How we manage our lakeshore properties has a direct influence on the water quality and habitat of Muskegon Lake. Urbanization and development have led to increased stormwater runoff, increased nutrients and pollutants in the lake, and the loss of nearshore habitat. In fact, a 2012 study from the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) indicated that over 50% of the state’s shorelines have poor habitat conditions due to over development of the shorelines.
This loss of habitat and degraded water quality not only affects the frogs, turtles, birds, and fish of Muskegon Lake. It affects us too, as we swim, fish, and recreate in and around the lake. And although we want our lakeshore properties to be beautiful and accessible to us, there are some things we can do to help reduce our impact to the lake. These practices, known as Best Management Practices, or BMPs, are specific things we can do to our lakeshore properties to increase the water quality and preserve habitat.
Below, we’ve provided some best management practices that you may be able to apply to your shoreline property. The Michigan Natural Shoreline Partnership has also produced a video series that provides even more information on ways you can manage your property that will help the water quality and habitat around the lake.
Incorporate Green Infrastructure
Green infrastructure is the practice of using water management practices that mimic natural systems to retain and infiltrate stormwater. These practices reduce storm water runoff by limiting the amount of stormwater that directly enters rivers and lakes. Runoff can pick up and transport pollutants into the water system and can contribute to erosion issues along the shoreline.
Specific practices may include:
- Porous pavers
- Reduction in paved surfaces
Reduce Buildings and Hard Surfaces
Reducing buildings and other hard surfaces can minimize the impacts of stormwater runoff by creating more surface where stormwater can penetrate the ground. Typically done at the planning stage, reducing the surface area of buildings and driveways can create more area for native vegetation, thus increasing habitat while reducing stormwater runoff.
Stabilize Shorelines with Nature-Based Techniques
Bioengineering uses nature-based techniques to stabilize eroding shorelines. These techniques typically incorporate a combination of natural and man-made materials such as stone, erosion control blankets, and native plants to create habitat while using plant roots to bind the soil and minimize erosion.
To learn more about bioengineering and nature-based shoreline stabilization go HERE.
Incorporate Native Plant Buffers
Native plant buffers can be planted along water systems like lakes or rivers. These buffers can reduce stormwater runoff, minimize erosion, and filter out pollutants and nutrients. At the same time, native plant buffers add critical nearshore habitat, helping to reconnect the land-water interface that is critical for so many of our amphibians and birds. To learn more about native plants, click HERE.
Reduce the Size of Your Lawn
Reducing the size of your lawn can come from just mowing less, or from planting gardens, native vegetation and trees. Reducing lawn sizes will help create habitat, reduce runoff, and create infiltration for stormwater runoff.
Protect Native Aquatic Habitat
Protecting native aquatic habitat protects the shoreline from wave action, sheering ice, stormwater runoff, and erosion while increasing habitat for native aquatic life. Aquatic communities also utilize downed trees and logs in the water as habitat and these structures should be left or installed.
Reduce the Use of Fertilizers
Nearly all excess nutrients from fertilizers will wind up in our lakes and rivers. These nutrients can accelerate the growth of unwanted algae and bacteria, reducing both the water quality and habitat of Muskegon Lake.
Maintain Septic Systems
Septic systems should be maintained to prevent failures or leaks. Septic failure or leak introduces contaminants and pollutants into the water system that can be detrimental to the system’s health.