The Michigan Sea Grant program, based at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, has been awarded more than $1.5 million from the federal government to lead two Great Lakes restoration projects that will restore native fish habitat and help clean up marinas across the region.
Michigan Sea Grant, a collaboration between UM and Michigan State University, will also assist on five federally funded projects focused on issues including endangered fish, beach contamination, sound boating practices and marina operations, and water pollution.
The Environmental Protection Agency grants are part of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, a $475 million federal commitment to improve environmental quality in the Great Lakes region. Michigan Sea Grant’s work, along with hundreds of other projects in Michigan and the region, will help meet key restoration priorities identified by EPA.
“For years, we’ve used the Great Lakes as dumping grounds — letting pollution from farm fields, sewers and factories flow into the lakes, overharvesting fish, and building on valuable wetlands,” said Jim Diana, a UM professor of fisheries and director of Michigan Sea Grant, which is based at the UM School of Natural Resources and Environment. “The country has benefited from industrial production in this region, but our environment has suffered. This initiative is a major turning point for the Great Lakes. We now have some significant funding which enables us to tackle these issues in a comprehensive, coordinated way.”
The two Michigan Sea Grant-led projects are:
* “Restoring Native Fish Habitat in the St. Clair River” ($1.04 million over two years). New underwater reefs will be constructed to encourage reproduction of native fish such as lake whitefish, walleye and lake sturgeon. Studies before and after construction will allow biologists to evaluate the impact of the work and improve future habitat restoration efforts.
“We’ve been planning for this project for over four years,” said Jennifer Read, Michigan Sea Grant assistant director and the project’s principal investigator. “Our team is building on experience with similar projects in the Detroit River. This project is exciting because it is the first of its kind in the St. Clair River system and could potentially have a huge impact on important sport, heritage and endangered species such as walleye, lake whitefish and lake sturgeon.”
* “Green Marina Education and Outreach” ($478,262 over three years). The project will support and improve existing Clean Marina programs in Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin, focusing on reducing pollution from boating and marina activities. Funding will be used to help increase participation and educational efforts that lead to Clean Marina certification.
To become certified, Clean Marinas must complete a training course, perform a self-evaluation and address both mandatory and recommended best practices. About 100 marinas in the Great Lakes region have made the commitment to voluntarily implement best practices.
The new funding will assist in the development of uniform Clean Marina certification standards that can be applied to marinas throughout the region. The project will also provide support to enable marinas to complete certification. In addition, some of the funding will be used to improve existing training tools, like the Web-based Clean Marina Classroom.
Diana is the project’s principal investigator. Elizabeth LaPorte, Michigan Sea Grant’s director of communications and education services, is co-principal investigator. Extension Program Leader Chuck Pistis will act as manager of quality assurance on the project.
“Since the beginning of the Michigan Clean Marina Program in 2005, we’ve helped more than 35 marinas become certified and have learned a lot about the needs of marina operators,” LaPorte said. “Now we have the opportunity to share these lessons with our partner states, magnifying our impact in the Great Lakes region.”
In addition to the marina and reef-building projects, Michigan Sea Grant is collaborating on five Great Lakes Restoration Initiative projects led by other institutions. A portion of these grants will support the work of Michigan Sea Grant extension educators:
* “Outreach to reduce the spread of aquatic invasive species,” Dan O’Keefe, Michigan Sea Grant project extension coordinator.
* “Expanding vessel-based education programs,” Steve Stewart, Michigan Sea Grant project extension coordinator.
* “Controlling Phragmites along Lake St. Clair,” Mary Bohling, Michigan Sea Grant project extension coordinator.
* “Beach information communication system,” Sonia Joseph Joshi, Michigan Sea Grant project extension coordinator.
* “Laser technology for tracking beach contaminants,” Sonia Joseph Joshi, Michigan Sea Grant project extension coordinator.
Michigan Sea Grant helps foster economic growth and protect Michigan’s coastal Great Lakes resources through education, research and outreach. A collaborative effort of the University of Michigan and Michigan State University, Michigan Sea Grant is part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration-National Sea Grant network of more than 30 university-based programs.