Lake Michigan Day summit addresses environmental issues

Zebra muscles along the Lake Michigan shoreline (Eric Peterson/WLUK)

MANITOWOC - It's one of the largest bodies of water on the planet.

Lake Michigan is part of a fresh water system vital to the survival of the region, and the country.

But how do you get the water clean, and keep it that way?

Those at an environmental summit Manitowoc called Lake Michigan Day addressed the issues Thursday.

Gilbert Moreno of Manitowoc walks his dogs along this stretch of Lake Michigan beach in Manitowoc almost every day. He says water levels are up, but it could be better.

"All the zebra mussels, the quagga. It's always something. I mean, you can't get away from it. Lately, it's been a lot of run off from the farms," said Moreno.

[caption id="attachment_56424" align="alignleft" width="300"] Zebra muscles along the Lake Michigan shoreline (Eric Peterson/WLUK)[/caption]

At the UW-Manitowoc campus nearby, dozens of people from state and federal environmental groups talked about the challenges. Aquatic invasive species, and farm runoff top the list.

"Water quality, and the whole issue of cladophora, that algae that emerges along the Lakeshore. The phosphorus loads going into Lake Michigan is a big concern, non-point pollution," said Jim Kettler, Lakeshore Natural Resource Partnership Executive Director.

But it's not all bad news. Manitowoc Mayor Justin Nickels points to what he calls success in his own backyard. Improvements were recently completed at Red Arrow Beach.

"We did dune grass. We built up the beach. We're going to be building up the beach a little more in the next few months. Adding sand and things like that," said Nickels.

Nickels says Lake Michigan improvements help the Manitowoc economy.

"The carferry alone brings in $15 million. And that's just a four to five month period," said Nickels.

And summit leaders say balancing economic, and environmental concerns is key.

"And we should be brave enough to identify areas that we don't think we're doing enough work at. Let's hear about those, and let's figure out what we need to do then to make some progress there," said Steve Galarneau, D.N.R. Great Lakes Director.

And for those who live and play on these beaches?

"I'll give it a B," said Moreno.

Summit leaders say they will work with lawmakers in hopes of receiving grants from the federal government.