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My Huron River (upstream of Hudson Mills)

At Dusk

At Dusk
credit: J. Lloyd

One of my favorite spots to visit on the Huron is just downstream of the Flook (Portage Lake) dam and upstream of the old Bell Road bridge on the main stem of the river.  The Huron-Clinton Metropolitan Authority (HCMA) opened a fishing access site on Dexter-Pinckney Road about 10 years ago.  This section of the river is noted for it’s exceptional smallmouth bass fishery, but I love it for the gravel and cobble bottom, the shallow depth, and the clear, cool water.

Rocks and Riffles

Rocks and Riffles
credit: J. Lloyd

It’s an perfect place to visit on a warm summer day for some wading and swimming.  You must wear some footwear to protect the soles of your feet (the zebra mussel shells are pretty sharp!).  But my family simply wades in and walks upstream and downstream exploring the rocks and riffles and the occasional plunge pool.  It’s a popular spot for anglers but when I’ve visited it is relatively quiet and you feel like no one is around.

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 Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Use #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.

At 50 years, HRWC is looking back and forward

MEC award

An award (vase) honoring our 50 years of work from the Michigan Environmental Council

This year, HRWC is developing a new strategic plan in 2015 coinciding with the organization’s 50th year.  As part of that process, we held a focus group of staff and board members and a core group of advisers to review and provide input into a new organizational mission, vision and core values earlier this year and at the recent annual meeting the HRWC Board of Director’s approved the new missives.

Mission

The Huron River Watershed Council protects and restores the river for healthy and vibrant communities.

Vision Statement

We envision a future of clean and plentiful water for people and nature where citizens and government are effective and courageous champions for the Huron River and the watershed.

Core Values

To achieve that, we do the following:

We work with a collaborative and inclusive spirit to give all partners the opportunity to become stewards;
We generate science-based, trustworthy information for decision makers to ensure reliable supplies of clean water and resilient natural systems; and
We passionately advocate for the health of the river and the lands around it.

 

Please let me know your thoughts or comments (lrubin@hrwc.org).

Next, we will engage in a visioning process with the staff this summer that will define and document a vision of success for the organization. With common vision in hand, the staff and board will have the foundation for identifying strategic goals, outcomes, and metrics. A proposed strategic plan will be presented for review to this Board at the October 2015/January 2016 meeting.

Our First Paddle Trip: Saturday, May 16th

There is no wi-fi on the river but we promise you a better connection!

Saturday, May 16, 8 AM

Paddling Bird Watch, Bruin Lake Chain

Join Dea Armstrong and HRWC staff on the first HRWC Summer Recreation paddle of the year. This birding-focused paddle will be guided by expert paddlers Barry Lonik and Ron Sell.  If you need a canoe or kayak Hell’s Canoe and Kayak Rental is donating boats.  Please let us know if you need a boat.

Experience the quiet waters of the Huron River with expert paddlers Ron Sell, Barry Lonik, and the HRWC staff.  The trip includes discussion regarding the river’s water ecology, history, and unique features.  In addition to watercraft, bring your own gear, food, drinking water, binoculars, and appropriate clothing for the weather. Every paddler must wear a flotation device – bring your own.

Full Moon Paddle 1

To register, please fill out this form.

For a Paddler’s Safety Checklist click HERE.

All paddlers must register in advance.

A inspiring excursion to the river in the cold

credit: John Lloyd

credit: John Lloyd

This letter came from my father-in-law yesterday.  I hope it inspires you to get out and enjoy the river and it’s natural beauty even when the weather is bitter.  Bundle up!

Dear Laura,

This morning Bella (a golden retriever) and I walked down to Gallup and the river.  The weather was bitter cold, especially when we faced the wind.  The sun was shining at an angle onto the snow.  The ducks, geese and swan were sitting comfortably on the river where the stream has not yet iced over. All around, the trees, benches, trash barrels and even the grills silently stood out in the snow, wanting to be noticed.  Bella and I saw only one other walker-and she or him only from a distance. Otherwise the entire scene was our own. Time was standing still, it seemed.  As I continued to gaze at this winterscape two words kept rising to the surface of my mind: how magnificent.  As Bella and I approached the end of our walk together, I felt that she and I had been lifted up in a moment of ecstasy and awe. The bracing cold, even the wind chill, had become our friends, inviting us to return soon.

Were I a Robert Frost or Mary Oliver, I would be at this moment writing a poem. Instead, I wrote to this note to thank you and your staff for all you do to make such moments possible.

Love,

Chuck

 

Protecting Water Under the Clean Water Act

We needy our help to bring protections back to our wetlands and small streams.

We need your help to bring protections back to our wetlands and small streams.

Wait, what?  The Clean Water Act doesn’t protect clean water?  How can that be?

