One of the final habitat restoration projects needed to delist Muskegon Lake as an Area of Concern (AOC) will also help reduce un-naturally high level of nutrients from high phosphorus levels in Bear Lake. High phosphorus levels in Bear Lake are a result of nutrients that enter the lake from the watershed and from fertilizers used at an earlier celery farm that was originally a wetland along Bear Creek at Bear Lake. The former celery farm’s earthen berms were built to dewater the wetlands and regulate water levels for farming purposes. Today, the berms prevent surface water and fish passage between the former wetlands, Bear Lake and Muskegon Lake.
In 2012, the WMSRDC received a NOAA Great Lakes Habitat Restoration Program grant to design the restoration project. In 2013, funding from the NOAA Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program allowed Muskegon County to purchase the former celery flat ponds in preparation for restoration work. In 2014, the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and NOAA provided the Great Lakes Commission and WMSRDC with funds to complete restoration. The Muskegon Lake Watershed Partnership and several private property owners are also coordinating to support restoration of the site. Grand Valley State University Annis Water Resources Institute is performing ecological monitoring. Over the next three years the berms will be removed, 2,015 feet of stream bank will be restored, 150,000 tons of sediments will be removed from the celery ponds to decrease phosphorus contamination, and 36.4 acres of wetlands will be restored.