Archive for the ‘Monitoring’ Category
Sadly, not a lot of good news has come across our desks over the past couple of weeks. Instead, we are hearing of major losses, or potential losses, in the gains we have made with our nation’s waters over the decades since the Clean Water Act. It is a signal that we cannot let up on our efforts to protect our freshwater, and the life it supports and the services it provides.
EPA Declares More than Half of US Rivers Unfit for Aquatic Life – A recently released report from the Environmental Protection Agency identified 55% of US rivers and stream are in poor condition for aquatic life. Major culprits include reduced riparian vegetation, phosphorus, nitrogen, mercury and bacteria. We are losing ground on our high quality rivers. Only 21% of US rivers qualified as “good biological condition compared to the 27% that fell into that category in the 2004 assessment. In the Huron, phosphorus is a big concern, as is bacterial pollution. Learn more about local water quality here or listen to a summary of our water quality monitoring results from 2012.
Judge ends federal court oversight of Detroit Water and Sewerage Department The utility responsible for delivering drinking water and treating wastewater for 4 million customers in Southeast Michigan has been under federal oversight for 35 years. Oversight will now move to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality due to significant improvements in compliance with environmental regulations. The new State permit calls for additional improvements to the facility’s wastewater treatment operations.
Spring Rain, Then Foul Algae in Ailing Lake Erie The Huron’s receiving water, Lake Erie, is in trouble. Toxic algal blooms in the lake are getting worse causing problems for fish populations, tourism and beaches. The lake had seen vast improvements since the Clean Water Act helped halt industrial pollution. Now, we are losing ground primarily due to phosphorus pollution primarily from farming practices. Climate change and zebra mussels are also cited as contributing to the problem.
Hydraulic fracturing in Michigan: Waiting for the boom So far, the Huron River watershed and much of Michigan has not been subject to natural gas extraction via the hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, process that has many states debating costs versus benefits of the method. The method uses a lot of water and a slurry of chemicals deep into the earth. This article shares why fracking has not yet come to our backyard and under what conditions it may.
The effort to derail ‘Biodiversity Stewardship Areas’ in Michigan Here is another voice in the debate over Senate bill 78. This is a very important issue to us and anyone who values our state’s natural areas and their inhabitants. We will continue to keep you up-to-date on our website. To learn more about the issue and how to voice your opinion see our blog Healthy Forests and Waters At-Risk in Michigan .
- A beautiful Huron River, where it crosses Zeeb Road. credit: John Lloyd
- Dave Wilson samples Woods Creek! credit: Nate Antieau
- Digging through the muck of Port Creek. credit: Mark Schaller
- A quick break for the camera! credit: John Lloyd
- "Do you see anything?" credit: John Lloyd
Bring on the “brrr!”
On January 26, 110 intrepid volunteers faced the harsh winter elements and spread across the Huron River watershed in search of stoneflies, which are only found in clean and healthy streams. Everyone made it back safe, which is the number one priority, and it seemed that a good time was had by all.
In 2012 the Stonefly Search volunteers had to deal with melting snow and flood conditions, but this year we had a deep freeze in the week preceeding the Search, and most of the teams had to break their way through the ice in order to sample the stream macroinvertebrates. Despite this challenging problem, stoneflies were found in great abundance at many locations. The results are in, and are given in this pdf report.
1. The status quo is being maintained for most of the sampling sites. Sites that have had stoneflies in the past are still able to support them, and sites that were not healthy enough to hold stoneflies still do not have them. That being said, we did see a few changes this year which are detailed below.
2. Four sites had the best stonefly samples that had ever been seen at those locations: Chilson Creek at Chilson Road, Fleming Creek at Galpin Road, the Huron River at Flat Rock, and Woodruff Creek at Buno Road. At each of these sites, the stoneflies normally found at the location were there, but also new stonefly families were found that had never been seen there before! A greater diversity of stoneflies indicates greater stream health. These are promising results and hopefully it will continue into longer term trends.
