URBANA - The clean up of Ruddiman Creek began as a grassroots effort in Muskegon, Michigan many years ago. Recently, this project, which resulted in the removal of nearly 90,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment, was awarded as a 2006 "Success Story" at the State of the Great Lakes Ecosystem Conference (SOLEC).
The Ruddiman Creek Great Lakes Legacy Act Sediment Remediation Project combined the resources of U.S. EPA Great Lakes National Program Office (GLNPO) and Michigan Department of Environmental Quality-Water Bureau, which teamed with the Muskegon Lake PAC, Ruddiman Creek Task Force, City of Muskegon, U.S. Army Corp of Engineers and Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant (IISG), who all share in this award.
This project has received much of its funding from the Great Lakes Legacy Act (GLLA), which authorizes $270 million to clean up hundreds of tons of contaminated sediment that has built up over the years and left some local waterways severely polluted. U.S. EPA has identified 31 “Areas of Concern” in the U.S. portion of the Great Lakes. So far, four other communities are benefiting from this federal funding.
Susan Boehme, IISG coastal sediment specialist in U.S. EPA GLNPO, works closely with communities as they go through this process. “I make sure that citizens have all the information they need as the project goes forward and that any concerns are heard,” said Boehme. She also helps the community take the next step, which is to take ownership of their rehabilitated environment. “EPA GLLA cleans up these sites, but this is not the end of the process," said Boehme. “The community needs to own the project and initiate long-term restoration plans.”
In Muskegon, where residents have seen their neighborhood pond transformed, that has been an easy sell for Boehme. “This community fought for this project so they are enthusiastic about being involved,” she said. “One resident said this project is a dream come true."
"The seven SOLEC Success Story recipients exemplify a strong commitment to improving the environment within the Great Lakes basin," said Stacey Cherwaty, Environment Canada science liaison officer. The recipients are chosen by members of the SOLEC Steering Committee, which includes representatives from provincial and state agencies, federal agencies, municipalities, academia, industry, First Nations and Tribes, environmental non-governmental organizations and others in the Great Lakes region. The committee ranks nominations using criteria that include strong partnerships, links between economy, environment and community, and broad stakeholder involvement.
SOLEC is a multi-agency effort led by the U.S. EPA and Environment Canada as part of the bi-national Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. Every two years since 1994 the current conditions of the lakes are assessed using key indicators. These indicators, such as chemical and bacteria concentrations, status of fish and wildlife populations, and water usage in the region, are tools to monitor change over time. This year, SOLEC took place in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in early November.
The Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant College Program is one of more than 30 National Sea Grant College Programs. Created by Congress in 1966, Sea Grant combines university, government, business and industry expertise to address coastal and Great Lakes needs. Funding is provided by the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), U. S. Department of Commerce, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Purdue University at West Lafayette, Indiana.
Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant Two States Caring for one Great Lake