Summer 2018

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Table of Contents

Macatawa Water Festival 2018
Welcome Summer Interns!
Are You Septic Smart?
Pesticides, Herbicides, Fertilizers, oh my! 
Spring 2018 Agricultural Update
Project Clarity Update 

Macatawa Water Festival 2018

We hope you can join us for the Macatawa Water Festival on Saturday, July 14, 9am—1pm. We’ll be back for the fourth year in a row at Windmill Island. Over 30 community partners and sponsors will come together to offer water activities and educational experiences designed to engage all ages in learning about restoring and preserving our lake and watershed.

Kayak or bike around the island, fish for trout (must be 17 or younger), learn about native and invasive plants, make an upcycled craft, play water-themed games, and perform water quality experiments. Meijer will provide seasonal fresh fruit from local farmers!

Three workshops will be held at Windmill Island during the festival: a rain barrel workshop at 9:30am and two wood duck nesting box workshops at 10:30am and 11:30am. There is a $10 fee to participate in any workshop. Pre-registration is required. Visit and look for Water Festival under Community Events to register, or contact the Outdoor Discovery Center Macatawa Greenway office at 616-393-9453 or

Volunteers are welcome! Contact Ashley Van Zee at the Outdoor Discovery Center Macatawa Greenway for more information: or 616-393-9453.

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Welcome Summer Interns!

We are grateful to have five fantastic interns helping us at the MACC this summer! Two interns are working with our Transportation Program and three are working with the Watershed Project. They all will be helping with office tasks like GIS mapping, data entry, marketing, and watershed interns get to go outside too and help with secchi disk readings, road-stream crossing inventories and macro invertebrate surveys. Most will also be out with MACC staff at various community events throughout the summer. Learn more about each of them below!

Pictured from left to right: Bethany Heerspink (watershed), Joe Spelde (transportation), Lucas Pommerening (watershed), Quinlan Ferber (transportation), and Claire Thomassen (watershed).


I attended Grand Valley State University and graduated with a Bachelors of Science in Biology. I am interested in fisheries biology, ecology and water quality issues. In my spare time I like to hike, fish, paint and take photos of wildlife. I am excited to be interning with the Macatawa Watershed Project!


My name is Claire Thomassen and I am going into my senior year at Grand Valley State University studying geology and environmental studies. I am passionate about being involved with various environmental protection and sustainability groups on and off campus. Along with that, I enjoy running, hiking, and appreciating the outdoors!


My name is Luke and I’m an Environmental Geosciences Major at Michigan State and graduate of Grand Rapids Community College. My particular areas of interest include aqueous geochemistry, hydrology, and applications of GIS. In my free time I enjoy kayaking, trail biking and staring at rocks.


My name is Joe and I am a Transportation Intern here at the MACC. I grew up in Holland and graduated from West Ottawa High School. I attended Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego, CA, where I was granted the experience of studying urban planning in Copenhagen, DK, and graduated with a bachelors degree in political science last spring. I am passionate about making our cities and communities more livable, safer and happier.


My name is Quinlan and I’m studying Geography at Grand Valley State University. This summer I’m helping the MACC’s Transportation department with mapping. I’m excited for the opportunity to apply my GIS knowledge to the real world and create maps that will help the community. I’m also looking forward to traveling to the Netherlands this summer with GVSU’s Geography department to study how other transportation systems are setup and how they function.

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Are You Septic Smart?

If you live in a city or an urbanized township, then your house is likely connected to a sanitary sewer system. All the waste water that goes down drains and toilets is carried in a pipe to the wastewater treatment plant. If you live in a rural area, then it is more likely that you have a septic system. Your wastewater is treated onsite within your septic system. If you have a septic system, it is important that they are properly used and maintained to protect your property, your family’s health and our local waterways.

SepticSmart is an awareness program developed by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Each year, the EPA designates a SepticSmart Week that includes outreach activities to encourage homeowners and communities to care for and maintain their septic systems. The State of Michigan was the first in the nation to follow the EPA’s lead to proclaim September 17-21 as SepticSmart week.

During SepticSmart week, the MACC will post various resources and information on our Facebook page and website related to septic system care and maintenance. However, you don’t have to wait until September to learn more. You can visit to learn more about these five central concepts:

  1. How your septic system works
  2. Why you should maintain your septic system
  3. How to care for you system
  4. What to do if your system fails
  5. How your septic system can impact water resources


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Pesticides, Herbicides and Fertilizers, oh my!

Summer brings us the promise of sunshine, warm weather and time enjoyed outside. All that sunshine and warmth not only nurtures our souls, but also our lawns, landscapes and gardens. As nature starts to green up and we spend more time outdoors, we take notice of things in our landscape that we do not want there, like weeds and insect pests. We also notice when the neighbor’s grass is greener than ours. Our natural instinct is to fix what we see wrong. There is certainly nothing wrong with that, but it is important to know that there are many ways in which we can “fix” our home landscape to make it what we want it to be while protecting the health of our families and the environment.

Pesticides and Herbicides

Simply defined pesticides are substances that are designed to destroy or kill insects or other harmful organisms (weeds). An herbicide is a type of pesticide that specifically targets plants. Whether a pesticide is natural, biodegradable, organic, or synthetic, it is still a chemical designed to kill and has the potential to cause harm to human or environmental health. Sometimes pesticides are necessary, but they should only be used as a last resort when other options just won’t work. A good way to approach pesticide use is to follow the steps of integrated pest management. This concept has been widely practiced by farmers for years and is easily adapted into the home landscape. Only use pesticides as a last resort and if you do, always remember to read and follow all label directions (it’s the law!).


