement tool that will allow us to predict with accuracy the amount of runoff eliminated by the new trees. We are confident the annual number will be well into the thousands of gallons.

Looking Ahead

Next year, we can expect to build on our success. For example, we intend to submit a completed Watershed Management Plan in the fall of 2023, which will then qualify the MRWA for significant funding projects focused on mitigating non-point source pollution throughout the watershed.

Additionally, conversations with Consumers Energy regarding the future of the three major hydroelectric dams on the Muskegon River are off to a positive start and we expect to have more to report in the first quarter of 2023.

Finally, a full slate of new and ongoing projects holds promise for a very busy and productive year to come.