Spring 2020

Table of Contents

Great Lakes High Water Levels Continue
MACC Welcome New Executive Director
Lawn Care and Landscaping Partners Program
2020 Spring Agricultural Outlook
Grant Applications
Project Clarity Update
Social Distance in Nature
Project Clarity 2019 Dashboard
COVID-19 Impacts to the MACC

Great Lakes High Water Levels Continue

Unfortunately for those of us living in the Great Lakes, COVID-19 isn’t the only concern on our minds. Great Lakes levels continue to rise and cause problems for shoreline erosion and flooding, including inland flooding due to high groundwater. Below is the most recent Lake Michigan forecast. This shows the range of possible lake levels forecasted out for the next year (grey and orange shading). While we are currently seeing at or above record lake levels, the dashed red line predicts that levels will start to decrease in mid summer, but continue to be above long-term maximum levels (black dashes) over the next several months.

Left: Pier Cove Public Beach, Ganges Township. Public beach between the signs. Right: Trying to walk the beach near Saugatuck. Photo credit: Dana Burd, Prein&Newhof

For more information about Great Lakes high water levels, you can visit the following websites:

Michigan Department of Environmental Great Lakes and Energy
US Army Corps of Engineers (source of the above chart)
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
National Weather Service

If you are a resident of Park Township and are experiencing flooding on your property, the Township has free sand bags available for pickup. You must call ahead. Visit their website or call for more information about picking up sand bags and where to get sand: parktownship.org or 616-399-7388 (fire department).

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MACC Welcomes New Executive Director

The MACC was pleased to welcome Tyler Kent as our new Executive Director on March 1, 2020. Tyler previously worked for the City of Valparaiso in Northwest Indiana for 15 years, many of those years serving as the Planning and Transit Director. During his tenure with the City, he established two transit services; the V-Line, an interurban bus service, and the ChicaGo Dash, an express commuter bus service from Downtown Valparaiso to Downtown Chicago, and was part of the revitalization of the Valparaiso community. A native of Olivet, a small farm community in Mid-Michigan, Tyler grew up on a family farm, raising show and beef cattle, hogs and farming roughly 300 acres.

Tyler graduated from Ferris State University, where he earned a Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Public Administration. When not at work, Tyler enjoys spending time with his wife, Jody and with their two children: Alexander (7) and Eleanor (5).  The Kent family looks forward to exploring West Michigan and all the unique attractions that it has to offer.

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Lawn Care & Landscaping Partners Program

The MACC has been working with local lawn care and landscaping companies since 2006 to implement voluntary actions to protect and improve Lake Macatawa. Companies that agree to follow certain best practices become Macatawa Watershed Partners. This not only affirms their commitment to using good practices, but it also let’s the consumer know which companies are going above and beyond the standard practices to help protect Lake Macatawa.
You can learn more about what it takes to become a Watershed Partner and view the full list of partners here.

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2020 Spring Agricultural Outlook

It is difficult to accurately predict how the spring season will go for local farmers. If recent history is any indicator, there will be challenges. A wet fall harvest season left many of our local fields in bad shape. The pressure to remove crops and bring them to market caused farmers to enter fields and harvest in less than ideal conditions. Harvesting crops in wet field conditions can cause soil compaction and often requires spring tillage to remove tracks and rutting. Compaction keeps water from infiltrating into the soil profile and increases the rate of runoff. Add tillage to that scenario and we can have detrimental impacts on the health of Lake Macatawa.

A number of farmers did not plant a cash crop in 2019. Many of these growers used this opportunity to fix waterways, spread manure or install drain tile. On top of other improvements, many of these growers planted cover crops. Several are on their second year of not planting a cash crop and instead planting cover crops. This has created a unique opportunity for us to show farmers the benefit of improving soil health through maintaining a yearlong living cover and eliminating tillage. Many of these growers are seeing an improvement in the soil’s ability to maintain moisture as well as infiltrate water faster than neighboring plowed fields. We anticipate that several of these growers will take this opportunity to no-till plant into the cover crop residue and not do any spring tillage. We look forward to seeing and sharing the results.

The MACC currently holds several grants to continue work with farmers in the watershed. We anticipate signing up around 1,450 new acres of cover crops as well as installing several grassed waterways. We are also working through the permitting process to install a two-stage channel that will incorporate a cattle crossing in a pasture. This project has been in process for several years and has been delayed due to weather and a delay in receiving a permit from Michigan’s Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE). We are hopeful that the permit will be issued without further need to alter the plans and will be constructed this summer or fall.

Over the last five years, we have seen agricultural conservation practices gain more acceptance in the Macatawa Watershed. Regenerative and conservation practices are quickly becoming mainstream in today’s agricultural landscape. As one local agronomist said “regenerative ag is not just for hemp and hippies” We are excited and pleased to see how things are improving and hopeful that it will maintain its course in the coming years.

