For immediate release: August 15, 2014 | Download PDF
Muskegon, Mich. – Muskegon Lake is on the fast track to health thanks to federal and state investments from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the Great Lakes Legacy Act and the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI). Federal and state officials announced today that U.S. EPA now expects to remove Muskegon Lake from the list of Great Lakes “toxic hotspots” by 2019 following completion of remaining cleanup and restoration projects.
Speaking at the event, U.S. Senator Carl Levin, co-chair of the Senate Great Lakes Task Force, said “Restoration of Muskegon Lake will pay dividends for Michigan today, with benefits for the economy, environmental quality and quality of life. And those dividends will continue for generations to come.”
The announcement builds on more than two decades of cleanup efforts, including a recently completed $10 million coastal restoration project that restored several sites around Muskegon Lake and was funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The GLRI, which began in 2009, has cleaned up four Areas of Concern – the most contaminated sites along the Great Lakes – including White Lake and Deer Lake in Michigan. A new plan to guide the GLRI over the next five years aims to complete cleanup work in 11 additional areas, including Muskegon Lake and six other contaminated water bodies in Michigan.
The Muskegon Lake Habitat Restoration Project, completed in late 2013, cleaned up nearly two and half miles of Muskegon Lake’s formerly industrialized shoreline, removing 208,000 tons of rubble and restoring 52 acres of wetlands and habitat for fish and wildlife. The project generated nearly 50,000 hours of employment, leveraged over $27 million from non-federal partners and engaged 900 volunteers. It was led by the Great Lakes Commission and the West Michigan Shoreline Regional Development Commission.
The project demonstrates the economic benefits from cleaning up degraded coastal areas in the Great Lakes. A detailed study conducted by Grand Valley State University estimates that it will generate $12 million
in increased property values, $600,000 in new tax revenues a year, nearly 65,000 new visitors and $1 million in new recreational spending annually. Overall, the project is expected to provide $66 million in economic benefits over 10 years – a more than 6-to-1 return on investment.
Muskegon Mayor Steve Gawron said “Muskegon Lake is vital to the City of Muskegon and for the surrounding area. The lake has been a strategic asset throughout our history, both for its natural beauty and as an engine for the local economy. Whether for fishing, lumbering, manufacturing or shipping, we have depended on the lake as the foundation for economic growth. Thus, the restoration work we are doing is a wise investment that will ensure that this resource remains a valuable asset for our community. We aren’t just correcting mistakes from the past, but building a better future for our children and their children.”
Speaking for NOAA, John Bratton, acting director of NOAA’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, emphasized that “NOAA’s work on Muskegon Lake advances our mission by protecting and restoring part of our nation’s natural infrastructure, which is vital to supporting local communities and their economies, as well as fisheries and recreational opportunities along our coasts.” He added that “NOAA is developing a habitat blueprint to help us act strategically across the agency and in collaboration with other partners to complete the restoration work on Muskegon Lake.”
“The Great Lakes are a natural treasure and a vital economic asset for the State of Michigan,” said Jon Allan, Director of Michigan’s Office of the Great Lakes and chair of Michigan’s delegation to the Great Lakes Commission. He added that “the restoration work on Muskegon Lake is a tremendous example of how coastal communities are tapping into Michigan’s burgeoning Blue Economy to leverage the fresh water that surrounds our state to stimulate new economic activity, create jobs and attract talented workers. We are pleased to be a part of this important process and look forward to working with our state and local partners to finish cleaning up Muskegon Lake.”
Erin Kuhn, executive director of the West Michigan Shoreline Regional Development Commission, emphasized that “Muskegon Lake is an important asset for the entire West Michigan region. We are working to make Muskegon’s port a hub for economic development and transportation logistics, and the lake a recreation destination for our region. Our restoration work is aimed at making Muskegon Lake both an environmental and economic asset.”
Recent restoration actions build on over 25 years of work by federal, state and local agencies, in cooperation with landowners, businesses and community groups, to restore environmental quality in Muskegon Lake. The lake was designated an Area of Concern in 1987 under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement due to historic filling of open water, wetlands and pollution discharges that contaminated the lake bottom.
Matt Doss, Great Lakes Commission, 734-971-9135, cell: 734-474-1985
Kathy Evans, West Michigan Shoreline Regional Development Commission, 231-722-7878, ext. 17; cell: 231-903-7442
The Great Lakes Commission is an interstate compact agency established under state and U.S. federal law and dedicated to promoting a strong economy, healthy environment and high quality of life for the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence region and its residents. The Commission consists of governors’ appointees, state legislators, and agency officials from its eight member states. Associate membership for Ontario and Québec was established through the signing of a “Declaration of Partnership.” The Commission maintains a formal Observer program involving U.S. and Canadian federal agencies, tribal authorities, binational agencies and other regional interests. The Commission offices are located in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Learn more at www.glc.org.
The West Michigan Shoreline Regional Development Commission is a federal- and state-designated regional planning and development agency serving 120 local governments in Lake, Mason, Muskegon, Newaygo and Oceana counties. WMSRDC operates programs in economic development, transportation, homeland security, environmental planning, community development, information and communications, and others. Learn more at www.wmsrdc.org.