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Building Bipartisan Support for the River in Lansing

Visit me at the office and you’ll find the Citizen’s Guide to State Government for the 98th Legislature within arm’s reach on my desk. During HRWC’s 50th year, we’re making it a priority to establish and deepen relationships with our elected officials through one-on-one meetings. Watershed communities are represented by no fewer than 10 representatives and four senators in Lansing whose votes and decisions can impact the watershed.

What do we hope to get out of these conversations? We are sharing current information on water issues relevant to each district as well as strategic opportunities to protect and enhance the resource for a diverse mix of uses (municipal, recreation, business, etc.). The conversations also are vehicles for developing more regular communications between the elected officials and HRWC.

Simply put: We want the needs and concerns for the river and its watershed communities to be heard.

HRWC Executive Director Laura Rubin and I are wrapping up several months of traveling the watershed – and sometimes beyond – to meet with the following state elected officials (see the maps of Senate and House districts overlaid on the watershed boundary):

 

Michigan House Legislative Districts (2010)

Michigan House Legislative Districts (2010)

Representatives
Gretchen Driskell (District 52)
Jeff Irwin (District 53)
Klint Kesto (District 39)
Bill LaVoy (District 17)
Kristy Pagan (District 21)
Jim Runestad (District 44)
David Rutledge (District 54)
Pat Somerville (District 23)
Lana Theis (District 42)
Adam Zemke (District 55)

 

Michigan Senate Legislative Districts (2010)

Michigan Senate Legislative Districts (2010)

 

 

Senators
Hoon-Yung Hopgood (District 6)
Joe Hune (District 22)
Mike Kowall (District 15)
Rebekah Warren (District 18)

 

 

 

 

 

The conversations were productive and friendly, and most of the officials were very responsive to our requests for meetings. Next steps entail additional information sharing on current projects, and planning a guided legislative canoe and kayak trip on the river to highlight progress and challenges. The frequency of follow-up meetings hasn’t been determined, but we can be certain that term limits will necessitate on-going conversations as new public servants represent the watershed.

The state-level meetings build on a long tradition of engagement from local and county public officials and representatives. In fact, HRWC was formed by the Michigan Legislature in 1965 and the Board of Directors is comprised of representatives from member governments. HRWC is a nonpartisan research and education organization that protects and restores the river for healthy and vibrant communities.

Registration Open for Full Moon Paddle – July 31st

9449170677_2af0040543_zFriday, July 31st, 7:00 p.m.

Join us for the Full Moon Paddle Trip with bonfire and s’mores: Pickerel Lake to Crooked Lake

Experience the quiet waters of the Huron River with expert paddler Barry Lonik, HRWC staff, and other river enthusiasts.

Complete this form to register. Spaces are limited so registration is necessary by Wednesday, July 29th.

The trip begins at the Pickerel Lake beach, accessible off Hankerd Road, north of N. Territorial Road. We will meet there at 7:00 p.m. Sunset and moonrise are just before 9:00 p.m.. There is a short carry from the parking area to the water. We will paddle around Pickerel Lake, chat about natural history, watersheds and water quality, and gradually make our way down the channel to Crooked Lake. A campfire and s’mores fixings will greet us at Crooked Lake. Then our group will make the return trip hopefully under the light of the Full Moon.

Bring your own watercraft, gear, food, drinking water, and appropriate clothing for the weather. Every paddler must wear a flotation device – bring your own. A flashlight or headlamp also is a good idea.

For a Paddler’s Safety Checklist click HERE.

My Huron River (Huron River delta)

HRWC staff picks of favorite watershed spots, celebrating 50 years of river protection and restoration work.

A favorite spot for me on the Huron River is the delta where the voluminous waters fan out and feed western Lake Erie. There’s something satisfying about witnessing the transition from river to Great Lake, and picturing the individual stories of how – and in what shape – those droplets traveled from their places of origin. I am reminded, then, that all of our collective actions in the watershed are woven into the waters flowing past me and I hope that we’ve done justice to the blue.