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Grant Applications

MACC staff have been busy this winter and early spring writing and submitting grant applications to request funding for various activities. We rely on grants to fund the on-the-ground restoration projects that help prevent soil and phosphorous, our two pollutants of concern, from washing off the land and into Lake Macatawa.

We submitted an application in mid-February to a new Great Lakes Restoration Initiative program that aims to remove trash from the Great Lakes and connecting waterways. Working with sixadditional partners, we proposed to conducted volunteer cleanup events at 21 public beaches and 4 rivers in Ottawa and Allegan County, plus install recycling receptacles at various parks and conduct public education. If awarded, we’ll be scheduling lots of cleanup events later this summer and fall, so stay tuned!

In early March, the ODC Network submitted a grant application to Michigan’s Nonpoint Source Program to revise the Macatawa Watershed Management Plan. While this grant will not result in on-the-ground restoration, the management plan helps to guide and prioritize future restoration projects. The MACC and Grand Valley’s Annis Water Resources Institute are partners in this project. The majority of the work done will be planning and writing, but there will be opportunities for public input.

By mid-April, we will submit an application to the Great Lakes Commission to fund up to four streambank restoration projects. Two projects are on private property, one is on ODC Network property and the fourth is on Ottawa County Park property. Together, the 3 partners have been seeking funding for these projects for several years, so we hope that this time, we’ll be successful!

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Project Clarity Update

Contributed by Dan Callam, ODC Network

Our 319 Grant through EGLE has seen our largest project, a streambank restoration along Peters Creek in Zeeland Township, completed. We will be completing additional projects this spring and into the summer. These include:

  • A small streambank restoration in Overisel Township
  • A small wetland construction in Fillmore Township
  • Putting over 800 acres into conservation tillage
  • Completing educational materials around these projects

We have been able to stretch our dollars a little further with this grant with thanks to our project partners. We are excited to be able to complete these efforts this year and continue to build on the work we have accomplished over the past several years.

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Social Distance in Nature

Contributed by Dan Callam, ODC Network

Are you tired of being cooped up in the house? These unprecedented times have left a lot of us feeling isolated and in need of time spent outdoors. But as long as you adhere to social distancing guidelines, you can enjoy the early spring sunshine at a number of parks that help to support the missions of Project Clarity and the Macatawa Greenway. Here are a few recommendations:

  • Paw Paw Park in Holland (1230 Paw Paw Drive, Holland) – this site has 172 acres of trails that wind through meadows, wetlands, and floodplain forest. The east half of the site was restored in the early 2010’s to help control flooding and reduce nutrient inputs to Lake Macatawa.
  • Upper Macatawa Natural Area (1300 84th Avenue, Zeeland) – hundreds of acres along the Macatawa River floodplain provide hours worth of hiking and exploring opportunities. Originally carved out by the glacial Grand River, the Macatawa now feeds its way through the center of the park, which offers beautiful views from the ridges on the west side of the property.
  • Outdoor Discovery Center (4214 56th Street, Holland) – while you’re at ODC, be sure to check out the wetlands next to the De Witt Birds of Prey Center. These wetlands were created from an old blueberry field, and now support a diverse variety of plants and a number of vociferous amphibians. These wetlands help to clean and filter water running off the site.
  • Holland Energy Park (1 Energy Park Way, Holland) – the grounds around the new BPW power plant have been turned into park space with a loop trail around the building. You can gain views of Windmill Island, the surrounding marshes and ponds, and water features including Maplewood Creek. Great attention was paid during construction to controlling water flowing off the site, including rain gardens and detention areas to help keep the nearby Macatawa River clean.

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Project Clarity 2019 Dashboard

The GVSU Annis Water Resources Institute has been conducting water quality monitoring in the Macatawa Watershed since 2013. They produce annual reports detailing monitoring results and a dashboard report summarizing conditions in Lake Macatawa (phosphorus is pictured at right and below). There are many factors that influence water quality, including snowmelt, rainfall, temperature, conservation efforts, and the timing of sample collection. 2019 results continue to show variability in the data, but also show that water quality is improving, especially since 2013 when Project Clarity helped to accelerate restoration efforts. Both the full monitoring reports and dashboards from 2014-2019 are available on the MACC’s website (See water quality monitoring under Environmental Program).

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COVID-19 Impacts to the MACC

The MACC Office is closed and our staff are working remotely from home until further notice. Our office voice mail will be monitored infrequently, so e-mail is the best way to get a hold of our staff (see list inside).

Critical meetings will be held via conference call or video conference. All meeting notices and ways to participate will be posted online and on our Facebook pages.

Due to future uncertainties, we made the difficult decision to cancel our summer internships. We will miss having interns, all the work that they do for us and the experience we are able to provide them.

At this point, we have not made decisions regarding volunteer activities this spring/summer including river cleanup (May 16), macroinvertebrate monitoring (June 3) and road-stream crossing inventories. We will provide more information at least 2 weeks prior to the currently scheduled dates.

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