Mona Lake Celery Ponds Receive Federal Funding for Fisheries Restoration
From: Don Trygstad, Chair of the Mona Lake Watershed Council Mona Lake Watershed Council has been working for years with various partners to return the Celery Ponds to a beneficial wetland. We are excited to support the efforts of the Muskegon County Water Resources Commission with the NOAA grant. Please direct your questions to Commissioner Brenda Moore or Deputy Commissioner Dallas Goldberg.
Muskegon MI – Eighty-four years after the alteration of former wetlands along Black Creek and Mona Lake, the Muskegon County Water Resources Commissioner’s office is focusing on restoration with federal funds. Deputy Water Resources Commissioner, Dallas Goldberg, crafted the proposal that resulted in a multi-year agreement aimed at restoring the celery ponds. The goal of the project is to revive a valuable fishery and positively impact the water quality and habitat of historic wetlands, Black Creek, and Mona Lake.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries Office of Habitat Conservation is providing funding for this project through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.
“NOAA is excited to work with our partners to support these efforts restoring important habitat and bringing benefits to Great Lakes fisheries and communities,” said Carrie Selberg Robinson, director of the NOAA Fisheries Office of Habitat Conservation.
Toward the end of the Great Depression (1938), the Muskegon County Drain Commissioner’s office constructed dikes along Black Creek to facilitate celery production in wetlands that were previously connected to Black Creek and Mona Lake (see aerial photo provided below). Prior to its alteration, the interface of the natural wetland, stream and lake system was excellent fish spawning habitat for Muskie, perch, bass, and other warm water sport fish. That is no longer the case. These isolated ponds are now dominated by carp, excessive blue green algae, high phosphorus concentrations, and low oxygen levels, which prevent a diverse and vibrant fishery.
The preliminary restoration concept includes the removal of portions of the muck from the bottom of the celery ponds, reestablishing native plant species and providing fish passage between the restored wetlands and Black Creek. Requests for proposals for qualified engineers to design the restoration project will be the first order of business for the development team. Between feasibility, design, state and federal permitting and construction this project has an estimated 3-year timeframe.
Brenda Moore, previously the director of the Mona Lake Watershed Council who now serves as the county’s Water Resources Commissioner, noted that restoration of the Mona Lake celery flats has been contemplated since the Mona Lake Watershed Plan was approved by the state in 2004.
Dr. Alan Steinman, the Allen and Helen Hunting Director of Grand Valley State University’s Annis Water Resources Institute, and who was a key player in drafting the original Watershed Plan, credited the Office of the Muskegon County Water Resources Commissioner for their perseverance in obtaining funding for this project, which was one of the highest priorities in the watershed plan.
Steinman and his staff will also be partners in the restoration project, conducting baseline studies for the engineering feasibility investigation that will determine the ultimate approach for the restoration plan.
Other organizations that supported and will be involved with the project include the Fisheries Division of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, the Mona Lake Watershed Council, the Michigan Muskie Alliance, the West Michigan Angler’s Association and the cities of Muskegon Heights and Norton Shores.
Muskegon County is one of 5 entities in the entire Great Lakes Basin to receive part of the $14 million in funding recommended by NOAA. Other recipients, listed in the NOAA funding announcement, include the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians, Friends of the Detroit River, the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, and the Great Lakes Commission. Questions and comments can be directed to the Water Resources Commissioner’s Office at 724-6219.