All plants need nutrients to grow. Most of those already exist in the soil, but we can supplement with the use of fertilizers. How do we know what’s in the soil compared to what our plants need? Get a soil test! Plants will only use what they need and any excess can cause them harm or be lost to the environment and cause harm elsewhere, like in our lakes and streams. It is recommended to get a soil test before applying fertilizer so you only apply what the plant needs. Looking to our farming friends again, follow the 4R’s of nutrient stewardship:

  •  Right source—match the fertilizer type to the plant needs
  •  Right rate—match the amount to the plant needs
  •  Right time—make nutrients available when the plant needs them
  •  Right place—keep nutrients where plants can use them

Visit your local MSU Extension office or to learn more about options for a home soil test.

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Spring 2018 Agricultural Update

by Rob Vink, Agricultural Technician

Farmers across Michigan struggled getting crops planted this spring due to wet field conditions, and the Macatawa Watershed was no exception. With looming crop insurance deadlines farmers had to make the call on planting crops or not planting them. Maturity dates on corn and bean crops don’t always fit well into the somewhat short growing season we have in Michigan. Add wet weather in the spring and fall and the potential yield loss on a crop can be devastating.

We were presented with a unique opportunity to demonstrate the effectiveness of several best management practices (BMPs) and how they handle wet conditions in the spring. A number of growers in the watershed have transitioned their operations to a no-till, reduced till or strip-till method of planting crops. Discussions with several growers in the watershed revolved around many of the no-till soils soaking up water and handling runoff better than neighbors who conventionally till (moldboard plow, chisel plow, etc.). A worthy point to note is that many of these no-tilled or strip-tilled fields were on heavier clay ground that typically stays wet longer than our loam or sandy soils. A quick drive through areas of the watershed would show less standing water on the fields that were no-tilled.

Some of the no-tillers in the watershed were able to get into fields as soon as conditions were ready because they were not running a tillage pass. A number of others who were running a tillage pass ran that pass, and by the time they were ready to plant the rains started again. Less driving across fields leads us to another important aspect of no-till. Several growers commented that even with a slight decrease in yield you typically see the first few years of no-till transition, the cost savings in fuel alone more than made up for any income lost in yield reduction.

Soybean crop no-till planted into last year’s corn stubble. The corn residue helps protect the soil from erosion. Not tilling the soil also protects it from erosion and helps build a healthier soil.


What does the future hold for agricultural conservation in the Macatawa Watershed?

  •  2017 was a strong year for conservation in the watershed. One of the unexpected highlights was the nearly 1,500 acres of cover crops funded under the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) grant. There was also over 1,000 acres contracted for gypsum, but weather conditions did not allow for all of those acres to be applied. Over 650 acres were applied in 2017 with nearly that many acres already applied the spring of 2018.
  •  Strong partners are key to successful conservation. Our partners at the Outdoor Discovery Center Macatawa Greenway and Project Clarity were not only key in securing GLRI funding, but have been hugely successful in engaging farmers and land owners about educational opportunities and spreading the news about cost share availability. Several of our agricultural retailers have also been strong supporters of the conservation work. A number of local agronomists are promoting soil health benefits of cover crops and gypsum. They have also been key in reaching farmers who have full or part time jobs off the farm.

There are different ways to measure the success of agricultural BMPs. Some require calculations and estimates to determine a reduction of soil and phosphorus. Some are easily observed when driving through the agricultural areas and seeing cover crops growing, or residue from last year’s crop still scattered about the field. Then there are the things that are not so noticeable, things most people would drive by and not even see. It’s a farmer planting green for the first time pulling a bean drill through an 18 inch tall standing cover crop and ensuing conversations with neighbors asking “What the heck is that guy doing?” It’s a chisel plow parked at the road with a “for sale” sign on it. It’s a farmer texting a picture of his tractor hood while he is planting corn in a green standing cover crop saying “I could get used to this”. Success is a farmer calling and saying, “the chisel plow is broken and we are sick of fixing it. Let’s talk about this no-till you’re talking about.”  It’s the tillage equipment parked behind the barn with grass growing up though it because it hasn’t moved all spring.

Success is not always measured in acres or pounds of phosphorus. Success is creating conversations about soil health, conservation, and clean water. It is planting the “seed”, the idea of agricultural conservation in the minds of farmers and slowly watching that seed grow. The future of agricultural conservation in the Macatawa Watershed is strong.

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Project Clarity Update

By Dan Callam, Greenway Manager, Outdoor Discovery Center Macatawa Greenway

2017 Lake Macatawa Water Quality Monitoring

We have continued working on installing projects designed to improve water quality around the watershed. We recently crossed the century mark for projects that we have been able to implement, but there is still a lot of work to be done.  Water quality in Lake Macatawa itself will continue to fluctuate, as it did last year. There are a lot of factors that go into lake conditions, including precipitation, weather, water levels, development, sediment in the lake bottom, and riverways.  This spring, we are working on installing several grassed waterways and sediment control basins, as well as continuing assistance with no-till farming and gypsum applications.

43.5% of Goal Achieved

Project Clarity Partners are working towards keeping 83,500 pounds of phosphorus annually out of Lake Macatawa

Stream Surveying Underway

Survey crews have been out assessing and measuring stream banks and channels at several watershed locations. This is in anticipation of stream stabilization and restoration at locations along Peters Creek and Noordeloos Creek with our partners at the MACC, Niswander Environmental and Holland Engineering, Inc., with funding through the MDEQ 319 program and the Great Lakes Commission.

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