3. The team searching for stoneflies in Woods Creek in Belleville came back disappointed. Wood’s Creek at the Lower Huron Metropark has been sampled 12 times since 1997, and this is the first time that stoneflies could not be found. The problem likely comes from the thick ice and difficult conditions rather than pollution or disturbed stream habitat, but we will keep an eye on Wood’s Creek next year.
4. Traver Creek is a stream in north Ann Arbor that has typical urban stream problems- in particular, flashy flows and runoff, oil, and sediment from roads. In the past couple of years, part of the train track berm washed out and released a large plume of sediment to Traver Creek. However, we were pleased that both of the sites sampled on Traver Creek this year turned up stoneflies. The sites were both upstream and downstream of the wash-out.
Next on the horizon!
Interested in doing more with our macroinvertebrate searches? Think about becoming a trained leader or collector by coming to the next training on March 24. This is an extremely important job because every team needs both a trained leader and collector, and we often do not have enough to meet the demand. Sign up for the training!
2012 was a dry year for the watershed. No significant storms occurred after mid-April, and very little precipitation fell at all through the entire month of July. Flows in the river and tributary streams hit record lows in late July and early August. What effect did this dry spring and summer have on the water quality in the watershed? Results from HRWC’s Water Quality Monitoring Program help answer this question.
The program had a banner year in 2012 with the greatest number of volunteers (49) trained and deployed to the most sites (36) across three counties. HRWC added 14 new sites in 2012 alone as the program expanded into Wayne County. This diligent corps of dedicated volunteers collected nearly 500 sets of water quality samples for analysis at municipal labs administered by the cities of Ann Arbor and Brighton and the Ypsilanti Communities Utility Authority (YCUA).
The state of Michigan does not have a numerical standard for phosphorus levels, but 50 µg/l is used for area lakes as a level to stay below in order to avoid serious algae blooms and fish kills. Concentrations of total phosphorus (TP) in monitored streams were roughly the same, on average, as the past two years. Wayne County streams (which include some that drain directly to the Detroit River) had the highest mean concentration at 100 µg/l, while Washtenaw County streams averaged 80 µg/l, and Livingston County streams were much lower at 30 µg/l. The portion of the watershed in Livingston County retains more wetland area (wetlands filter phosphorus), and a smaller developed or urbanized area than in Washtenaw or Wayne County. Mean stream flow, or discharge, was much less in 2012 than in previous years resulting in an overall “load” of phosphorus (i.e., the total mass of phosphorus moving downstream over a given period of time) from these streams that was lower than in previous years. Also, sediments (measured as Total Suspended Sediments or TSS) were slightly lower on average this year. Fewer storms means less erosion, or soil runoff, which may have also helped to keep phosphorus levels down, since phosphorus readily attaches to soil particles.
Bacteria Still a Health Concern
Bacteria levels, as measured by Eschericia coli, continue to be high in several areas of the watershed during 2012. Levels regularly exceeded state standards for human health in most monitored tributary streams in Washtenaw and Wayne counties. Notable exceptions were Woods Creek, Fleming Creek, and the Huron River upstream of Ann Arbor. Efforts to identify specific sources of bacteria in Honey Creek in Scio Township were not particularly fruitful. Bacteria counts were high throughout the streams of Honey Creek, and genetic tracking showed that a wide variety of animals contributes to the problem (including humans).
Stormwater Runoff Problem Persists
While the lack of major storms this season may have reduced the overall amount of erosion and other runoff pollution, tributary streams continue to exhibit unnatural flows. Streams throughout Wayne County (with the exception of Woods Creek) and the urbanized areas of Washtenaw County exhibited much higher peak flows following storms than would be expected from the size of their watersheds, and the flows returned to low flow much more quickly. Notably, at the driest points in July and August, some smaller creeks stopped flowing altogether. Typically, unaltered perennial streams should continue to receive sufficient groundwater in-flow even through the drought experienced in 2012.