Kayaking at the Huron River delta, River Mile 0. credit: L & S Small Craft Coastal Explorations

Kayaking at the Huron River delta, River Mile 0. credit: L & S Small Craft Coastal Explorations

The river delta flies under people’s radars as a destination, especially for those who live outside the Downriver area. Few signs or road markers give away the location of the river’s terminus. The 40-minute drive from my house to this spot means that I don’t visit as often as I would like. But, in the past couple of years have I come to appreciate the last few miles of the river and its confluence with the lake for its natural beauty, as well as its historical significance and new opportunities for trail-based recreation. Besides, where else on the Huron River can you see a massive barge traversing the Great Lakes, or paddle into big water?DSC_0200

The expansive view of water, land, and sky is always changing and always beautiful. The marshlands and forested floodplains of Point Mouillee and nearby islands provide critical habitat for plants and animals as well as stopover locations for migrating birds and waterfowl. The delta sits within the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge, a binational refuge covering nearly 6,000 acres of islands, coastal wetlands, marshes, shoals, and waterfront lands along 48 miles of Detroit River and western Lake Erie shorelines.

Hull's Trace, military road built during the War of 1812

Hull’s Trace, military road built during the War of 1812

An old log road built during the War of 1812 remains under West Jefferson Avenue and is now known as Hull’s Trace – the newest addition to River Raisin National Battlefield Park. The National Park Service presence is increasing appreciation for this area through its educational programs both on- and off- the water, and reestablishing connections with the Wyandotte Nation that has deep roots here. The anonymity of the Huron River delta is slowly giving way as the National Park Service develops operations and as the  Huron River National Water Trail gains paddling and fishing fans.

Drop me a line if you visit the delta and share your photos with HRWC on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram with the tag #huronriver50.

 

HRWC is celebrating its 50th Anniversary this year!

Tell us your favorite watershed spot HERE.

Connect and share river ruminations or captured moments with us on FacebookTwitter and InstagramUse #huronriver50 to mark your posts!

Appreciate the River, Sunday July 12, by joining HRWC for some fun or heading to YOUR favorite spot with friends.

 

Panoramic view east at the Huron River delta

Panoramic view east at the Huron River delta

What the Clean Water Rule could mean for the Huron

Sometimes just maintaining the status quo is the goal. Such is the case with federal protections for waterways through the Clean Water Act that are clarified with the Clean Water Rule developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers. The rule provides definition to “Waters of the United States” and will become effective on August 28, 2015. The rule only protects waters that have historically been covered by the Clean Water Act.

credit: John Lloyd

credit: John Lloyd

The administration wrote the rule in an attempt to clarify its jurisdiction after two U.S. Supreme Court decisions made it murky beginning in the early 2000s. While about three percent  more area is covered by the Clean Water Act than before, the protections are still less than they were during President Bill Clinton’s administration. The Clean Water Act protects the nation’s waters. A Clean Water Act permit is only needed if these waters are going to be polluted or destroyed.

In my interview this week with David Fair on WEMU’s Issues of the Environment radio show, we talked about what the Rule does:

  • Provides greater clarity and certainty regarding the waters protected under the Clean Water Act
  • Makes the jurisdictional determination process more straight-forward for businesses and industry
  • Reflects the best current science (more than 1,200 peer-reviewed studies were consulted)
  • Aligns with the Supreme Court decisions
  • Reflects public input and comments (400 meetings around the country)
  • Protects public health, the economy, and the environment

and doesn’t do:

  • Regulate new types of waters, land use, most ditches, groundwater, farm ponds
  • Change policy on stormwater or water transfers or irrigation
  • Limit agricultural exemptions
  • Regulate water in tile drains
  • And my favorite, regulate puddles
How might the Clean Water Rule impact Michigan and, more specifically, Huron River waters?

The Department of Environmental Quality, the state’s permitting authority, expects little impact to Michigan water protection programs. Michigan is one of only two states (New Jersey is the other state) that administers its own wetlands permit program instead of the Army Corps of Engineers, and the state-run program is more protective than the federal program. On the Huron River, the collective effort to improve water quality is yielding gains in quality of life after decades of effort focused on education, new technologies to reduce pollution and water consumption, and water quality monitoring.

