Water Resources Commissioner Receives $600,000 State Grant
Water Quality Improvements in
Macatawa Rainscaping Program
Rainscaping is a method of watershed restoration that manages rain water where it falls. Rainscaping includes practices like rain barrels, rain gardens, tree planting, native plantings, and riparian buffers. The Macatawa Rainscaping Program promotes awareness and implementation of these practices among homeowners, landscapers and contractors. This program is not unique to the Macatawa Watershed. The Lower Grand River Organization of Watersheds started the program in West Michigan, and graciously worked with the MACC to share materials and provide training in how to run the program. The MACC then worked with several local partners – Hope College, Holland BPW and ODC Network – to customize the program for the Macatawa Watershed.
The Macatawa Rainscaping Program include 3 main components:
Volunteer Training – We will train volunteers to conduct site assessments for homeowners and make recommendations for using rainscaping practices. The training is free and open to anyone 18 and up. We held our first volunteer training sessions on April 14 and 21. We will assign trained volunteers to complete assessments as homeowners request them.
Continue reading to learn about the other 2 components.
Lawn Care and Landscaping Partners Program
The MACC has been working with local lawn care and landscaping companies since 2006 to promote and encourage practices that protect water quality. In 2021, 17 companies signed a statement of commitment to follow these practices. You can learn more about the program and view a list of participating companies here.
The MACC was sad to say goodbye to our Project Manager, Rob Vink, last fall. His primary responsibility was to work with area farmers to plan and install conservation practices. Rob worked with seven producers last fall to plan and implement cover crops. A Great Lakes Commission Grant supported by Project Clarity, provided funding to help offset the cost of adding this practice into their operations. In total, producers planted 1,120 acres of cover crops and received $57,000 to cover the costs. The producers contributed an additional $4,200. All seven producers will continue planting cover crops in 2021 and 2022.
Cover crops are non-harvested crops that are planted either before or right after a cash crop is harvested. They help protect the soil from erosion when a crop is not growing. Cover crops also help scavenge nutrients from the soil, support a healthy soil biology, increase soil organic matter, and provide other benefits.
Lakeshore Cleanup Coalition
The MACC and six local partners received a Trash Free Waters Grant from the EPA last summer. Through this grant, we will host volunteer beach and river cleanups throughout Ottawa and Allegan County coastlines and conduct public education.
Despite initial delays due to COVID, in summer/fall 2020, we held 13 events. In total, volunteers spent 482 hours and picked up 695 pounds of trash! Events included two with 95 Hope College students that gave up a Saturday morning for a chance to pick up trash.
Click here to see a list of scheduled volunteer beach and river cleanups.
Watershed Management Planning
The Macatawa Watershed Management Plan was last updated in 2012. Since then, the MACC and partners have implemented numerous conservation practices, public education and other activities outlined in the plan. Watershed Management Plans are typically written for 10 years, so it is time for an update. We are working to secure funding to support this work and hope to have an updated plan drafted by mid 2023. Much of the work will be done by MACC staff and partners to evaluate and re-write sections of the plan, and there will be various opportunities for public input. We will hire consultants to complete a few of the needed updates.
The Grand Valley State University’s Annis Water Resources Institute is currently working on two projects that are critical for the update. One team is conducting a public education survey. If you live in the watershed, you may have received a survey in the mail. We hope you took the time to fill it out and extend our thanks to those who did! The results will help us determine future educational topics and delivery methods. A second team is updating a digital land use data. Land use is important for various models that will help determine where to focus future efforts to implement conservation practices as well as policy changes.
Water Quality Improvements in the Harlem Drain
The Ottawa County Water Resources office has been performing extensive maintenance work along the Harlem Drain this spring. The northernmost tributary to Lake Macatawa, the Harlem Drain runs into Pine Creek, from there emptying into Pine Creek Bay. Along with some of these maintenance activities, the crews have been installing nearly a mile of two-stage channel along the section of stream near Macatawa Golf Club. This extra shelf provides additional storage for floodwater and vegetation for filtration. Project Clarity was pleased to help support this project, as the Water Resources office continues their work improving water quality throughout the county by creating greener, more sustainable waterway projects.
Project Clarity 2020 Dashboard
The GVSU Annis Water Resources Institute has been conducting water quality monitoring in the Macatawa Watershed since 2013. They produce annual reports detailing monitoring results and a dashboard report summarizing conditions in Lake Macatawa (phosphorus is pictured at right). There are many factors that influence water quality, including snowmelt, rainfall, temperature, conservation efforts, and the timing of sample collection. 2020 results continue to show variability in the data, but also show that water quality is improving, especially since 2013 when Project Clarity helped to accelerate restoration efforts. Both the full monitoring reports and dashboards from 2014-2020 are available here.
The Water Resources Commissioner and his staff are responsible for construction, operation and maintenance of over 800 storm water management systems, "County Drains" in Ottawa County. These systems are designed to provide storm water management, drainage, flood prevention and stream protection for urban and agricultural lands. A County Drain may be an open ditch, stream, or underground pipe, retention pond or swale that conveys storm water.
Routine maintenance of County Drains is necessary from time to time to ensure their proper function. The Water Resources Commissioner may in any one year, expend up to $5,000.00 per mile, per drain for maintenance and repair. Major projects are initiated through a petition process. Either property owners or a local municipality can petition the Water Resources Commissioner. To recover costs expended for a project, Special Assessments are levied against private properties, local municipalities, the County and the County Road Commission, railroads and state highways benefited by the construction and/or maintenance.