Some of these flow characteristics also led to dissolved oxygen levels that were below state standards set to protect aquatic life. The streams in question are ones that were severely channelized (straightened and deepened), and the low water levels isolated sections from in-flow of oxygen-rich water, causing them to stagnate for long periods. Bugs, fish and other aquatic life will return to these creeks as flow returns, but they will have a difficult time sustaining a healthy, diverse population over the long term with such periodic oxygen starvation. While a number of programs and projects to reduce stormwater runoff are encouraging, these results suggest there is still a long way to go.
The Water Quality Monitoring Program is funded by local government agencies through HRWC partnerships for stormwater and watershed management.
In 1972, the Huron River Watershed Council was a seven-year-old organization with a staff of one part-time director caring for a river that changed color (and odor) depending on which industry was dumping waste water into it.
Forty years later, a full-time Executive Director oversees a staff of ten professionals who study, plan, implement and facilitate for the benefit of the Huron River and its communities. Quantifying the impact of the Clean Water Act of 1972 on this watershed is challenging yet undeniable.
Since the 1990s, when the US EPA began awarding grants through the provisions of the Clean Water Act, HRWC has received about 24 grants valued at over $3,000,000 that reach into all communities of the watershed with the unifying goal of making the river more swimmable, fishable and drinkable. These grants have restored creeks, protected high quality streams, and developed forward-looking plans that commit stakeholders to restoration and protection actions.
Add to those impressive numbers the low-interest loans and grants awarded to HRWC’s partners for drinking water, waste water and storm water infrastructure improvements, and the investment in the Huron River watershed through the Clean Water Act is unmatched. Of course, the Act provides more than financial resources; it gives citizens and communities a tool to advocate for and expect clean water.
In this auspicious year of presidential and local elections, learning about the Clean Water Act is an important step to understanding its reach and value. The US EPA, the federal agency primarily responsible for implementing the Act, highlights the 40th anniversary, as well.
HRWC is honored to share the podium on October 18th at a 40th Anniversary Celebration of this landmark legislation with one of its architects, Congressman John Dingell, on the banks of the Huron River in Flat Rock.
Everyone is invited to be a part of history at Huroc Park (Arsenal and Huron Streets) where the Congressman will make remarks and be joined by other speakers including HRWC Executive Director Laura Rubin and Elizabeth Riggs for RiverUp!
Rain or shine, friends of the Huron and fresh water everywhere will come together to celebrate the Act’s legacy and share hopes for the future.
Participants of the Nature Adventure Summer Day Camp at the Leslie Science & Nature Center had the opportunity to see what water quality is all about up-close and personal. The camp, which runs weekly throughout the summer, gives kids the opportunity to have some fun in the sun while bringing about an educational experience with science and wildlife. HRWC partners with the Leslie Science & Nature Center by providing an interactive session on water quality.
Campers from grades 1st through 5th joined HRWC staff and volunteers at Traver Creek to discuss the makeup of the Huron River watershed and why it is such an important resource to protect. Basic water chemistry and monitoring techniques involved with the HRWC’s water quality monitoring program were introduced to campers, including measuring for water temperature, pH, and a variety of nutrients in the water. The HRWC crew brought along insect identification equipment to give the kids a hands-on experience, as well as to bring the day’s discussion full circle.
Campers inspected for the small inhabitants of the nearby stream using magnifying glasses to take a closer look at large rocks, sediment, and water from the creek. Stoneflies and midges were noteworthy among the samples, but for most groups the crayfish was the celebrity of the day. Campers and staff alike enjoyed getting a glimpse of the diverse collection of macroinvertebrate life and the positive signs it shows for Traver Creek.
HRWC’s Bioreserve project field assessment volunteers have witnessed some pretty spectacular landscapes so far this field season! This includes extensive marsh and fen ecosystems in Lyndon Township and south of West Lake in Dexter Township. Volunteers are even taking their ipads out in the field to help with plant identification!
