DNR to lower Lake LeVasseur in Marquette County

HARVEY — Beginning next month, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources will draw down the waters of Lake LeVasseur in Chocolay Township for minor dam repair work and to improve wildlife habitat.

Lake LeVasseur is a managed marsh complex, created in 1953 with placement of a dam on LeVasseur Creek.

The area is maintained by the DNR’s Wildlife Division and is designed to create unique marshland habitat, including critical nesting and stopover ground for migrating waterfowl, such as mallards, wood ducks, blue-winged teal, ring-necked ducks and Canada geese.

The DNR periodically lowers the lake level to simulate naturally occurring low water level conditions.

“The natural fluctuation of water levels, which occasionally occur during periods of drought, are an important natural event for wetlands,” Brian Roell, a DNR wildlife biologist in Marquette, said in a news release. “These low water level events provide the opportunity for the regeneration and increased diversity of wetland plant communities, aquatic insects and improved wildlife habitat.”

Water levels will remain low through summer 2019 so the biological and chemical changes that occur during low water periods in natural wetlands can occur.

Refilling will begin in August with the hope that water levels will return to normal levels by late September.

“The lake’s drawdown will be done very slowly so the nutrient-rich sediment layer stays in place to provide an excellent seed bed for future vegetation, and to ensure the water levels on downstream Kawbawgam Lake remain relatively stable,” Roell said.

An added benefit to manipulating the lake’s water level is a new cooperative effort initiated by the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community and the DNR to cultivate wild rice there.

“The restoration of wild rice across the Upper Peninsula has become a priority for the DNR and the tribe,” Roell said. “Wild rice is certainly known for its cultural significance to the American Indians of Michigan, but it also provides important biodiversity to any waterbody.”

The rice plants themselves provide food for geese, swans, moose and muskrats, brood cover — hiding places for chicks — for waterfowl and nesting habitat for other birds and invertebrates. The ripening seeds are a favorite among many duck species.

“The shallow water and soft bottom found in the slow-moving waters of Lake LeVasseur provide ideal rice habitat if we can eliminate some of the other aquatic vegetation, which outcompetes wild rice for sunlight,” Roell said.