White Lake recovery effort marks milestoneAgency: Environmental Quality
May 14, 2012 12-0514
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Muskegon County waterway sheds another use impairment
The Michigan Office of the Great Lakes today announced Muskegon County's White Lake is one step closer to environmental recovery.
Designated as a Great Lakes Area of Concern in the late 1980s due to severe environmental damage primarily from industrial activities, the White Lake AOC begins in the wetland complex at the mouth of the White River, just west of US 31, and extends to the navigation channel opening at Lake Michigan. White Lake is one of 14 sites around Michigan targeted for focused environmental restoration work.
Areas of Concern are defined by various Beneficial Use Impairments, specific environmental damages that must be repaired to restore them. Authorities recently confirmed removal of White Lake's Eutrophication or Undesirable Algae BUI. It is a major environmental milestone because it signals a reduction in historic phosphorous levels.
"The White Lake Public Advisory Council has worked diligently to achieve incredible progress in the AOC," said Office of the Great Lakes Director Patty Birkholz. "That progress is demonstrated by this BUI removal, and more that are expected in the coming months."
Removal of the Eutrophication or Undesirable Algae impairment verifies that the White Lake AOC no longer exhibits symptoms of excess nutrients as it did in the past. Phosphorus concentrations have decreased from consistently high levels in the 1970s to more moderate levels today. However, resource users could still see occasional algae blooms and abundant submerged aquatic vegetation.
"This improvement will benefit not only the people who live and work in the White Lake AOC but all the residents of Michigan and the Great Lakes Basin as well," wrote Chris Korleski, Director of EPA's Great Lakes National Program Office, in a letter approving the BUI removal.
While six other BUIs remain associated with the White Lake AOC, significant progress is being made to address each of them, led by the local White Lake Public Advisory Council in partnership with the EPA, the Michigan DEQ, the Muskegon Conservation District, and several other federal, state, and local partners. The BUIs that remain connected with the AOC include: Degradation of Benthos (currently in the process of removal), Restrictions on Fish and Wildlife Consumption, Degradation of Fish and Wildlife Populations, Loss of Fish and Wildlife Habitat, Degradation of Aesthetics, and Restrictions on Drinking Water Consumption.
Under Annex 2 of the 1987 Protocol Amending the 1978 Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, the United States and Canadian governments identified 43 areas on the Great Lakes that had serious water quality problems known to cause beneficial use impairment of the shared aquatic resources. These areas have been formally designated by the two governments as Areas of Concern.
For more information on the DEQ's Areas of Concern program, see: www.michigan.gov/aocprogram.