Archive for the ‘Monitoring’ Category
River and creek sampling
Thanks to 137 volunteers who contributed a total of 548 volunteer hours, the 2013 Fall River Roundup was a great success! Our volunteers split into 25 teams and traveled to 50 different creek and river locations across the Huron River Watershed to assess the aquatic benthic macroinvertebrate community.
This study is one of the most effective ways that HRWC has to keep its finger on the pulse of the stream. From the data collected from this semi-annual event, we get a better understanding of which creeks and rivers are getting better, which are getting worse, and how we can direct our management activities.
You can see all the results in Fall 2013 River Roundup Report.
Current Watershed Health
In a nutshell, the health of the watershed as judged by our macroinvertebrate sampling is holding steady. Of the 62 sites that we monitor to judge this, 30 sites have had no statistically significant changes over time, and 6 sites are too new to make this judgment.
12 sites are declining, and these include locations on Chilson Creek, Davis Creek, east branch of Fleming Creek, Norton Creek, and South Ore Creek. The majority of the declining sites are in Livingston County. Eight of the declining sites are in Livingston, two are in Washtenaw, and three are in Oakland.
14 sites are significantly improving. 11 of improving sites are in Washtenaw County, including Boyden Creek, Horseshoe Creek, the main and west branches of Fleming Creek, Huron Creek, the Huron River in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, and several places on Mill Creek. 2 sites are improving in Livingston County (Horseshoe Creek at Merrill Road and Mann Creek at Van Amberg Road), and 1 site is improving in Wayne County (Woods Creek at the Lower Huron Metropark).
1. For many years HRWC has held up Millers Creek in Ann Arbor as an example of what can happen to an urban creek- the stream flow is flashy, the channel is incised, the riparian vegetation is shrubby invasive plants, and there is little life in the creek. In 2009 HRWC finished up a green infrastructure project in the headwaters of Millers designed to reduce the amount of stormwater rushing into the creek, and at the same time the City of Ann Arbor finished a major streambank stabilization project where the creek crossed Glazier Way.
The efforts spent restoring Millers Creek seems to be paying off. The sample taken in Millers Creek at Glazier Way contained the most insect families ever seen since sampling began in 1993. While the overall trend since 1993 is unchanged, from 2004 when the creek was at its worst (3 insect families), until now in 2013 (12 insect families), there is a statistically significant increase. Insects that are particularly susceptible to pollution and disturbance have yet to be found here however, and we will continue monitoring in hopes that these insects will make their way back to the stream.
2. Starting in this past January, HRWC has been sending volunteers to two new stream sites on Portage Creek near Stockbridge. This is a long drive from Ann Arbor and we appreciate the volunteers who have made this journey. This Roundup, volunteers in the Portage Creek at Rockwell site found a treasure trove of insect diversity. Twenty insect families were found which puts this new site up there with the very best places we go. We will look forward to visiting this site again in the future!
Norton creekshed in Oakland County is a Detroit suburb and industrial hub. Historically, the creek has suffered from numerous impairments and has seen little improvement as the area has become increasingly suburbanized.
In terms of the macroinvertebrate community, samples taken here have always had terrible diversity and low abundance, but in recent years things have gotten worse. When sampling started in Norton Creek at West Maple Road in 2000, it was normal to find between 8 and 10 insect families. However, volunteers during the past four fall River Roundups have found 3, 4, 4, and 3 insect families. Two of the insect families found are actually water striders, which are only semi-aquatic as they live on top of the rather than in the water.
These poor samples have made Norton Creek the worst location of all of those that HRWC monitors. For more information on Norton Creek, see our Norton Creek page and associated creekshed report. http://www.hrwc.org/norton
On January 26th, HRWC staff and volunteers will gather for the 19th annual Stonefly Search. This event is very similar to a River Roundup except that we are only looking for stoneflies. Some of these little guys can be found year round, but there are a couple of stonefly families that are only reliably found in the winter months, and they are great indicators of healthy water. We hope you and your family and friends will join us for this fun outdoor event! Register here! http://www.hrwc.org/volunteer/stonefly/
HRWC volunteers spend a lot of the summer collecting water quality information. THANK YOU! Of course, getting in the water is great fun and often a fun challenge. But what of all the data that we collect? What does it tell us? Where does it go?
