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Great Lakes Article:

Rice in recipe to restore lake
Muskegon project aims to compensate for loss of habitat in watershed
Associated Press
11/19/2002


   MUSKEGON -- Local environmental officials hope a new project to re-establish wild rice and other aquatic plants in Muskegon Lake will help restore the watershed's ecological balance.
   The loss of wildlife habitat provided by the stands of wild rice is one reason the lake has been named an "area of concern" by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
   The project's immediate goal is to re-establish wild rice, bulrush, arrowhead, sedges and other aquatic plants on 10 of the lake's 4,149 acres.
   The Muskegon Lake & Estuary Emergent Vegetation Restoration Demonstration Project is funded with an $18,000 grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
   Consumers Energy donated a 5-acre site and Michigan Steel Inc. contributed a 4-acre plot to the project. The river assembly and Muskegon Conservation District are coordinating the project.
   "Because wild rice is such an ancient and established part of this ecosystem, animals and humans have relied on it and interacted with it for thousands of years," Scott Herron, a biology professor at Ferris State University, told The Muskegon Chronicle. Herron is a consultant for the project.
   Migrating ducks counted on wild rice as a source of high-energy food. The long-stemmed aquatic plant provided a safe place for waterfowl to nest and good cover for fish such as bass and pike.
   But lumbering and, later, industrialization destroyed the wild rice's lakeshore habitat.
   "In the last 200 years, we've drastically changed the ecosystem by doing things like filling in wetlands and building hydroelectric plants," Herron said.
   To flourish, wild rice needs clear water from 6 to 18 inches deep, says Muskegon River Watershed Assembly chairman Gale Nobes.
   In the last decade, water quality has improved because of better anti-pollution measures, Nobes said. The time is ripe to re-establish wild rice, he said.
   Kathy Evans, the water quality program manager for the Muskegon Conservation District, said 50 pounds of wild rice and hundreds of other plants, including arrowhead and bulrush, will be planted.
   She said the wild rice takes roughly three years to establish.
   The Muskegon Conservation District received a $250,000 grant from the Department of Environmental Quality, which would help restore the shoreline. Evans said $50,000 will go to services provided by the city of Muskegon Leisure Services Department to remove broken concrete and construct a boardwalk.
   The other funds will go toward removing purple loosestrife and other invasive species from the area in order to help the wild rice survive.
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