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Thursday, July 12, 2012

Muskrat Lake Wetlands Restored!

On May 16, conservationists from Clinton County and surrounding areas gathered near St. Johns to celebrate the restoration of the Muskrat Lake Wetlands.  The Lake, located mostly on state land, was lowered by about two feet in 1972 by a nearby drainage project and removal of a beaver dam.  Areas around the Lake, which were formerly 18-24 inch deep flats used as spawning and nursery grounds by bass, sunfish, and northern pike, were turned into dry or muddy areas quickly colonized by reed canary grass, an invasive exotic species.  The restoration brought the water back up and will not only benefit waterbirds, furbearers, and the Lake’s resident fish, but thanks to a rock ramp, allow passage of fish from Stony Creek.

Three sets of rocks (wiers) built with 18-24 inch-diameter boulders were placed across a 35-foot-wide outlet channel (leading to Stony Creek) to create a five percent slope.  It all took place in a 110-foot long stretch.  About 50 acres of shallow water flooding were restored through the project, which was funded by the Michigan Wildlife Conservancy and Clinton County.  The Timberland Resource Conservation and Development Area Council coordinated a study of hydrologic conditions, and many other organizations worked to obtain state approvals for the project. 

At the May 16 event, project organizers, including Gary Fritz of the Clinton County Conservation District, recalled the many state-imposed administrative hurdles that had to be overcome.  It took intensive efforts over the past five years to get permits for the project, noted Fritz.

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