TRAVERSE CITY — It’s all about groundwater.
So said Ed Hoogterp. He’s the former president of the Crystal Lake and Watershed Association who spearheads work on a watershed management plan for the area that runs east of Interlochen to the Frankfort lighthouse.
Hoogterp has lots of ideas to keep the Betsie River/Crystal Lake Watershed’s water clean, but it all boils down to the idea of making sure rain and melting snow seep into the ground and get filtered, rather than rolling across land and picking up excrement, pesticides and other pollutants.
“Groundwater is the paramount important thing here,” Hoogterp said.
Hoogterp is working with a variety of local groups and the Northwest Michigan Council of Governments to come up with a watershed management plan. They hosted an April 16 meeting to discuss issues related to the Trapp Farm Nature Preserve, Cold Creek and the east end of Crystal Lake, all in the downtown Beulah area.
“We think this site is one of, if not the most critical site in the whole watershed,” Hoogterp said. “It’s a small area that’s very low and surrounded by high hills. The whole thing is complicated by the fact that we have a fishery there.”
Hoogterp hopes the plan will help people address water quality, flooding and fishery issues in the area for the future. A watershed plan also allows local entities to pursue grants for related projects.
The watershed encompasses areas in Benzie, Grand Traverse and Manistee counties. The Betsie River is home to salmon and steelhead fisheries, too and draws ample visitors to the area.
“The salmon fishery is economically a pretty big driver to Benzie County,” said Scott Gest, a regional planner at the Northwest Michigan Council of Governments and project administrator for the watershed project.
One of the biggest issues facing the watershed is an increase in E. coli on Crystal Lake’s Beulah beach, Gest said. Last year, levels of the bacteria spiked after rain to the point where officials had to issue an advisory.