The Huron River Watershed Council formed seven years before the enactment of the Clean Water Act in 1972. As we celebrate 50 years of protecting and restoring the river for healthy and vibrant communities, we have the perspective to recognize this Rule as a watershed moment for the country to rededicate itself to clean water. Find out more about the Clean Water Rule from the EPA’s Clean Water Rule web page. A Michigan fact sheet is available about the value of clean water in the state for the economy, the environment, and public health.

HRWC staff take it on the road

HRWC staff frequently presents our work at conferences and convenings both locally and farther afield. We don’t always get around to sharing that information with our followers, but May has been particularly full with such opportunities to share Huron River programs while learning from colleagues and making new connections. Here’s a snapshot of those appearances . . .

RiverUp! @ River Rally

Some river people say that if you can attend only one conference each year, then it should be River Rally. More than 400 members of the river and watershed conservation community gathered in early May at Santa Ana Pueblo, New Mexico, and I was happy to be among them. My session titled “Transforming Your River into Main Street” showcased our RiverUp! efforts to restore and revitalize the river corridor through diverse partnerships, creative financing, and community engagement. Terrific reactions and conversations ensued with attendees from around the country such as Connecticut, Ohio, and California. Rally is hosted by River Network, a network of more than 2,000 state, regional and local grassroots organizations whose primary mission is protecting water resources.

The Rio Grande near Albuquerque, NM

The Rio Grande near Albuquerque, NM

Lakes Monitoring @ Boyne

Paul Steen reprised his trainer role at the annual Cooperative Lakes Monitoring training hosted by the Michigan Lakes and Streams Association at Boyne Mountain Resort, Michigan. The 50 participants, from all over Michigan, attend to improve their skills in various water quality measurements for lakes. The training attracts registered participants in the Cooperative Lakes Monitoring Program (CLMP) and other interested people about how to make water quality measurements and nearshore habitat assessments on their lakes. CLMP is the second oldest lake volunteer monitoring program beginning in 1974 by the state natural resource agency. Check out the inaugural webinar training co-hosted by Paul from earlier this month for details on the CLMP.

Climate Preparedness @ National Adaptation Forum

Rebecca Esselman represented HRWC at the 2nd National Adaptation Forum in St. Louis. While in the Show-Me-State, she participated in a day-long workshop on “Collaborating for Climate Preparedness” where a local non-profit pairs with a local municipality partner to learn about various examples for collaborating. Matt Naud, City of Ann Arbor Environmental Coordinator, joined Rebecca. The National Adaptation Forum, hosted by the Urban Sustainability Directors Network, gathers adaptation practitioners from around the country to foster knowledge exchange, innovation, and mutual support for a better tomorrow in face of climate extremes.

Contact me if you would like to continue reading about HRWC Staff appearances like the ones mentioned in this blog.

Barton Dam portage just got easier

What better way to kick-off the paddling season than by celebrating the newest improvement on the Huron River Water Trail?

the gang

Celebrating another successful RiverUp! project with the Post family, City of Ann Arbor, SmithGroupJJR, and HRWC.

Our small, yet enthusiastic group gathered on the first warm sunny Friday in April to greet the spring weather and toast the innovative boat slide at Barton Dam. Our partners on the Water Trail have long wished for an easier way to navigate this portage, especially after a tiring trip across the flat waters of Barton Pond. We all imagined that there must be an easier way to get boats down the long, steep slope of the dam. However, no examples could be found.

HRWC collaborated with the design team at SmithGroupJJR to develop the first-of-its-kind boat slide, a stainless steel railing that makes portaging a canoe or kayak across the dam as easy as lifting it up on the rail and gliding it up or down the dam. Water Trail signage was added at the downstream access, as well, as part of the larger trail marking effort over 104 river miles.GroovyDesign

The Post family, who supported the project, were on-hand to help demonstrate how easy it is to use the slide to navigate over the dam. Thanks to their generosity, we now have a model that can be used at other portages on the Huron River Water Trail and other rivers across the state. Cheers to supporters of RiverUp! and users of the Water Trail!

