GVSU coastal wetlands expert called to Lansing

An expert from Grand Valley State University, Don Uzarski, a professor of water resources and research scientist from the Annis Water Resources Institute, has been asked to present research on the Great Lakes coastal wetlands to joint committees in the Michigan House and Senate...


MUSKEGON, MI, March 22, 2006 -- An expert from Grand Valley State University has been asked to present research on the Great Lakes coastal wetlands to joint committees in the state House and Senate on Tuesday, March 28.

The Senate Natural Resources and Environmental Affairs Committee and the House Natural Resources, Great Lakes, Land Use and Environment Committee will meet for a joint session at 3 p.m. in room 519 of the Anderson House Office Building. Don Uzarski, a professor of water resources and research scientist from Grand Valley's Annis Water Resources Institute, will address the committees. He will speak about the general Great Lakes coastal wetlands structure and function and the results of a two-year study on the impacts of the removal of vegetation from Great Lakes bottomlands.

The study, conducted by Uzarski, several Grand Valley students and collaborators from Michigan State University, determined that vegetation removal impacted chemical and physical conditions as well as the fish and invertebrate communities of the wetlands. Their work was the result of a directive from earlier legislation.

In 2003, the Michigan Legislature enacted legislation allowing beach grooming of Michigan Great Lakes bottomlands by owners of lakefront property on any of the Great Lakes and Lake St. Clair. Beach maintenance activities of exposed bottomlands between the ordinary high water mark and the existing waters edge were exempted from the requirement to obtain a permit before such activities could occur unless mowing in excess of 100 feet of frontage was planned.

A second type of activity consisting of mechanical removal of certain types of vegetation was restricted to pilot areas and requires that a letter of approval be obtained from the director of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality before such activities take place. Saginaw and Grand Traverse bays were designated as the two pilot areas where mechanical removal of vegetation could occur.

This legislation directed the MDEQ to determine the impacts of beach grooming on groomed areas. Uzarski, with students Keto Gyekis and Matthew Cooper, and MSU collaborators Thomas M. Burton and Dennis A. Albert conducted the research needed to determine such impacts on groomed beaches and adjacent wetland ecosystems.

The GVSU Annis Water Resources Institute (www.gvsu.edu/wri/), located since 2001 in Muskegon, MI, was established in 1986 to preserve, protect and improve natural resources. The institute conducts research at the local, state and national levels with the goal of generating the critical information necessary to make informed decisions about our water resources. The work of Uzarski and other AWRI faculty and staff has become a major resource for other scientists, policymakers, citizen groups, regulators and the general public to meet and exchange ideas about the Great Lakes.

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