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Muskegon Lake

Contact Information

U.S. EPA RAP Liaison
Mark Loomis (loomis.mark@epa.gov)
U.S. EPA Region 5
77 W. Jackson Blvd. (G-17J)
Chicago, IL 60604

State RAP Contact
Stephanie Swart (swarts@michigan.gov)
Michigan Department of Environmental Quality
Water Bureau
Lansing, MI

Muskegon Lake PAC Chair
Cynthia Price (skyprice@gmail.com)
Muskegon Lake Watershed Partnership
Muskegon, MI

Local Coordinator
Kathy Evans (kevans@wmsrdc.org)
231-722-7878 x17
Muskegon Lake Watershed Partnership / PAC and SPAC Representative
c/o West Michigan Shoreline Regional Development Commission
Muskegon, MI

Local & Regional



Frequent Acronyms
May 2012 Announcement

Cleanup Brings Muskegon Lake Area of Concern Closer to Restoration, Delivers Results Under Great Lakes Initiative May 14, 2012 News Release

Contaminated Sediment Removed From Division Street Outfall (PDF) (2pp, 381K) May 2012 Fact sheet

The Muskegon Lake Area of Concern is one step closer to being taken off the list of the most polluted places around the Great Lakes. Work wrapped up earlier in 2012 on a project to remove contaminated sediment from a Muskegon Lake bay known as the Division Street Outfall.

US EPA worked with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, Muskegon Lake Watershed Partnership, the city of Muskegon and Hartshorn Marina, which is adjacent to the site.

The estimated $12 million Great Lakes Legacy Act project removed about 43,000 cubic yards of sediment contaminated with mercury and polyaromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs. Legacy Act funds covered 65 percent of the cost, or about $7.8 million. MDEQ provided the required nonfederal 35 percent share, about $4.2 million.

You will need the free Adobe Reader to view some of the files on this page. See EPA's PDF page to learn more.

map of the site

Muskegon Lake AOC Boundary Map (PDF) (1pg, 796K)


Muskegon Lake is a 4,149 acre inland coastal lake located in Muskegon County, Michigan along the east shoreline of Lake Michigan. The Area of Concern (AOC) includes the entire lake with the lake being separated from Lake Michigan by sand dunes. The Muskegon River flows through the lake before emptying into Lake Michigan. Additional tributaries include Mosquito Creek, Ryerson Creek, Ruddiman Creek, Green Creek, and Four Mile Creek. The immediate inland area is primarily residential and industrial, with chemical and petrochemical companies, foundries, a pulp and paper mill, and other industries located on the lake or within its immediate watershed.

The Muskegon Conservation District and the Natural Resources Conservation Service assist the Muskegon Lake Watershed Partnernship (MLWP) (formerly the Muskegon Lake Public Advisory Council) by providing project staff as well as educational and technical support to coordinate and implement the RAP for the Muskegon Lake AOC.

Muskegon Lake priorities include

Why was this area listed as an AOC?

In 1985 Muskegon Lake was designated an AOC because of water quality and habitat problems associated with the historical discharge of pollutants into the AOC, and the potential adverse effect the pollutants could have on Lake Michigan.

The high levels of nutrients, solids, and toxics entering the lake had caused a series of problems including nuisance algal blooms, reduced oxygen in the lake's deeper water, tainted taste of fish due to petroleum products in the water, and contaminated sediments.

The pollutant discharges also were suspected of contributing to the degradation of benthos (bottom-dwelling organisms, also referred to as the benrhic community), the contamination of fish, and the reduction in fish and wildlife habitat. In addition, the development of chemical, petrochemical, and heavy industries was causing localized groundwater contamination that was moving toward the lake and its tributaries.

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Beneficial Use Impairments

Through the Remedial Action Planning (RAP) process the Muskegon Lake Watershed Partnernship (MLWP) (formerly the Muskegon Lake Public Advisory Council) and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) RAP Team have identified several priority beneficial uses as being impaired.

Restrictions on Fish and Wildlife Consumption

Consumption advisories in the Muskegon Lake Area of Concern have been imposed due to PCB and mercury contamination.

Michigan Department of Community Health: Fish advisories Exit EPA Disclaimer Consult the Michigan Fish Advisory guide for restrictions and advisories. Be sure to check for general inland lake mercury advisories. Fish advisories change year to year.

Degradation of Fish and Wildlife Populations

According to Michigan standards, Muskegon Lake is a fine fishery. Muskegon Lake has also been described as the most popular and valuable fishery in western Michigan. It supports excellent populations of northern pike, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, walleye, yellow perch, suckers, sunfish, crappie, and bullheads. However, many of the highly productive bays have been dredged or filled for marinas or other development.

One goal of the AOC is to provide for suitable habitat to support restoration of warmwater fishery. There is a need to protect against additional development along the North Shore where many of the bays and inlets are located. Additionally, severe habitat degradation is evident in Little Bear Creek and its unnamed tributary.

Degradation of Benthos

Benthic communities found near localized sediment contamination are dominated by pollutant-tolerant species. However, the degradation of benthic populations have yet to be defined.

