Muskegon Lake Nears Recovery After Years of Restoration


Through a multi-year partnership with the Great Lakes Commission, NOAA has helped restore what was once one of the Great Lakes region’s most degraded areas.

For decades, Michigan’s Muskegon Lake was considered one of the most degraded areas in the Great Lakes region. NOAA and the Great Lakes Commission have partnered since 2008 to restore habitat and improve water quality in the area. With much of this work nearly finished, Muskegon Lake could soon be removed from the list of Great Lakes Areas of Concern. This May, NOAA and other partners will celebrate a significant milestone where all management actions necessary to remove the AOC designation are now complete.

In the late 1800s, Muskegon was home to many different industries, including lumber mills, chemical companies, foundries, a coal-fired power plant, and a paper mill. Over time, these industries filled in the shoreline of the lake and contaminated the water and sediment with compounds such as mercury and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. This resulted in habitat loss and degradation, water quality concerns, and declines in fish and wildlife populations.

In 1987, Muskegon Lake was listed as a Great Lakes Area of Concern, one of 43 “toxic hot spots” in the United States and Canada. Designation as an Area of Concern is based on a list of “beneficial use impairments.”

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