The Macatawa Watershed Project would not be what it is today without the participation of volunteers. Our volunteer needs have changed over the years, and we currently offer four different types of volunteer activities from spring through fall. They include river cleanups, stream monitoring (macroinvertebrates and habitat), Smallenburg Park rain garden maintenance, and road-stream crossing inventories. Additional volunteers work with Project Clarity to take water quality measurements around Lake Macatawa, including temperature, water clarity and color. Last year alone we had over 100 volunteers participate in these programs. All that work would not be possible without the help of volunteers!
The MACC has also worked with volunteer interns the past several years. This has included a couple high school students, but mostly college students pursuing careers in natural resource fields. These “volunteers” spend many hours with the MACC, helping with community outreach, volunteer management, data entry, mapping, and more. While completing a lot of work for the MACC, they are also learning new and valuable skills they can take with them into the workforce.
Why does the MACC use volunteers?
There are many reasons why we choose to offer volunteer programs. As previously mentioned, volunteers do a lot of work for us that staff alone just does not have the time to do. Volunteers help gather valuable data that informs our future management decisions. We also see outreach to volunteers as a way to help spread our messages about the watershed and water quality issues. Our volunteers learn about the issues facing the watershed and help tell the story to others. Volunteer events also offer us an opportunity to get to know community members and build relationships.
Why do people volunteer with the MACC?
There are many reasons why people decide to volunteer. Some like giving back to the community where they live or making a difference to the people around them. Others volunteer so they can learn new skills or build on their existing knowledge. Here are a couple reasons cited by MACC volunteers.
I want hands-on things to do in the natural world that clearly benefit my community, but I’m not necessarily in a position to organize something like that. I appreciate the MACC taking the lead.
I enjoy getting out in the stream and meeting new people from the community with shared interest in water resources.
~Dana Burd (pictured)
Sign me up!
If you’re inspired to volunteer with the MACC, contact Kelly (firstname.lastname@example.org or 616-395-2688) and ask to be added to our volunteer list. The calendar inside includes some volunteer events that are already scheduled this spring and early summer. You can also visit our website to learn more about these volunteer programs.
The MACC is re-branding its Lawn Care and Landscaping Seal of Approval Program this year. It will now be referred to as a Watershed Partner Program. MACC staff and the lawn care and landscaping companies felt that this designation more accurately reflects the nature of the program.
You can view the 2018 Lawn Care and Landscaping Watershed Partners here.
While trash is not a primary cause of water quality issues in Lake Macatawa, it is certainly present. Trash is very mobile in water, moving through the Great Lakes and into the ocean where it can wash up on beaches or become part of large floating islands of trash known as gyres. The most concerning type of trash is plastic. It can be found floating on water surfaces, suspended throughout the water column and in the sediments of most water bodies. A recent research project by Hope College students found pieces of plastic in all sediment samples they examined from Lake Macatawa!
So why is plastic pollution such a concern? Small pieces of floating plastic look a lot like food to birds and fish. When they eat plastic, it may end up filling their stomachs where it cannot be processed, leading to starvation. Other aquatic animals can become entangled in larger pieces of plastic, which may lead to suffocation or drowning. Plastic can also alter habitats, reducing light and oxygen, to the point where they can no longer sustain aquatic life. Plastics are very good at attracting and transporting other chemical pollutants (dioxin, lead, mercury, etc.) already in the water, which can lead to unsafe, high levels where plastic pollution accumulates. Plastic pollution can also harm humans as well in areas where they may interfere with navigation, impede recreational and commercial fishing, threaten health and safety, and impact tourism.
So what can we do? The best way to address pollution is to prevent it in the first place. The MACC will be working with community partners over the next couple years to promote litter prevention in the Macatawa River and Lake Macatawa. We will be adding items like fishing line recycling tubes at waterfront parks. These will help promote proper recycling and/or disposal of items that might otherwise be tossed in the lake or left on the ground where wind or rain can deliver it to the water. Litter prevention is a simple way that everyone can do their part to help keep Lake Macatawa clean!
