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Lake Okonoka on Belle Isle has been drained for restoration work.

You might not have made it over to Belle Isle State Park since the fall season has started, but if you do, you’ll see that a ton of work is happening over by Lake Okonoka.

A $5 million restoration project is well underway that will restore the long stagnant lake near the Belle Isle United States Coast Guard Station.

When you actually get out there to see the work, it’s breathtaking to see a lake you’ve seen for years completely drained.

If you’ve been on a canoe or kayak trip through the canals before, you can see the unrealized potential that connecting the island canal system to the Detroit River (via the Blue Heron Lagoon) in a proper way has.

According to DNR information, the project will when it is complete in the Fall of 2018 connect the canal system to the river through a direct connection that you’ll be able to paddle through as it will be 45 feet wide.

The pumping station by the Culvert near Blue Heron Lagoon. The station will remain.

More importantly, fish will be able to enter the lake to spawn as well as water will circulate better through the system.

Eventually there’s going to be a bridge here instead of this dinky culvert (a.k.a. big pipe under the road).

So yes, there’s currently a small connection, but not one that is meaningful.

Back by Lake Okonoka, a “stop log structure” and pedestrian crossing is also going in.

You can see work on this spot above where the interior canal hits the lake. This will allow for flow and water level control.

And of course, the berm holding the water of the canals back is pretty neat to check out.

One side water, the other not.

And some dry bed under the bridge.

Woodside Drive is going to be split in two, with green space in between the two.

The project is being funded through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) through their Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources is ponying up $70,000 in matching funds.

There’s a year of work ahead, but it’s a big development for the beloved island.