2015 Macatawa Water Festival was a Success!
Project Clarity Update
Least Wanted: Red Swamp Crayfish
Stream Habitat Assessments
Water Quality Boat Tours on Lake Macatawa
West Michigan Green Infrastructure Conference
Catch Basins 101
Harvest—How do Farmers Know?
The 2015 Macatawa Water Festival was held on Saturday, July 25 at the beautiful Windmill Island Gardens. There were 30 different activities for kids of all ages. Over 1,200 people came out to explore and learn about the history, present and future of the Macatawa Watershed. A full buffet lunch was available from Hope College and festival goers were entertained by the music of Chris Dorman and Friends. Activities ranged from kayaking to fishing to science experiments to historic reenactments. There were lots of live critters to see and learn about, including reptiles, fish, bugs, birds, and plants. There were also creative stations where kids could paint, color or make crafts. Our planning team is already looking forward to next year!
…our community collaboration to clean, restore and maintain the waters of Lake Macatawa and the Macatawa Watershed
Contributed by Dan Callam, Outdoor Discovery Center Macatawa Greenway
This has been the summer of dirt for Project Clarity. Hundreds of thousands of cubic yards of dirt! Our two largest wetland restoration projects to date, the Middle Macatawa South and Haworth restorations, have been under construction for the past month. These projects are key wetland restorations that provide much-needed floodwater storage near the North and main branches of the Macatawa River.
The Haworth site has been under construction since the middle of July. Four large wetland cells are
being excavated out of a piece of property donated by Haworth Corporation, Inc. to the Outdoor Discovery Center. This will be able to store vast quantities of water from the North Branch as well as runoff from adjacent properties. Once completed, these 42 acres of wetland will look like a meadow, holding water for up to a couple weeks following rain or snowmelt.
The Middle Macatawa South restoration, partially funded through a Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grant, started shortly after the Haworth site. Construction has involved creating a 4-5’ high berm that will allow water to remain on 38 acres of floodplain for extended periods. Pipes and gates will bring water from the river into the berm area and slowly release it back to the river on the downstream side. Immediately downstream of the confluence of Peters Creek with the Macatawa River, this represents a prime location for detaining floodwater to reduce its load of sediment and nutrient pollutants. Both of these projects will be wrapping up early this fall, following the placement of water control structures and seeding.
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and Michigan State University are on the lookout for the red swamp crayfish in Lake Macatawa. This crayfish is native to the Mississippi River basin and the Gulf Coast region. It is the primary crayfish that is used for food and thus has been available in other areas of the United States, Michigan included, in live food markets. It is also a popular bait for people that fish from shorelines. However, this critter would be bad news if it ever escaped and established a population in Lake Macatawa. It competes aggressively with native crayfish for food and habitat and the way that it feeds also reduces habitat for other aquatic creatures. They can also burrow in to shorelines and cause them to destabilize, leading to erosion and failing shorelines. As of 2015, it is illegal to posses live red swamp crayfish in the State of Michigan. The DNR is working with live food markets to make sure this crayfish is no longer available for purchase. The DNR also partnered with the Macatawa Watershed Project to install educational signage at public access points around Lake Macatawa. The DNR and Michigan State University have been monitoring Lake Macatawa and so far, they have not found any live crayfish living in the lake. In order to keep it that way, we need your help in telling the story and spreading the word. Visit Michigan.gov/fishing and click on Aquatic Invasive Species to learn more. See the “Michigan Invasive Species Watch List” page for who to contact to report possession of live red swamp crayfish.
Since the fall of 2012, the Macatawa Area Coordinating Council, in partnership with the Outdoor Discovery Center Macatawa Greenway, has been monitoring the aquatic insect populations at 7 stream locations in the watershed. Each summer, our crew heads out to assess the habitat of those streams. The goals of both the insect monitoring and habitat assessments are to observe long term trends and look for changes, both good and bad. For the habitat assessments, we record observations and estimates rather than taking samples or making measurements. We observe characteristics about the water, like depth, cloudiness, rate of flow, and presence of pollution. We evaluate the type of streambed (boulders, gravel, sand, muck, etc.) and whether or not erosion is present on the banks. We look at the plant community both in the water and on the banks as well as estimate the width of and amount of human influence in the riparian zone (land immediately adjacent to the stream). There are additional optional measurements that can be taken like mapping out stream transects. Like with insect monitoring, we love to have volunteers join us to complete the habitat assessments. Contact the MACC to be added to our volunteer list to receive direct notification of these and other volunteer opportunities.
For the past several years, the W.G. Jackson has made an annual trip to Lake Macatawa from its home port in Muskegon. Operated by the GVSU Annis Water Resources Institute, the Jackson is a research vessel equipped with sampling equipment and an on-board laboratory that easily allows for educational trips for schools groups and the public. The MACC and Project Clarity were pleased once again to welcome the Jackson to Lake Macatawa on July 17 and 18. Even with the excitement of the storm that rolled through on Saturday morning, participants were able to help process water quality tests and learn more about the water of Lake Macatawa. Over 100 people participated in the five trips that were offered. The MACC would like to thank everyone that participated and especially the crew of the Jackson for making the trip to Lake Macatawa again and for all of the educational work that they do!
The MACC was pleased to partner with the Grand Valley Metropolitan Council and the West Michigan Regional Shoreline Development Commission to assist in the planning of the West Michigan Green Infrastructure Conference. Hosted by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, the conference was held on August 5 in Grand Rapids. Over 150 participants had the opportunity to visit with 14 exhibitors and hear from 27 different speakers on topics related to policy and financing of green infrastructure, stormwater management and regional scale greenspace protection. Conference attendees also had the opportunity to attend a tour on the afternoon of August 4. Three tours were offered, one each in Grand Rapids, Muskegon and Holland. The MACC hosted the Holland tour, which visited Haworth Cooperate Headquarters, Holland High School and Hope Church to learn more about how they have each incorporated green infrastructure on their properties for storm water management.