The field assessors are gathering data about natural areas in order to educate landowners about the ecological quality of their property and help conservancies and communities target their preservation efforts towards the most important natural areas.
For more information about the Bioreserve project, and if you’d like to join our field assessors, contact Kris Olsson
If you are a “Plant Person,” who can identify most wildflower, shrub, and tree species in a typical Michigan forest or wetland, we could especially use your help and expertise! You can join teams of assessors on these fun forays into the “wilderness!”
Spring is here! Trilliums are blooming, frogs are calling, and turtles are basking! As you spend more time outside conducting field work or simply enjoying “Pure Michigan,” be on the lookout for reptiles and amphibians in Michigan. When you see an amphibian or reptile, you can help state biologists by entering your observation into the Michigan Herp Atlas database (www.MIHerpAtlas.org).
The Michigan Herp Atlas Project is a database that documents the distribution of all herps in Michigan and is a resource for amphibian and reptile conservation. The Michigan Herp Atlas Project relies on you to gather data about Michigan’s amphibians and reptiles. Your information is used to help evaluate species’ distribution, overall health, and current status in Michigan. Your observations are incredibly valuable to the preservation of Michigan’s herpetofauna and natural resources. Even the most informal or seemingly common observations are vital to this project: enter observations about the garter snakes you see in your garden, the toads hopping in the park, and even the unfortunate dead herp on the side of the road. With your continued effort we will be able to document changes in herp populations and better protect and preserve our herpetofauna.
Please join in the effort to conserve Michigan’s wildlife by entering your herp observations into the Michigan Herp Atlas. Register at http://miherpatlas.org/signup.php. If you are a new user, simply register, then you can start adding your observations. If you have any questions, you can contact David Mifsud.
Huron River at White Lake Road!!!
For the 18th year in a row, the Huron River at White Lake Road had far-and-away the healthiest “bug” population as determined by HRWC’s semi-annual macroinvertebrate collection event. This location is in Indian Springs Metropark in Oakland County and is very near to the uppermost headwaters of the river. HRWC has highlighted this section of the river many times, but the site does deserve the attention. HRWC volunteers have found rare insects here numerous times and consistently find many insect families that only live in the most pristine of waters.
Let’s take a step back…
On April 21, one-hundred forty adventurous volunteers spread across the Huron River watershed to collect benthic macroinvertebrates: the crustaceans, insects, and mollusks that live in our creeks and rivers. Typically, only the healthiest streams will have abundant and diverse populations. Polluted streams and other streams that are heavily impacted by human activities will hold fewer of these creatures, and may only contain the most pollution tolerant types. By watching the long-term trends of these populations, HRWC can tell where pollution may be becoming a problem and that helps direct HRWC’s time and effort.
Overall watershed assessment
In order to get an overall sense of the health of the Huron River Watershed, HRWC samples macroinvertebrates from sixty-four 300 foot sections of the creeks and rivers. The sampling sites have been selected to provide equal geographic representation from the various areas throughout the watershed.
In regards to how the macroinvertebrate populations are changing at these sites:
- 34 sites have remained largely unchanged since monitoring began on them
- 9 sites have improved
- 11 sites have declined
- 10 sites are new to the program and cannot be judged until more data is collected.
In regards to their overall quality:
- 3 sites are excellent (The best, most pristine areas)
- 15 sites are good (Their macroinvertebrate populations are higher than we would expect based on the stream size, water temperature, and stream substrate).
- 24 sites are fair (Their macroinvertebrate populations are slightly lower than we would expect based on the stream size, water temperature, and stream substrate)
- 10 sites are poor (Pollution and other human impacts have severely damaged the macroinvertebrate populations at these sites)
- 10 sites are new to the program and cannot be judged until more data is collected.
