The Macatawa Area Coordinating Council (MACC) announced the 2017 Watershed Stakeholder of the Year on December 7 at its Watershed Annual meeting. The award was given to the Day1 Watershed Research Community at Hope College led by Dr. Cathy Mader, Dr. Aaron Best, and Dr. Brent Krueger. The Watershed Stakeholder of the Year Award is given to an individual, organization or group that has made significant contributions to improving water quality in the Macatawa Watershed.
The Day1 Watershed Research Community engages students in local efforts to improve water quality in the Macatawa Watershed and the Great Lakes Basin. The Hope College Day1 program is designed to offer an inclusive and collaborative first-year experience to encourage students to pursue a career in a STEM field (science, technology, engineering or math). The program includes research, residential and coursework components. Students have a pre-college experience where they get to know the watershed and start learning water sampling and laboratory techniques. Day1 Watershed students collect and process weekly water samples collected at 5 lake and 6 stream locations throughout the Macatawa Watershed. They take physical and chemical measurements and process additional chemical tests and microbial analyses in the laboratory. For microbial samples, they not only count the bacteria present but also DNA sequence samples to better understand the microbial community in the Watershed. The work being done by the students will be extremely valuable to the MACC and other partners that are working to restore Lake Macatawa. The data will help inform decisions about when, where and how to implement conservation where it is needed most to improve water quality.
With the end of the year upon us, it is often a time to reflect on the work that has been done over the past season. How do we gauge and measure success when looking at the work that has been done in the agricultural areas of our watershed? There are several ways to answer this question, and some answers are not as obvious as others.
Over the past cropping year, the MACC has provided cost-share on over 600 acres of gypsum application, around 700 acres of residue management, and over 1400 acres of cover crops. Have we been successful in implementing agricultural best management practices? Absolutely we have been. But what do the numbers actually mean in terms of total land area covered? This is a short question to a long answer. For example when we look at the total number of acres of cover crops planted in our three priority areas we have covered about 8 and 7 percent of the total available agricultural land in North Branch and Upper Macatawa sub-watersheds respectively. When looking at the Peters Creek subwatershed we have implemented cover crops on nearly 25 percent of the available agricultural land. We have been successful in all areas but we have been far more successful in Peters Creek.
The total number of acres should not be the only measurement of success when looking at a project such as this. Have we engaged and included more farmers than previous projects? How many of our contracts have been implemented versus how many were signed and not implemented? Have we been able to engage growers and make steps in changing practices and mindsets of growers who are not implementing conservation agricultural techniques? Have we made steps in addressing the water quality goals set by the state? There is much to consider when judging success. There have been minor successes in some area and failures in others. Overall the past year has been a success, however, we do have room for more improvement and in 2018 we hope to build on the success of 2017.
The Michigan Department of Transportation has released a 13-County Nonmotorized Plan for the Grand Region. MACC staff assisted in the development and review of this planning document, which will be a helpful resource for MPOs and for local units of government. The Plan identifies opportunities to enhance nonmotorized transportation, prioritizes nonmotorized investment in the region, and provides a vision for a nonmotorized network to guide public and private initiatives. Click to view the completed Grand Region Nonmotorized Plan.
Regional Pedestrian & Bicycle Committee Forum
A valuable resource that was used during the development of the Nonmotorized Plan, is a website for the Michigan Regional Pedestrian & Bicycle Committee Forum (https://www.walkbikemichigan.com/resources). A page dedicated to activities in the Grand Region is a helpful way to coordinate with other communities, find out about funding opportunities, and share research.
Road & Trail Bicycling Guide
Maps of on-road and off-road bike routes in the Grand Region have been printed and are available through the MACC office.