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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.

Huron River Trail Towns Celebrate Summer

Milford Farmers Market and Concert in the ParkTrail Towns Coordinator, Anita Twardesky, shares her own version of “What I Did Over My Summer Vacation” in today’s blog:

Michigan summers do a great job of bringing people out-of-doors. Schools starts soon and so I’m thinking back about all the fun that I had. I truly hope that you were busy having as much fun as I did. Our Trails Towns of Milford, Dexter, Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, and Flat Rock were filled with wonderful events all summer long.

I had planned to golf more, ride my bike daily, and plant some new flower beds, but instead I . . .

* Paddled my kayak and pedaled my bike from Flat Rock to Oakwoods Nature Center on National Trails Day in June.

* Visited every fun display and enjoyed watching kids play in the sand area at Huron River Days in Ann Arbor’s Gallup Park. There were plenty of kayakers and handmade kayaks to see. What a busy day on the River!

* Bought kettle corn, set up a lawn chair, and enjoyed outside dining in Milford as part of their Farmers Market and Concert Series. I had such a good time, I went twice!  How exciting their Amphitheater at Central Park along the River is under construction!

* Enjoyed a great BBQ dinner and root beer float at Dexter Daze. I had a great time visiting with all kinds of people to share fun facts about the Huron River Water Trail and promoting our Super Moon Paddle.

* Walked across the “tridge” and marveled how pretty the Huron is in Ypsilanti during Heritage Days in Riverside Park. A hidden gem. I had great fun selling kayak raffle tickets and seeing the happy winner! It is a wonderful community event that brings together all of Ypsilanti with festivities.

hrwt_tablerunnerThe fun isn’t over yet! Flat Rock Riverfest is coming up from September 19 to 21 at HuRoc Park.

With fall on its way, you’ll find me with a cup of hot apple cider, relaxing, and watching the leaves fall. Our Trail Towns on the 104-mile will put on a spectacular display. I’m sure that we won’t be disappointed.

Michigan trails get a boost with new legislation

A few weeks ago I promised to share an update on the status of the bills package being considered in Lansing to expand the definition of ‘trails’ to include water trails and provide funding to support trails across the state.

Today, Governor Rick Snyder signed the bills, now Public Acts 210-215 of 2014 that redefines the designation process of special trails in the state and supports the development of a statewide network of multiple use trails and water trails.

The bills give the director of the Department of Natural Resources the authority to name trailways as “Pure Michigan Trails,” water trails as “Pure Michigan Water Trails” and towns as “Pure Michigan Trail Towns,” pending approval from the Michigan Economic Development Corp. They also allow statewide volunteer activities to include trail enhancement programs in support of trail upkeep and maintenance.

More from the State’s press release here.

Our RiverUp! work includes establishing the Huron River Water Trail and developing Trail Towns in each of 5 largest towns on the river. We’ll all pretty excited here about this new investment that can benefit these efforts. Anita Twardesky, our Trail Towns Coordinator, shares, “What an exciting time for trails in our State! Southeast Michigan is home to many water trails, Trail Town programs and bike paths. Our trail systems are poised to become a great addition to the statewide system.”

We applaud this legislation and look forward to working with the Department of Natural Resources to ensure that Southeast Michigan is well-represented to help showcase our unlimited outdoor recreation activities.

Delhi Rapids on the Huron River Water Trail. Photo courtesy of T. Janiuk

Delhi Rapids on the Huron River Water Trail. Photo courtesy of T. Janiuk

Andrea Kline joins RiverUp!

Huron River Watershed Council A KlineThe Huron River Watershed Council is pleased to announce that Andrea Kline has joined the RiverUp! initiative as Construction Manager. Andrea is responsible for the planning and construction of projects to make river recreation safer and easier at new and rehabilitated trail-heads and portages. The Huron River Water Trail is a project of RiverUp!, the initiative to make the Huron River a new “Main Street” for the river towns where residents and tourists recreate, live, commute, do business, and treasure their riverfronts.

Andrea is a respected figure in landscape architecture and natural resource conservation throughout Michigan with extensive experience in the Southeastern part of the state. In addition to senior positions with The Nature Conservancy-Michigan Chapter, ECT, Inc., and Merit Network, Inc., Andrea has volunteered her time with The Stewardship Network and the International Wildlife Refuge Alliance, serving as a founding member of both groups. Andrea works with RiverUp! Manager Elizabeth Riggs and Trail Towns Coordinator Anita Twardesky to implement priority projects of RiverUp! from Milford to Lake Erie.

The 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. The Huron River Water Trail is a consortium of interested groups and communities, and is a project of the Huron River Watershed Council and RiverUp!.


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