EPA, Partners Celebrate Completion of Restoration Work in Muskegon Lake Area of Concern in Michigan
Decades-long effort cost $70 million, required federal, state and local partnership
MUSKEGON (May 24, 2022) Today, EPA Regional Administrator and Great Lakes National Program Manager Debra Shore joined Carrie Robinson, director of the NOAA Fisheries Office of Habitat Conservation; Liesl Clark, director of the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy; Mayor Ken Johnson and community leaders at an event to celebrate the completion of cleanup, remediation and restoration work at the Muskegon Lake Area of Concern.
“We know that removing legacy pollution from the Great Lakes is an investment in the economy, in public health and in our future,” said EPA Regional Administrator Debra Shore. “Thanks to the funding provided in President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, EPA will be able to accelerate large-scale remediation and restoration work in other Great Lakes Areas of Concern.”
The Muskegon Lake AOC includes all of Muskegon Lake, Ruddiman Creek, Ryerson Creek, Four Mile Creek, Bear Creek, Bear Lake and branches of the Muskegon River. A long history of heavy industry had left the area polluted with petroleum hydrocarbons, mercury, lead, heavy metals, oil and other contaminants.
Although cleanup work is complete, comprehensive environmental evaluations will continue. This will help EPA and the state of Michigan ensure the environmental quality of the lake is improving over time. Once the lake meets applicable cleanup criteria, the process for removing the lake from the list of Areas of Concern can begin.
“Today we are celebrating an exciting milestone for Muskegon Lake, one that NOAA and our partners have worked toward for many years. NOAA has helped support Muskegon Lake’s recovery through numerous efforts including restoration of wetlands, shorelines, and nearshore habitat and designating it as one of our Habitat Focus Areas,” said NOAA’s Carrie Selberg Robinson. “We’re proud to recognize the incredible progress that all of our partners have made to reach this important step toward removing Muskegon Lake from the list of Great Lakes Areas of Concern.”
"The Muskegon Community has worked hard to protect Muskegon Lake and the surrounding Great Lakes. It has been an honor to partner with them and secure the single-largest-ever investment in the Great Lakes last year in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Thanks to our bipartisan efforts in Congress, and with the President’s leadership, we were able to get the funds necessary to accelerate the cleanup and restoration of Muskegon Lake. I applaud the Muskegon Community for their hard work and persistence,” said Senator Debbie Stabenow.
“Today’s announcement has been decades in the making and represents another major step forward for Muskegon Lake and the Muskegon community,” said Rep. Bill Huizenga. “As Co-chair of the Great Lakes Task Force, I am proud to stand behind the efforts of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which has played a leading role in strengthening the ecology and economy in Muskegon and throughout Michigan. A recent study by GVSU has estimated that the restoration work at Muskegon Lake has increased home values in the area while adding tens of millions of dollars in economic activity each year. The efforts to restore Muskegon Lake have demonstrated how local, state, and federal partners can collaborate to enhance the full environmental and economic health of the Great Lakes region.”
“Michigan is blessed to be in the center of the world’s greatest freshwater ecosystem and today marks an important step forward in protecting that resource,” said EGLE Director Liesl Clark. “The concerted and consistent work by a team of federal, state and local partners has made Muskegon Lake and its tributaries cleaner, safer and healthier for current and future generations of Michiganders.”
“After decades of efforts and many tens of millions of dollars devoted to the restoration of the Muskegon Lake ecosystem, the Greater Muskegon community celebrates the EPA’s declaration of ‘all management actions complete’ for the Muskegon Lake Area of Concern program,” said Mayor Ken Johnson. “The City of Muskegon is incredibly grateful for the tremendous contributions and collaborative pursuits of so many individuals, organizations, and agencies at the local, state, and federal levels toward watershed cleanup and restoration. Muskegon Lake is critically important to the well-being of our community, and the City of Muskegon is committed to being a good steward of this precious natural resource.”
“The GLC is proud to stand with our partners to celebrate the progress at the Muskegon Lake AOC,” said Erika Jensen, executive director of the Great Lakes Commission. “The projects completed through our collaborative efforts demonstrate the benefits ecological restoration has to jobs and community revitalization, which have already been felt through an uptick in local tourism, recreation, and property values.”
Cleanup and restoration started soon after Muskegon Lake was designated an Area of Concern in 1987. One of the largest restoration projects, the remediation of contaminated sediments at Ruddiman Creek, was completed in 2006 at a cost of $14.1 million. However, it was the launch of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative in 2010 that provided the funding needed to complete the work. Since then, three additional sediment cleanups– costing more than $32.5 million – have been completed. In total, four sediment remediation projects have been completed through partnerships with state agencies, industry, local municipalities and other stakeholders at a total cost a total of $46.6 million, with approximately $30.3 million from federal funding and $16.3 million in nonfederal contributions. The four projects collectively remediated approximately 200,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment.
EPA, NOAA and other partners have also worked to restore habitat surrounding the lake. Key habitat restoration projects have repaired shoreline erosion and removed logging-era sawmill debris. The projects have led to 134 acres of habitat restoration, over 6,000 linear feet of shoreline restoration and removal of over 150,000 tons of debris and sediment. These GLRI-funded habitat projects cost $22.9 million in total. All told, the sediment remediation and habitat work required for the clean-up of the AOC totaled approximately $70 million.
For more information on the Muskegon Lake AOC: https://www.epa.gov/great-lakes-aocs/muskegon-lake-aoc
For more information on the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative: https://glri.us