2013 Field Results
Join HRWC staff as we present the results of the 2013 field work for Portage Creek, Bioreserve, Adopt-A-Stream, and Water Quality Monitoring. Program directors Kris Olsson, Paul Steen, Pam Labadie and Ric Lawson will give presentations on the most recent findings, followed by Q and A.
Wednesday, November 20, 2013
6:30 – 8:00 PM
NEW Center Conference Rooms
1100 North Main Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48104
Please RSVP to Jason: JFrenzel@hrwc.org
As reported last September, HRWC is compiling all of our data on a creekshed scale, looking specifically at our creeks and the land that affects them. We are synthesizing all of our knowledge on these creeksheds and putting them into easily digestible and colorful 4 page reports.
There are now seven creekshed reports available, including the Woods Creek report, which was just finished.
Woods Creek, located near Belleville, is the healthiest lower Huron River tributary. There are several ordinances protecting the creek and there are many invested citizens who live in the watershed, including the Woods Creek Friends.
This edition of News to Us highlights some shifting sands in the State and watershed that could have negative implications for water resources in the Huron. At the same time, local action is leading to protections for our natural areas and communities in Dexter Township and Ann Arbor. Finally, learn about an interesting new application of crowdsourcing to monitor water levels.
Michigan in danger of losing wetlands permitting program: Just signed by the Governor!
New legislation (SB 163) is being put in front of Governor Snyder that would weaken protections on Michigan wetlands. HRWC has signed on to a letter opposing the bill. Wetlands are extremely important in maintaining the water quality of the Huron River and Great Lakes and provide valuable services to communities across the state. We think the bill fails to comply with the federal Clean Water Act in a number of important ways. In addition, many of the changes unnecessarily increase program costs and reduce revenue being raised from those parties that utilize and benefit from the program. Our 3 main concerns are the creation of exemptions that will jeopardize the program assumption, mitigation issues, and the contiguous language.
Highland to host ‘fracking’ meeting
We have been keeping our eye on the issue of the use of new fracking methods to extract natural gas in the State of Michigan. The deeper horizontal wells require a large volume of water and has the potential to contaminate ground water sources with the chemicals used in the process. To date, fracking has been a bigger threat in other parts of the state. This articles shares that new state-issued oil and gas drilling leases in Oakland County are opening up thousands of acres to exploration, extraction and possibly fracking. The County is hosting a series of public meetings on the issue. Many residents and the County itself are concerned about the threat. Some areas cited for exploration are in the headwaters of the Huron River.
DEXTER: Township adopts green infrastructure map
Last week Dexter Township was presented with a Green Infrastructure map developed by HRWC and Township officials and residents earlier this year. The map captures the natural areas in the township that provide many benefits to the community, wildlife and water resources. The map was adopted by the township planning commission and can be used to inform master planning and ordinance development. This is part of a larger effort at HRWC to protect the quality of the Portage Creekshed. Learn more about the program here.
Transforming adversity into opportunity: Bringing resiliency to every community in America
Ann Arbor is one of 50 inaugural signatories on the Resilient Communities for America Agreement in which leaders pledge to take actions that create cities and towns more resilient to the impacts of climate change. Congratulations on being a leader in climate resiliency by making a local commitment to minimize the risk and impacts of extreme weather events and energy challenges.
There are 7 places in Michigan where you can text data to scientists
HRWC collects water level data at many locations throughout the watershed but we could always use more. Here is a fun, citizen-driven solution to getting more data about the status of our streams and rivers. CrowdHydrology allows citizen to text water level measurements to a central database for further analysis. What do you think? Would you participate?
In this edition of our river news round up, read about river heroes from young to old, take a look back at your community through time using a new Google tool, learn what you need to know about ticks.
Muir Middle School Students Participate in Project GREEN, Clean Up Huron River Getting children out to the river is such a great way to build a connection to our environment. A group of middle school students spent a day in the Huron cleaning up trash and taking water quality measurements. Thanks to Mrs. Gustafson’s class at Muir Middle School in Milford for helping protect the Huron River!