Here’s to a safe paddling season.

~ Andrea Kline, Construction Manager

Huron River Water Trail receives national designation

Uncork the champagne! The Huron River Water Trail is the newest National Water Trail.

Huron River Water Trail is 18th national water trailSecretary of the Interior Sally Jewell designated the Huron River Water Trail as the 18th trail of the National Water Trails System this week. The Huron River Water Trail joins a network of national exemplary water trails from Puget Sound to the Hudson River. The National Water Trails System is an inter-agency collaborative effort administrated by the National Park Service.

In the press release issued by the National Parks Service, Secretary Jewell recognized the achievements of local, state, and federal partners in the ever-growing water trail community. ”Expanding water trails nationwide improves the environment and adds value to local economies”, said Secretary Jewell. “The National Water Trail System helps people discover the natural beauty and history of local places and provides fun opportunities for families to explore the world around them.”

The Huron River Water Trail will reap many benefits of designation into the National Water Trails System including:

* national promotion and visibility

* mutual support and knowledge sharing as part of a national network

* opportunities to obtain technical assistance and funding for planning and implementing water trail projects

As a result of designation, the partners to the Water Trail may gain positive economic impact from increased tourism, assistance with stewardship and sustainability projects, assistance with recognition and special events highlighting the trail, and more.

To be considered for designation, HRWC completed a rigorous application to demonstrate that the trail met criteria in seven management practice areas. The application was reviewed at multiple levels including a federal inter-agency panel review and final review by Secretary Jewell.

logo-hrwtThe Huron River Water Trail is a 104-mile inland paddling trail connecting people to the river’s natural environment, its history, and the communities it touches in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. It is a consortium of interested groups and communities committed to providing residents and visitors with a safe, accessible, and enjoyable experience on the Huron River and in the Trail Towns. The Huron River Water Trail is a project of the Huron River Watershed Council and RiverUp!.

 

Elegant and innovative solution at a tricky portage

There’s more good news for kayakers and canoeists on the Huron! In late November, we installed a one-of-a-kind canoe and kayak slide on the steep portage route at Barton Dam in Ann Arbor. The unique design allows a paddler to guide a boat up or down depending on the direction of the trip and eliminates the need for trudging on the hill with a boat overhead. This project is just the latest to come out of the public/private placemaking initiative led by HRWC called RiverUp!.  RiverUp! Construction Manager, Andrea Kline, guest blogs on the most recent Huron River Water Trail project:

I confess, at first I was skeptical. I’ve slogged hundreds of pounds of gear across dozens of portages from Ontario to Maine but I have never seen, much less used, a canoe slide. But here I was at the Barton Dam, canoe slide plans in hand, ready to start a new adventure on the Huron River Water Trail.

The design of the slide was somewhat challenging since the rails would have to bend both horizontally and vertically to match the curves of the dam face and the trail next to the slide. All of the steel pieces had to be manufactured off-site. Hopefully, it would all fit together once the pieces arrived on-site.

Step 1: Install the bases. Since we were not allowed to dig deep foundations into the embankment and the bases had to line up exactly to accommodate the curves of the slide, our crew laid stone pads, about three feet square, at the locations that the surveyors had staked the week before. Once the stone pads were in place, the 13 concrete bases, each weighing over 300 pounds, were set carefully in place.

Our contractor getting it right on-site.

Our contractor getting it right on-site.

Step 2: Secure the steel slide rails to each of the bases. The moment of truth had arrived. Would the rails fit together like we had envisioned when putting the design on paper? The rails were fabricated in 14 pieces, each labeled to be installed in a particular location. Piece by piece, the railing was installed. The slide was taking shape, and I was getting excited about how it was looking. The dog walkers and joggers who looked at us skeptically at the beginning of the project now nodded in recognition when we explained what we were building and how it would work.

