MRWA Receives Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) Grant Award

GLRI-logoThe U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has awarded the Muskegon River Watershed Assembly (MRWA) a $798,270 grant through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) Program. These federal funds will be used to implement best management practices (BMPs) to restore high-priority riparian areas that will benefit the upper, middle, and lower Muskegon River, Muskegon Lake Area of Concern, and Lake Michigan. Another $141,201 in non-federal matching funds is committed to this 2-year project in the form of foundation matching grants ($36,000) and partner in-kind cost share ($105,201), resulting in a total project budget of $939,471.

Project activities are targeted for 12 high-priority sub-watersheds in 5 counties within the Muskegon River Watershed. High-priority sub-basins for this project include the following (listed by county): Roscommon County – Higgins Lake and Houghton Lake sub-basins; Missaukee County – Haymarsh Creek/Lake, West Branch Muskegon River, and Butterfield Creek sub-basins; Osceola County – Hersey River and Twin Creek/Strawberry Lake sub-basins; Newaygo County – Penoyer Creek, Four Mile Creek, and Minnie Creek sub-basins; Muskegon County – Cedar Creek and Muskegon Lake/River sub-basins.

Targeted high-priority locations and project activities are based on findings from major research conducted over 8 years by the Muskegon Watershed Research Partnership (MWRP). The research was a collaborative effort by researchers from the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, Purdue University, Grand Valley State University, and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and resulted in the development, calibration, and testing of a multi-model risk assessment tool called the Muskegon River Ecological Modeling System (MREMS). The MREMS model is the first of its kind in West Michigan and it is also the first to address the influence of future climate change as a driver for changes in local hydrology and land use/cover. One overriding premise stemming from MREMS modeling is that impacts from climate change on the Muskegon River Watershed are likely to be significant and will be most evident as a dramatic change in local hydrology. A combination of effects (i.e. increase in stream volumes, variation between high and low water levels, frequency/duration of storm events) is expected to result in more streambank erosion. MREMS modeling also suggests the best way to address erosion problems is to invest in reforestation, other vegetative BMPs along riparian corridors, and the permanent conservation of vegetated riparian lands as a way to afford long-term hydrologic stability, which protects river systems.

The MRWA will oversee, manage, and coordinate project tasks working with the following partners: Conservation Resource Alliance (CRA), Grand Valley State University’s Annis Water Resources Institute (AWRI), Huron Pines (HP), Land Conservancy of West Michigan (LCWM), and Muskegon Conservation District (MCD). CRA will assist the MRWA and lead reforestation, forest stewardship, and streambank stabilization efforts using vegetative materials in targeted (critical) sub-watershed areas in Missaukee (upper watershed) and Osceola (middle watershed) Counties. HP will lead similar efforts in Roscommon County (upper watershed). MCD will lead similar efforts in Muskegon and Newaygo Counties (lower watershed). AWRI will manage the development of forest stewardship plans in the lower watershed and lead project evaluation efforts to measure progress and results. LCWM will assist by leading efforts to establish permanent conservation easements on priority lands in the lower watershed. In all, this project will reforest 440 acres of riparian land, restore 28,050 lineal feet of streambank (150 acres) using native vegetation, establish permanent protections (conservation easements) on 150 acres of revegetated or natural riparian land, develop 14 forest stewardship plans with private landowners, and implement proper erosion control BMPs at 4 riparian sites in high-priority sub-watersheds. This project is expected to prevent 110 tons sediment, 1,150 pounds phosphorus, and 6,650 pounds nitrogen from reaching the Muskegon River, Muskegon Lake Area of Concern, and Lake Michigan each year. Project efforts will also help mitigate future climate change impacts on the Muskegon River.

MRWA Executive Director, Gary Noble said, “The MRWA is extremely pleased and excited about receiving this significant GLRI grant award, which was 3 years in the making from an application standpoint after 8 years of research. The MRWA and our dedicated partners are poised and ready to begin this important 2-year project that will run from October 2012 through September 2014.”

Noble also stated, “The MRWA appreciates the collaborative efforts of our research partnership, project partners, and matching funds support received from project partners and the Great Lakes Fishery Trust and the Wege Foundation. This project wouldn’t be happening without the assistance and cooperation of these entities and their mutual interest in protecting and restoring the Muskegon River.”

The MRWA is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization located in Big Rapids, MI in partnership with Ferris State University. The MRWA is dedicated to the preservation, protection, restoration, and sustainable use of the Muskegon River, the land it drains, and the life it supports, through educational, scientific, and conservation initiatives. More information about the MRWA is available from their website at or by calling 231-591-2324.

The GLRI, initially proposed by President Obama in February 2009, is the largest investment in the Great Lakes in more than two decades. More information about the GLRI is available at