Other noteworthy results:
1) South Ore Creek (Livingston County, flowing through and near Brighton) has never had great macroinvertebrate populations since HRWC began sampling here. This is a populated area of the Huron River watershed and is negatively affected by a variety of human impacts, including dams and subdivisions. Our April results show that things may be getting worse: the insect counts in 2 of the 3 sample sites on South Ore Creek are declining significantly, and the third site was already one of the worst places we monitor in Livingston County.
2) Boyden Creek (Washtenaw County, flowing through and around the Loch Alpine neighborhood) is showing the opposite trend. This is also a populated area of the Huron River watershed, and is also impacted by dams and subdivisions, but the data show that the macroinvertebrate populations have been getting significantly better over time. The similarities between Boyden Creek and South Ore Creek are interesting given that their macroinvertebrate populations are changing in opposite directions. This contrast is a bit confounding and is something to study further.
3) Congratulations to all of our Wood Creek Friends! Woods Creek at the Lower Huron River Metropark (Wayne County, near Belleville) had its best fall sample ever in 2011, and in this 2012 sample season it had its best spring sample ever. This sample was composed of fifteen insect families, including two families of stoneflies. The data now show significant improvement to the insect populations at this site.
Are you interested in getting into the water this summer?We want you to join a team that will measure and map a stream site this summer! Learn to “read a river” by characterizing the bed, the banks and other indicators of stream health. Training for this program will be on August 5! See our volunteer page for more information!
Find insects, crayfish and other small river creatures in the Huron River.
Join the Huron River Watershed Council’s River RoundUp: Saturday, April 21.
Bring a small team with your friends and family, or join others, for a unique activity in the Huron River Roundup. Collect a sample of the bugs and other creatures (benthic macroinvertebrates) that live in our streams. Like canaries in a coal mine, these creatures tell us how healthy the river and creeks are.
Trained volunteer collectors take you to two stream sites, where you help search through stones, leaves, and sediment. The amount of life in our fresh water is amazing. Volunteers meet in Ann Arbor and then go to two sites; one may be near their home. You must register early to be assigned to a team.
Children are welcome to attend with their own adult.
WHERE: Meet in Ann Arbor. Then car pool to two streams in Livingston, Oakland, Wayne and/or Washtenaw Counties.
WHEN: Two times: April 21; 9:00 AM to 3:30 PM, or 10:30 AM to 5 PM
DEADLINE: Registration closes April 16
First Time volunteer? Fill out this form: www.hrwc.org/volunteer/registration-for-first-time-volunteers/
Roundup event registration form: www.hrwc.org/volunteer/roundup/register-for-river-roundup/
Michigan’s Cooperative Lakes Monitoring Program enters its 39th field season!
One of my jobs at the Huron River Watershed Council is to serve as a manager for the state of Michigan’s volunteer lake monitoring program, the Cooperative Lakes Monitoring Program (CLMP). The CLMP has been around since 1974… that is an impressive length of time!
Since that first year, the thousands of volunteers across Michigan have:
- Taken 92,185 secchi disk measurements
- Grabbed 4,274 water samples for phosphorus analysis
- Filtered 5,956 water samples for chlorophyll
- Made 2,023 observations of the dates that ice melted off their lakes
- Measured dissolved oxygen and temperature 52,290 times and created 3,486 dissolved oxygen and temperature lake profiles
- Searched 17 lakes for exotic plants and mapped out full plant communities on 12 lakes.
All of this delicious data is entered by our volunteers and staff into a publicly accessible and searchable database!
In total, 827 inland lake basins have been monitored through one test or another through the CLMP. Michigan lake volunteers have contributed about 57,400 hours of work, not counting the time spent driving samples to State offices and going to trainings. Assuming field technicians across this time period would make an average of $9/hour, that means these volunteers have donated well over a half a million dollars in labor.
If you live on a lake, HRWC wants you to care for it and do what you can to keep it healthy. The first step is to figure out what is going on beneath the surface, and the CLMP can help you do this. It is not too late to sign up for the entry parameters: secchi disk and summer phosphorus. Register now for the 2012 field season!