AOC History

Muskegon Lake

AOC History

Muskegon Lake, located on the shoreline of Lake Michigan in the Lower Peninsula, is a 4,149-acre drowned river mouth connected to Lake Michigan by a navigation channel. The Muskegon Lake Area of Concern includes Muskegon Lake and portions of the lake’s tributaries, Ruddiman, Ryerson, Four Mile, Bear, and Green Creeks and Bear Lake. Sediments within the Muskegon Lake Area of Concern were contaminated with excessive nutrients, heavy metals, petrochemicals, pesticides, and polychlorinated biphenyls from historical municipal and industrial discharges to surface water.

Since 1992, the Muskegon Lake Watershed Partnership, community groups, universities, governmental and nongovernmental organizations have worked collaboratively to improve water quality, remediate contaminated sediments and restore and protect fish and wildlife species and their habitats. Stakeholder forums and strong regional partnerships with the West Michigan Shoreline Regional Development Commission and GVSU Annis Water Resources Institute provide support to guide and sustain habitat restoration projects, including technical assistance for monitoring. The management actions contained in the Muskegon Lake AOC Remedial Action Plan (RAP) will be met in 2020 and the lake will be removed from the list of Great Lakes AOCs.

Muskegon Lake was designated an AOC through the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement in 1987 due to ecological problems caused by:

  • Historical industrial discharges of pollutants into the AOC
  • Shoreline development and hardening
  • Historic sawmill debris, foundry sand and slag filling open water and coastal wetlands
  • Localized groundwater contamination moving toward the lake and its tributaries

This resulted in:

  • Sediment contaminated with petroleum hydrocarbons, mercury, lead, other heavy metals, oil, PAHs, and PCBs
  • Excessive fill and loss of natural shorelines along Muskegon Lake and large-scale impacts to critical wetlands
  • High levels of nutrients, solids, and toxics entering the lake
  • Degradation of water quality

Muskegon Lake is now seeing the community benefits from restoration and remediation being conducted in the AOC. Recreational use of the rivers and Muskegon Lake by residents and visitors has increased, tourism is up, and property values have grown.