Jeffrey takes it out for a spin.

Jeffrey Post takes it out for a spin.

Step 3: Test the slide. We carried the canoe up the hill and placed it on the slide. It slid easily down the rails with a little prompting. Cameras and phones at the ready, we all took turns sliding the canoe down and back up the slide. High fives all around – it works!

The slide is now ready for paddlers to use in navigating around Barton Dam. Give it a try and let us know what you think! We are eager to share the design with other water trail organizations and are hopeful that this might be a prototype for other portages in our watershed and around the country.

Thank you to the Jeffrey and Joanna Post Family for their financial support and to our talented and dedicated project team: SmithGroupJJR for the design and Future Fence Company of Warren for the fabrication and installation.

The finished boat slide awaits Huron River paddlers.

The finished boat slide awaits Huron River paddlers.

Reviving Peninsular Park

Andrea Kline, RiverUp! Construction Manager, is the author of today’s post about Ypsilanti’s Peninsular Park and the recent investments in its amenities for paddlers and residents in the neighborhood.

Fall is shaping up to be a busy time on the Huron River Water Trail! After lots of

Great Lakes Docks & Decks installs the new floating dock

collaborating with our partners, planning, permitting and paperwork, we finally celebrated the opening of the new floating dock at Peninsular Park in Ypsilanti. The new dock replaces an older dock on the upstream side of the portage around the Peninsular Dam that had seen better days. Huron River Water Trail signage was installed, as well.

The ribbon cutting was attended by 40 people, including many representatives of the five Huron River Trail Towns who attended a meeting earlier in the day to share their efforts to promote the exciting experiences that await river users who visit Milford, Dexter, Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and Flat Rock. Several participants shared their memories of college rituals from their days at EMU that included jumping into the river from the original dock, usually under the cover of darkness!

The Peninsular Paper Mill and Dam were originally built in the 1860s, reportedly

The former powerhouse and sign as they look today.

to produce newsprint for the Chicago Tribune and the dam to power it. In 1986, the dam and 6.5 acres on the north side of the river were sold to Ypsilanti for $1. This area is now managed by the City of Ypsilanti as Peninsular Park.

If you have ever driven on North Huron River Drive near the campus of EMU, you may remember seeing the landmark Peninsular Paper Co. sign that still stands at the top of the old power house. Although it has been abandoned for some time, the powerhouse still retains some of the beautiful classical architectural features that made it a city landmark in its heyday.

Local residents and neighbors have formed The Friends of Peninsular Park to lead efforts to restore the park to its former glory. Updates and news are shared on the group’s Facebook page: www.facebook.com/PeninsularPark. We’re glad that the new floating dock can bring back old memories and will contribute to memories of more “good old days” in the future!

Thank you to our RiverUp! funders, especially the Austin Memorial Foundation, for investing in this section of the Huron River.

Gathering for the Great Lakes

A crowd will be gathering in Grand Rapids this week to share the latest efforts focused on restoring the Great Lakes, and HRWC will be there!

The 10th Annual Great Lakes Restoration Conference hosted by the Healing Our Waters – Great Lakes Coalition begins on Tuesday, September 9th. The three-day conference brings together a diverse group of more than 400 people from throughout the region who learn about important Great Lakes restoration issues, network at the largest annual gathering of Great Lakes supporters and activists, and develop strategies to advance federal, regional and local restoration goals. 

The Huron River renaissance RiverUp! and the Grand River rapids restoration will be featured on Day 1 at the Transforming Your River into Main Street session. HRWC’s Elizabeth Riggs will share the story of the revitalization and restoration efforts on the Huron through diverse partnerships, creative financing, and a compelling vision for what the river corridor can be to residents and visitors. #BlueEconomy

With dozens of great sessions covering topics such as toxic algal blooms, petroleum product shipping, microbeads, climate resiliency measures, and diversified energy, you’ll want to join the conference in Grand Rapids or follow the Live Stream provided by GreatLakesNow. Follow HRWC’s Twitter feed (#hrwc) for updates from the conference.


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