A look back at modern-day John Dingell in Ann Arbor As a clean water advocate and good friend of HRWC, we want to say congratulations to John Dingell for becoming the longest serving member of Congress. He has been a strong advocate for the people of his district and has helped communities of the Huron River Watershed on many issues important to our quality of life.
Watch Michigan change over time using Google’s ‘Earth Engine’ Do you remember “how it used to be?” Take a look back in time with this cool new tool from Google that lets you look at your community and how it has changed over the recent decades. Notice anything interesting, fun or sad? Let us know in the comments.
There’s a tick boom in Michigan – Here are 5 things you should know As many of our field volunteers can tell you, it is a bumper year for ticks in this area. Don’t be alarmed. Just be aware. And use this resource and others to make sure that any ticks you may encounter did not leave behind more than an itchy bite and creepy feeling.
Preparation begins for $3.16M reconstruction of Madison Street in Old West Side A new road project is set to include features that reduce stormwater impacts to the neighborhood residents, city infrastructure and the river. Features like larger storm pipes and rain gardens can keep water out of our streets and basements. The gardens, in particular also help keep pollutants and detrimental flows from reaching the Huron. A large portion of this project is funded through Ann Arbor’s stormwater utility – a steady source of funds for proactive projects that help protect the river from stormwater impacts.
Grand Opening Celebration, Saturday, June 22, 5:30 to 8pm.
The City of Ann Arbor, in partnership with the Washtenaw County Water Resources Commissioner’s Office, recently completed a streambank stabilization project on Traver Creek,
extending through the Leslie Park Golf Course. The project corrected severe streambank erosion and addressed high volumes of sediment and attached pollutants that were being removed and deposited downstream.
This project is a partnership between the city and the Washtenaw County Water Resources Commissioner’s Office. Departments within the city that worked collaboratively include Ann Arbor Parks and Recreation, Natural Area Preservation and Water Quality Management.
The scope of this project included Traver Creek being regraded, stabilized and naturalized. This project will alleviate downstream flooding, and address bank erosion as well as reduction of the phosphorus load in Traver Creek, tributary to the Huron River. In addition, there was an opportunity to create an area with native wetland plantings to establish an inline constructed wetland. Constructed wetlands are one of the best methods for pollutant removal, mitigation of peak flow rates and even reduce runoff volumes. They also can provide considerable aesthetic and wildlife benefits.
Interesting project-related facts:
- Length of channel: 3,300 feet
- Earth moved: 30,000 cubic yards
- Native Area/Wetland created: 6.5 acres
- Native restoration: 10.2 acres
- Erosion prevented: 687 tons annually
- Native trees planted: 79
- Native shrubs planted: 347
- Species of wildflower seed planted: over 50
- Daylighted/reestablished the Arrowwood branch of the Traver Creek
- Aquatic habitat structures installed to create riffles and runs
- Approximately $865,000 received in grant funding for water quality improvements
Flooding and bank erosion not only affect water quality, but increase golf course maintenance and sometimes limit golf play. For these reasons, the project was designed to help stabilize the creek channel and increase the drainage capacity of Traver Creek on Leslie Park Golf Course. The ponds on holes 12 and 17 were reconfigured to slow runoff that occurs after a rainstorm and will help capture sediment.
HRWC staff and volunteers conducted water quality monitoring prior to and during construction. We plan to continue monitoring for the coming 3-5 years to determine effectiveness of the project. Prior to the project, it was determined that the section of creek being repaired was releasing 48% more phosphorus than upstream and 200% more than downstream sections. Also, HRWC volunteers, along with Leslie Science and Nature Center camp youth conducted benthic macroinvertebrate evaluation, temperature study, and water chemistry analysis.
The public is invited to see and learn how the improvements benefit water quality, the environment, and enhance the golfing experience at the award winning Leslie Park Golf Course. The grand opening event takes place Saturday, June 22, 5:30 to 8 p.m. and will feature tours, games, and refreshments will be served.
