Trucks roll in major marsh project

When the work is completed at year-end, prairie and marshland will be restored and fish habitat enhanced, officials say.

Crews have begun a wetland restoration project at Sterling State Park that will improve fish habitat and make part of the lagoon system shallower.

Construction of a temporary earthen causeway/dam has begun that will stretch across the northernmost portion of the lagoon system not far from the park’s entry road, just south of the existing paved causeway.

Once the temporary dam is completed, water will be pumped out and soil added, reducing the depth from about nine feet to create a 3 to 3½-foot contour in an area of about 17 acres, said Ray Fahlsing, stewardship unit manager for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ parks and recreation division. “It will be contoured to eliminate the deeper water closer to the shoreline,” he said.

The area then will be refilled with water, submerged plants cultivated and the earthen dam then removed. “The project is slated to be completed by the end of the year,” Mr. Fahlsing said.

When the project is done, the area will not appear much different to the casual observer, but below the surface the difference will be dramatic.

He noted that the lagoons initially were created decades ago when original marshland areas were excavated to create the park.

Mr. Fahlsing said the effort is to restore wetlands, improve fish habitat and improve shore-fishing opportunities in that area. The $1.5 million project is funded through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grant and is part of a larger $3.4 million program to restore wetland areas, prairieland, control invasive species in the park and improve dikes.