Improving the Quality of Duck Creek and Duck Lake

In an effort to improve the quality of Duck Creek and Duck Lake, Freshwater Future has awarded the Duck Creek Watershed Assembly (DCWA) in Muskegon County a grant in the amount of $15,000. WMEAC is partnering with DCWA to help administer the grant.

DCWA will investigate increased sedimentation, where local residents say access to the lake is becoming difficult. With the grant, Grand Valley State University’s Annis Water Resources Institute (AWRI) technicians are to start testing in the spring or early summer of 2017.

Lynn Knopf, chair at DCWA, said the primary goal is to examine sediment profiles upstream and downstream at the intersection with the Nestrom Road. This will determine whether or not the bridge construction acts as the major source.

In addition to restricted access to the lake, the increased sedimentation can lead to a variety of environmental issues, such as harmful algae blooms from the increased nutrients or beach closures from high Escherichia Coli (E. coli) levels.

Dr. Alan Steinman, Director of AWRI, said increased sedimentation can cause a variety of environmental issues, such as blocking gravel beds where fish typically spawn. Other problems include harmful algae blooms from increased nutrients or beach closures from high E. coli levels.

“We are going to monitor the watershed, identify whether it is coming from the stream crossings or if it’s a problem down near the face of the lake,” Steinman said. “The AWRI exists to help local communities that have these kinds of issues.”

This problem has resonated personally for Knopf, as she has lived in West Michigan since 1990 and used to spend summer vacation at a cottage her grandfather built on Duck Lake.

“There’s just something different about it,” she said. “We have been trying to collect some information and find out what could be going on with the Lake. Is it related just to the bridge or did something happen farther upstream?”

The project details a sediment core sample process at six locations, four in Duck Lake and two in Duck Creek, which would occur above and below the Nestrom Road bridge.

The sediment is said to be flowing from an East to West direction, starting at the Eastern side of the lake where Knopf and other residents have identified the problem.

“You can walk all of the way across there, and downstream you can actually step in what looks like is 3-4 inches of water and start to sink in way up on your leg to your hip,” she said.

After completion, DCWA predicts project outcomes will include an improved fish spawning habitat in local tributaries, reduced internal and nutrient loads associated with sediment, and reduction of algal bloom formation.

Whether the study proves the excess sedimentation to be manmade or not, DCWA and AWRI plan to identify the most cost-effective way to remediate the problem. Proposed restoration solutions could include a combination of retrofitting the road and stream intersection, sediment dredging, or habitat restoration.

“Until we find out where the source of the sedimentation is coming from, it is really hard to find what a solution would be,” Steinman said. “Based on the data we generate, we can give them some ideas on a possible solution.”

In addition, the AWRI team plans to monitor Duck Creek and Duck Lake after a solution is enacted to ensure it fits the needs of the environment and reduces sedimentation.

“I think as far as remediation, if we find out that the source of the sediment is due to unnatural causes, and especially for long term residents, I would like to restore that area of the lake,” Knopf said. “I have wanted to get to the source of this issue for about 20 years now. It’s taken a long time, but these things sort of do.”

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