The MACC assists local communities with stormwater management. Certain communities that own or operate storm sewer systems are required to have a permit from the State of Michigan to discharge their stormwater into waters of the state, including Lake Macatawa. These communities in the Macatawa Watershed are the Cities of Holland and Zeeland, the Counties of Ottawa and Allegan, and both the Allegan and Ottawa County Road Commissions.
One of the permit requirements is that each community has a plan to follow good housekeeping practices to prevent stormwater pollution at their facilities. This includes everything from City Hall to parks to police and fire stations. MACC staff evaluates each facility for the potential to generate stormwater pollution and recommends good practices to follow to prevent pollution. For example, spill kits should be readily available so that a spill or leak from a vehicle can be quickly cleaned up before it reaches a storm drain.
A second permit requirement is public education. The permit provides a list of topics that communities can choose to address. One topic that our communities elected to address is to promote pollution prevention activities to commercial, industrial and institutional entities. They include retail shopping centers, business parks, industrial complexes, hospitals, schools, and small businesses. This topic is important to our communities since these private land uses account for a lot of the impervious surfaces that generate stormwater. Improving the quality of stormwater and thereby protecting Lake Macatawa requires the participation of all landowners. Many of the same pollution prevention and good housekeeping principals followed by our public landowners can be applied to private land.
MACC staff developed a series of simple tip sheets for commercial/industrial landowners to address issues related to parking lots, lawns and landscaping, vehicles, dumpsters, and power washing. These tip sheets are currently available on our website. We are in the process of putting the tip sheets into a booklet format that will include a little more detail about the recommended actions. In addition, MACC staff are available to perform property assessments and make specific recommendations for preventing stormwater pollution. Contact Kelly for more information or to set up an appointment for a property assessment: email@example.com or 616-395-2688.
Winter is always thought of being a slower time of year for farmers. However, with regular maintenance on equipment and machinery coupled with a number of supplier meeting and shows, winter seems to be almost as busy as the rest of the year. This past February the Project Clarity Agricultural Luncheon was hosted at Zeeland Farm Services (pictured below). David Brandt, Ohio farmer, was the keynote speaker and drew a crowd of more than 70. Attendees included staff from local agricultural retailers, Conservation Districts, local government officials, and of course farmers. Dave runs a diverse farming operation in Ohio, south of Columbus. He no-tills and integrates multi-species cover crops into all of his cropping rotations. Dave spoke specifically to our farmers about using multi-species cover crops and the benefits they have for soil health. Dave provided our local growers with a number of ideas and things that have worked in his operation. Many of his techniques are not widely employed in our watershed and have left our growers asking good questions and getting them to start thinking outside the box.
As winter winds down we will be working to plan several grassed waterways in the watershed. There are several smaller scale projects being planned and one that includes four water and sediment control basins or WASCOBs plus a grassed waterway. This project collects water from over 200 acres of farmland and will temporarily hold water to settle out sediment before releasing it to the nearest stream. There are also several grant opportunities that we are looking into for implementing projects that use new technologies for phosphorus reduction. Plans are currently underway to lay the groundwork to submit proposals for those grant funds.
Cover crops and gypsum are again the most popular topic of discussion when making the rounds talking to farmers. We expect to fund a number of acres on existing contracts this spring and are hopeful that more new acres will be added. Finding farmers to participate in residue management is again our most challenging program to sell. Residue management most commonly refers to no-till farming and gives us our best return in terms of sediment and phosphorus reductions. Questions on any of the practices or programs mentioned can be directed to MACC Agricultural Technician, Rob Vink.
The Outdoor Discovery Center and our Project Clarity partners were recently awarded a $251K grant from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to help address water quality issues in the Macatawa Watershed. The funds will go toward restoring nearly a quarter mile of Peters Creek in Zeeland Township (pictured at right), identified as one of the highest contributors of sediment and nutrients in the watershed. Additionally, we will work to implement best management practices in the upper reaches of several tributaries to the Macatawa River, helping to further reduce pollutants and detain stormwater. We are happy to continue working with the Macatawa Area Coordinating Council and Niswander Environmental on these projects and will be working with state and local DEQ staff on the stream project as well. Look for our stream project to commence this fall into next spring. Project Clarity will continue to seek sources of funding to match local dollars for projects around the watershed.