DNR to invest $4M for Michigan wetlands to help reduce harmful algal blooms

DSK320-007.jpg | Spring Migration Between Bay Port and Fish Point
Posted at 9:21 AM, Dec 15, 2023
and last updated 2023-12-15 09:21:01-05

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is investing $4 million to advance wetland restoration and reduce harmful algal blooms in two regions across the state.

Along with Ducks Unlimited, the DNR will use American Rescue Plan Act and Lake Erie and Saginaw Bay Wetland Conservation Program funds, and they are looking for local municipalities and private landowners who are interested in taking action to restore their wetlands.

Wetland restoration effort with Ducks Unlimited aims to improve drinking water, wildlife habitat in Lake Erie and Saginaw Bay watersheds

Ducks Unlimited will host an informational webinar via Zoom on Friday, Jan. 12 at 10 a.m. for anyone interested in this opportunity. Sign up for the webinar here.

“This grant could not have come at a better time, but the money has to be spent by December 2026 so we need to act fast,” said DU regional biologist Kali Rush. “Lake Erie and Saginaw Bay have lost more than 80% of historical wetlands, which has significantly compromised water quality for residents and wildlife in our state.”

“We can’t do this alone. Partnerships and willing landowners will be key to developing these wetlands and improving water quality and wildlife habitat,” said DNR Director Scott Bowen. “We are excited to make this resource available to private landowners who want to do their part to improve and protect long-term water quality.”

Harmful algal blooms have become a frequent problem in the area, and they are caused by increased levels of nutrients from fertilizer, wastewater and stormwater runoff.

The blooms occur in western Lake Erie and Saginaw Bay every year, and can contain toxins that are poisonous to wildlife, pets and people.

Wetlands can help the algal blooms, as healthy wetlands will help reduce excess nutrient levels in the water, absorb carbon and nutrients and they function like sponges.

“People often think of wetlands only as homes for frogs, turtles, fish, muskrats and ducks, but they also serve a critical function for water quality,” Rush said. “Wetlands are the kidneys of our environment, filtering nutrients before they enter rivers, lakes and streams.