Well in 2001 and 2006 there were 2 Supreme Court Decisions that confused the implementation of the Clean Water Act (CWA) and placed many wetlands and streams out of protection and at risk.

Earlier this year, the U.S. EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers released a very important draft rulemaking. This draft rule clarifies which waters are protected under the Clean Water Act.  This rulemaking will fundamentally influence our work to protect or restore our watershed.

Please comment on the draft US EPA rule on Clean Water Protection (aka Waters of the US) Rulemaking

Comments on this important rulemaking are due October 20, 2014. We encourage river lovers (YOU) to speak up! If you haven’t been following this issue or need a refresher, please check out this link.

Your comments can be as simple as, “Clean water is important to me. I want EPA to protect it for my health, my family, and my community” or as specific as, “I support the agencies proposal to define “waters of the United States” in section (a) of the proposed rule for all sections of the CWA to mean: Traditional navigable waters; interstate waters, including interstate wetlands; the territorial seas; impoundments of traditional navigable waters, interstate waters, including interstate wetlands, the territorial seas, and tributaries, as defined, of such waters; tributaries, as defined, of traditional navigable waters, interstate waters, or the territorial seas; and adjacent waters, including adjacent wetlands. Waters in these categories would be jurisdictional “waters of the United States” by rule—no additional analysis would be required.”

Thank you!

Paddle and Pedal the Huron this Sunday

We have a paddle trip for people looking for adventure and an interest in trying their skills at biking and paddling.  This Sunday, September 21st, at 1:00 we are hosting a paddle trip from Hudson Mill Metropark to Dexter-Huron Metropark with a bike to the beginning along the recently completed border to border trail.Huron River Watershed Council

Ron Sell and Barry Lonik, experienced paddlers (and bikers), will be leading this trip down a beautiful stretch of the river in the Natural River’s zone.  Elizabeth Riggs, HRWC’s River-Up Manager will be on the trip too, adding her expertise and knowledge of RiverUp! and Huron River Water Trail improvement projects within this section of the river.  Join the fun and learn about the river and try your skill with paddling and pedaling! Register here.

Suds on the River

The BIG tent!

The BIG tent!

Thank you to our Sponsors and Supporters, many River Revelers and River Guardians, our hard working Host Committee, and our hosts Walt Weber and Iva Corbett for helping us celebrate the river at our 2014 Suds on the River.  Last Thursday night, we welcomed over 350 guests under a big tent at Walt and Iva’s house in Ypsilanti Township on Ford Lake.  With 7 breweries, 6 chefs, 28 restaurants, and a spectacular view, river enthusiasts were treated to a lovely evening eating, drinking and socializing. We always say “we cannot do it without you” and this year 127 volunteers helped manage registration, two parking lots, 6 shuttle buses, food deliveries and pick-ups, cars and traffic and the clean-up after everyone goes home, to make it come together so beautifully. Thank you to everyone for making this Suds such a great success.

Matt Turner arriving at Suds from a kayak!

Matt Turner arriving at Suds in a kayak! Now that’s alternative transportation.

The Big Melt

Soon, your stormdrain could look like this!

Soon, your stormdrain could look like this!

The sun is brighter, the birds are more active, and the temperatures are warming. I even got showered by puddle water as I walked home yesterday on N. Main St.!

The record snow fall will turn in to stormwater with the potential for flooding and back-ups.  In the past 2 weeks there have been numerous news articles about flood warnings and predictions.  I won’t look in to my crystal ball but I will pass along some solid suggestions from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality on steps you can take to minimize flooding impacts.

Basically, as the weather warms, make sure you take these precautions at home:

  1. Clear stormdrains, catchbasins, or any kind of detention or yard drains you have from debris, ice, and litter;
  2. Check that any sumps or back-up generators are working;
  3. Clear gutters and downspouts of leaves, debris, and ice to expedite drainage

Yeah, you might be sore on Monday, but you’ll be drier in the weeks to come!

For more information about flooding risks, please visit the State’s website.

Michigan Wetlands at Risk

A tantalizing copse of tamarack grow out beyond the lily pads - good indicators of a fen or bog ecosystem.

Wetlands serve critical functions in a watershed and our watershed is no exception.

  1. Biodiversity: wetlands provide a unique habitat for animals—from fish, amphibians, and macroinvertebrates to birds and mammals.
  2. Water quality: wetlands are like the watershed’s kidneys, filtering sediment and pollution and keeping the water in the lakes and streams cleaner.
  3. Water quantity: wetlands act like sponges as they take up excess water in heavy rains and provide a steady and slow replenishment to creeks and rivers in drier periods.

