Restoration of Michigan’s Muskegon Lake

Benefiting Wildlife, Communities, Local Economy

Federal Great Lakes restoration funds restored two miles of shoreline and habitat along Muskegon Lakes, allowing fish, turtles, shorebirds and waterfowl to return. Economists estimate that the $10 million project will produce more than $66 million in economic benefits, a 6-to-1 return on investment.


Sawmills and factories located around Muskegon Lake in the past dumped countless tons of wood, sawdust, concrete and other fill material in the lake to create new land. Those activities filled in 798 acres of shallow water wetlands in the lake, destroying valuable fish and wildlife habitat in one of the Great Lakes’ most ecologically diverse bays. About 74 percent of the lake’s shoreline was hardened with broken concrete, foundry slag, sheet metal, slab wood and other materials. The unnatural fill prevented public access to some parts of the lake, hurt fish and wildlife and hampered efforts to attract tourists and businesses to the area.

Resource Challenges Addressed

  • Polluted water
  • Aquatic habitat destroyed
  • Lake edge filled with debris and pollution


Shoreline areas with new plants to anchor soil

Shoreline restoration at Muskegon Lake has brought back habitat for fish, turtles, and birds. Credit: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Results and Accomplishments

Fifty acres of wetlands were either restored or created by removing 182,826 cubic yards of unnatural fill (broken concrete, foundry slag, sheet metal and sawmill waste) from the south shore of the lake. Fish, turtles, shore birds and waterfowl have returned to parts of the lake that were previously uninhabitable. More people are now visiting the restored shoreline, which features a bike path and several decks where people can fish or watch wildlife. The project also created more than $15 million in economic benefits to the community, which is one of Michigan’s most economically depressed areas.