A team of volunteers and staff from HRWC and the Huron Clinton Metroparks found over 80 different species of wildflowers, trees, and grasses on just under a mile-long stretch through a 100-acre portion of Huron Meadows Metropark recently. The metropark, one of 10 that run along the Huron River for much of its length, is home to 1,000 acres of upland forest, wooded swamp, grassland, fens, and wet meadows, as well as the Huron River itself, which makes it a great destination for hikers in the summer and cross country skiers in the winter.
This summer, HRWC’s bioreserve project is leading field assessments on Metropark properties, as well as properties local land conservancies are working on protecting, in order to provide the Metroparks and conservancies with detailed ecological information to aid in their management and preservation efforts.
The field assessment for Huron Meadows will help Metroparks staff target invasive control efforts in the natural areas within the parks. For instance, the team found a large wetland complex on the west side of their survey area that flowed beyond the park to border Ore Lake. While high quality, the wetland would benefit from a glossy buckthorn control effort on its southern side, but was mostly free of invasives to the north. The team also discovered several vernal ponds pocketed in low lying areas within the oak-hickory forest hills that are most likely great habitat for frogs and salamanders.
A wet and wild spring
On April 20, teams of HRWC volunteers poured from our office and explored the Huron Watershed in search of aquatic insects, snails, clams, and crustaceans. The data that these volunteers collect enables HRWC to keep a finger on the pulse of the Huron River and it’s tributaries; to understand where streams are degrading and where they are getting better.
This year’s event was marked by very high water, just like our Spring Roundup in 2011. And just like in 2011, data interpretation has been difficult. The data collected from a River Roundup are meant to show overall conditions across the watershed and be comparable to past year’s data in order to tell us how things are changing over time. In flooded conditions, the stream systems are not comparable to past years, often because the volunteers are forced to sample in an unusual manner (like standing on the bank and reaching into the swollen river rather than entering it).
QAPPs are useful- yes, seriously!
HRWC follows a quality assurance project plan (QAPP) to make sure that we deal with the issue of bad samples in a consistent manner.
From the QAPP:
“The resulting measures of Total Insect Taxa for each site will be compared to the median from the site’s whole data record and there should be a relative percent difference of less than 40%. The same comparison will be made for Total Abundance (for all taxa).
Sample results that exceed these standards will be noted as “outliers” and examined to determine if the results are likely due to sampling error or a true environmental variation. If sampling error is determined or if the environmental variation is not reflective of normal conditions (ie extreme flooding), the data point shall be removed from the data record.”
13 samples were removed from the official data record for failing to meet these requirements. The rejected samples had on average total abundances 50% less than the median of past results, and coincidentally 50% less insect diversity than the median of past results. (We would expect these two numbers to be related but it is strange that they are exactly the same).
2 samples were at new sites where past data didn’t exist to test results against the QAPP
requirements, but volunteer descriptions make it plain that the sites could not be sampled properly. These samples were also rejected.
27 samples were accepted. For all accepted samples, total abundance was down 20%, and insect diversity was only down 14% from the median of past results. This amount of variation is normal even in unflooded conditions.
You can see all the results in the Spring 2013 River Roundup Report.
Current Watershed Health
In a nutshell, the health of the watershed as judged by our macroinvertebrate sampling is holding steady. Of the 59 sites that we monitor to judge this, 28 sites have had no statistically significant changes over time, and 6 sites are too new to make this judgment.
13 sites are declining, and these include locations on Chilson Creek, Davis Creek, east branch of Fleming Creek, the Huron River at Flat Rock, Norton Creek, and South Ore Creek. It should be pointed out, as it was after the 2012 Fall Roundup, that the majority (though not all) of the declining sites are in Livingston County.
12 sites are improving, including Boyden Creek, Horseshoe Creek, the main and west branches of Fleming Creek, Huron Creek, the Huron River in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, and several places on Mill Creek. The majority (though not all) of the improving sites are in Washtenaw County.
The rejected samples aren’t thrown away. They are placed into a separate database and flagged with the reason for their exclusion. Such data may prove useful in the future- for example, quantifying the effect of high flows on macroinvertebrate populations… as a way at getting at how climate change could be changing our watershed.
Let’s hope for a drier fall- but if it is wet and flooded again- we know how to deal with it!
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!