Restrictions on Dredging Activities

Every two years or so the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dredges the channel connecting Muskegon Lake and Lake Michigan. The cost of analyzing dredge spoils is very high.

Loss of Fish and Wildlife Habitat

During winter and summer stratification, oxygen levels in deep water remain depleted, making these areas uninhabitable for some fish or fish food species. The shoreline continues to be altered by dredging and by installation of seawalls, bulkheads, and riprap. The Muskegon Lake Area of Concern has received funding for some habitat work toward remediation.

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Delisting Targets

The Muskegon Lake PAC is the local organization with the responsibility to initiate the BUI delisting process. The PAC will work with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the International Joint Commission throughout the process to determine whether or not a BUI is restored and if it should be delisted from the AOC.

The Muskegon Lake PAC intends that identified targets and indicators be updated annually, and that they will be used to document a "body of evidence" that a BUI is being restored.

In some cases, all targets listed for a BUI may be met before delisting is initiated. In other cases, a majority of the targets may be met, and the PAC could decide that it is either not possible to attain certain targets or that they are no longer necessary to restore the BUI.

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RAP Development and Status

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Significant RAP Milestones

2011 Muskegon Lake Stage 2 RAP

Stage 2 Remedial Action Plan Muskegon Lake Area of Concern (PDF) (19pp, 171K) Exit EPA Disclaimer

2002 Muskegon Lake Community Action Plan (RAP update)

2002 Muskegon Lake RAP part 1 of 2 (PDF) (26pp, 6.4MB) Exit EPA Disclaimer

2002 Muskegon Lake RAP part 2 of 2 (PDF) (26pp, 4.9MB) Exit EPA Disclaimer

This update to the Muskegon Lake RAP established a restoration vision and a set of community-based qualitative restoration targets for restoration efforts. Over the winter of 2003-2004, the PAC developed a project to involve stakeholders in the development of numerical restoration targets for fish and wildlife, water quality and related natural resource issues.

1994 Muskegon Lake RAP Update

1994 Muskegon Lake RAP Update (PDF) (99pp, 4.7MB)Exit EPA Disclaimer

This document achieved five objectives:

  1. Ensuring participation in the process by a public advisory council as well as a team of specialists from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources;
  2. Documenting water quality data collected and analyzed since the plan was published in 1987;
  3. Analyzing the current status of AOC use impairments;
  4. Making recommendations that if carried out will lay the foundation for the next phase of the process, implementing specific measures to remediate the water quality problems of the AOC;
  5. Identification of data and information gaps.

1993 Muskegon Lake Public Advisory Council (PAC) Established

The Muskegon Lake PAC is a coalition of community interests dedicated to working cooperatively for the improvement of the Muskegon Lake ecosystem through the RAP process. The Muskegon Lake Public Advisory Council is now known as the Muskegon Lake Watershed Partnernship (MLWP).

Muskegon Lake Watershed Partnership Exit EPA Disclaimer

1987 Muskegon Lake RAP

1987 Muskegon Lake RAP (PDF) (261pp, 7.3MB) Exit EPA Disclaimer

This Status Report is an update of progress made by the State of Michigan to address the problems in the Muskegon Lake Area of Concern (AOC) identified by the International Joint Commission as one of Michigan's fourteen Areas of Concern.

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RAP Implementation

Recent progress and achievements

Current projects and outlook

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RAP-Related Publications

Studies and Assessments Exit EPA Disclaimer

Sediment Survey of Three Tributaries of Muskegon Lake (PDF) (44pp, 271K) 2004 Exit EPA Disclaimer

The Muskegon Conservation District maintains a a public repository of AOC-related documents for the Muskegon Lake and White Lake AOCs.

Muskegon Conservation District Exit EPA Disclaimer
1001 East Wesley
Muskegon, MI 49442

The repository includes these documents:

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Community Involvement

The Muskegon Lake Watershed Partnership (formerly Muskegon Lake Public Advisory Council) is a community-based, volunteer partnership organization that works to restore Muskegon Lake through the RAP process.

Muskegon Lake Watershed Partnership Exit EPA Disclaimer

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To accomplish sediment removal in the Pond, Ruddiman Creek was dammed up near the Lakeshore Drive bridge so that the water level was raised about two feet. This allowed barges and a tug to be floated. (October 2005)

A backhoe with a clam bucket digs up sediment from the pond's bottom and deposits it on a barge. The little red tug moves barges back and forth to a loading dock. (October 2005)

The post-remediation condition at the upstream reaches of Ruddiman Creek. The headwaters of Ruddiman Creek form at the sewer outfall pictured here. The large boulders were added to the banks to help dampen flows from extreme rain events that enter the creek.

The post-remediation condition at a downstream location along Ruddiman Creek. The Glenside Neighborhood Association is recruiting community volunteers to assist with restoration (planting and maintenance) of native plants along the creek banks in spring 2006.

FISH HABITAT: The rocks and gravel were placed in Ruddiman Creek both for erosion control and creek bank stabilization after contaminated sediments were removed.

US EPA and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality have partnered to fund the removal of contaminated sediments in Ruddiman Creek. (October 2005)

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