in recipe to restore lake
project aims to compensate for loss of habitat in watershed Associated
-- 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
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
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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