Unfortunately, we have lost approximately two-thirds of our wetlands. We’ve drained and filled most of these wetlands to plow farm fields and create drier and more buildable land. This last May, Michigan passed a new wetland law. Is this a positive development? We need a little history to get an answer.

In October 1984, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) authorized the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to administer Section 404 of the Clean Water Act (CWA), which regulates wetlands. Since then, Michigan has been one of two states that administers its own wetland  permitting program (New Jersey being the other state). Yet, over the years, environmentalists began to question the state’s lax commitment to wetland protection. As a result EPA initiated an informal review of the Michigan program and reported its findings in November 2002. After a lengthy review and comment period, a final review appeared in May 2008. The review outlines EPA’s concerns with Michigan’s implementation of the Section 404 permitting program.

These concerns sparked a debate in 2008 to consider handing the program back to the EPA. Michigan decided to keep the program and convened a task force to help it address EPA concerns and make the program viable. This past spring the state legislature passed a bill that purportedly addressed the concerns and improved Michigan’s permitting program. Governor Snyder signed the bill into law in early July 2013.

In fact, this new law only heightens HRWC’s concerns about the program. The law makes substantial changes that affect the area of jurisdiction, scope of regulated activities, and criteria for review of permits. It provides more exemptions, less protection of wetlands, and weakens criteria for permitting. In addition to the weakened regulations, HRWC is concerned about the lack of federal review and potential Clean Water Act violations.  Since the bill takes effect upon the governor’s signature, no time is allotted for required federal review which results in a violation of the Clean Water Act.

The EPA should inform the State of Michigan that implementation of any changes to the state program must be delayed until the federal review process is complete. Not only are the provisions under the new law ineffective until EPA review, but upon preliminary review of the draft legislation, EPA noted that “the draft legislation also introduces new inconsistencies with Federal law, guidance, or case law.” After receiving letters from HRWC and other environmental groups, EPA is currently reviewing the new act.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is holding an informational meeting and public hearing on Wednesday, December 11, 2013, at 6p.m. (informational meeting) and 7 p.m. (formal public hearing) at the Crowne Plaza Lansing West Hotel in Lansing, Michigan. In addition, EPA is accepting written comments on the proposed revisions through December 18, 2013. To make a comment and to learn more about the CWA Section 404 program in Michigan go to: www.regulations.gov. We encourage you to attend the informational meeting and hearing, and to provide your comments.

Rafting on the River…for work!

On Wednesday afternoon I joined a group of paddlers (all women!) to test drive a few rafts down the river with the idea of developing senior programming for the City of Ann Arbor and possibly in concert with the UM Turner Geriatric Center. Yep, I never thought of rafting the river but it is a great way to get small children and senior citizens out on the river safely while providing some education and guidance about the river.

It was a gorgeous sunny day to take the trip from Argo livery to Gallup Park.  Gallup Park canoe livery and launch is under construction but you can take out at the boat launch just a bit downstream.  Unfortunately the river in this section was considerably impacted by some odd operations at Barton Dam so the water level dropped off.  Where we were expecting about 400-500 cubic feet per second (CFS) of water in the river; we were greeted with only a mere 200 cfs.  This made the ride through the Argo Cascades very bumpy and wet and then past the cascades, it meant a lot of walking and pulling the raft over rocky bottom.

We were the only boats on the river and it provided us an opportunity to see many birds.  We saw two osprey as they hunted their way down the river from Riverside Park in Ann Arbor to downstream of Island Park.  And we saw numerous blue herons (its hard to tell if you are seeing the same 2 over and over again, or new ones).  They enjoy perching on logs or taller branches overlooking  the river.  Despite the river being very low, the water clarity was great and being up on a raft allowed a better vantage point to see the tons of fish and river bottom.  The section below Island Park back by Fuller fields seems like a great, remote fishing spot.

In terms of senior programming, we had a few findings:

  • the Argo Gallup trip is too long for seniors to sit without back support and being jostled.  A shorter trip (maybe Argo to Island Park–our new launch!) was a better offering than the longer trip to Gallup;
  • getting in and out of the raft using the docks works very well for creaky bones and limited mobility;
  • one camp chair fits in the middle of the raft for someone in need of back support;
  • an experienced and “youthful” river guide is needed to steer the boat and assist entry and exit;
  • we would need to set a lower limit of water in the river (probably 400-500 cfs) so you can stay in the boat the whole trip!;
  • and finally, we need to tie in a pre-raft class at Turner as part of the programming.

If you have ideas about river trip programming for seniors please let me know as we will be developing our ideas over the winter.

I’m sorry I have no pictures of the trip, but my phone was in the drybag the whole time!  Highly advised when you go through the Cascades in low water.

Not quite this....

Not quite this….

but more like this!

but more like this!


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