Chances are that most of you reading this live or work in an area where there are catch basins, or storm drains, that collect, filter and help convey storm water off of roads, driveways and parking lots before they enter the storm drain system and ultimately Lake Macatawa. But have you ever stopped to think about what a catch basin really does, how it works and what kind of maintenance it needs? If you have never asked these questions, then perhaps you should.
Catch basins provide entry for storm water from hard surfaces into the storm sewer system. They not only function as collection points, but also filter out debris such as leaves and litter. They are typically located next to street curbs or in the rear yards of residential areas.
A basic diagram of a catch basin is shown at the left. Catch basins are designed to trap heavy debris in the bottom and floatable materials near the top and only allow relatively clean storm water to pass through into the storm sewer system. Many times catch basins will be connected in a series via storm sewer pipes. Since catch basins are designed to trap debris, it is crucial that they are regularly inspected and cleaned out when necessary to ensure that storm water is able to flow through the system. When catch basins are too full, then excess debris can get into the storm sewer system, storm water may not be able to flow through and roads and parking lots may flood.
Catch basin maintenance starts at the surface. In order to ensure that storm water can enter the catch basin, their inlets (grates) must be maintained in working order and be free of debris. Clogged inlets can lead to flooded parking lots and streets. Common debris that will clog inlets include leaves, branches, grass clippings, and trash. Fortunately, it is easy to see and remove this debris, but someone still has to get out and do it! Catch basin inlets found in street curbs are typically maintained by the city, county or township that is in charge of maintaining the road. Street sweeping is a common method of cleaning out debris from the curb and gutter. Catch basins in parking lots must be maintained by the owner of the property. If you live in a subdivision or condominium with a homeowner’s association, then it is the responsibility of the association to maintain the catch basins and their inlets.
If you live in a homeowner’s association, consider starting an adopt-a-storm drain program in your neighborhood. At its simplest, someone needs to check catch basin inlets several times a year and remove and properly dispose of any debris that they find. Key times of year to inspect are in the fall when leaves are prevalent and in the spring after snowmelt. If your neighborhood participates in street side leaf collections, do not ever pile leaves on top of the catch basins—keep the inlets clear. Snow should also not be piled on top of catch basins as the inlet could freeze solid. Keep in mind that if you can’t see the storm drain inlets, then it’s very likely that storm water won’t be able to find them either!
The MACC also has storm drain stencil kits that can be used to increase awareness of the connection of storm drains to Lake Macatawa. Contact the MACC if you would like to borrow a kit.
Written by: Aaron Spicer
Harvest time is seen by all in the rustle of dried leaves, smell of dust, pink beeswings tumbling through the air, and bright tractor cab lights illuminating clear nights. I was reminded a short while ago by a colleague, that there is quite a bit of mystery surrounding fall harvest. Do farmers randomly pick a day to start harvesting? Do they wait for someone else to start and follow afterwards like lemmings? There may be a grain of truth in the lemming theory, but how do farmers know when it’s time to break out the combines and grain carts and start the harvest? It’s all a function of maturity and weather.
When a farmer goes to harvest corn, there are a few considerations. A farmer knows that the corn is ready when the plant stops filling the kernel with starch and the tip of the kernel is closed off from the cob. This can be seen when the tip is broken off the kernel; this is called the black layer. At this time, the corn is dead and continues to dry in the field.
Once corn has reached the black layer stage, the moisture of the kernels becomes a determining factor in harvest time. Moisture is affected by factors like temperature, rainfall and humidity. Farmers can test the moisture of the corn by running it though a moisture tester. The average kernel at black layer is 30% moisture. Corn can be harvested at 30% moisture but not be stored unless it is around 15% moisture. Farmers may choose to harvest wetter corn at 20%-30% moisture and use a grain dryer to dry the corn down to an acceptable storage moisture level. Some farmers may choose to wait for the corn to dry down in the fields, but this takes valuable time.
If corn is harvested too early, the farmer must pay for the drying costs to lower the moisture. The stalks can also be tough and hard for the combine to harvest. If corn is harvested too late, the ears may fall off the plant or the stalks may fall over, making it more difficult to combine them, not to mention loss to hungry deer looking for a pre-winter snack. Waiting too long to harvest corn leads to more loss of grain in the field.
Soybeans must be harvested at the right moisture, just like corn, but it’s tougher to get them to the right moisture. Soybeans absorb water from morning dew and rain, which can raise the moisture content, but wind, heat and sunshine can lower that moisture in a matter of hours. Farmers have to wait for soybeans to dry down from the dew each day before harvesting.
Farmers get lower prices when they sell their grain if the soybeans are over 13% moisture. Soybeans are sold by weight, and if the soybeans are less than 13% moisture, a farmer won’t get paid as much for the weight of the soybean. Farmers most often test for the moisture of their beans in a very scientific and accurate way – they will bite the beans. If the beans snap, they are close to the right moisture for harvest.
Waiting too long to harvest soybeans can lead to lower yields because the pods become brittle and split open. If beans are harvested too early, they are difficult for the combine to harvest and spoil quickly.
Like all things in agriculture, harvest time is a balancing act between time and weather. Each farmer looks at the risks associated with harvest differently, and may decide when to start harvest accordingly. The farming year is a success when the crop is out of the field and in the bins, and that’s when serious planning for the next season begins.