ABOUT THE LOWER HURON WATERSHED
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Water resources of Huron River
The Huron River Watershed is one of Michigan’s natural treasures. The Huron River supplies drinking water to approximately 150,000 people, supports one of Michigan’s finest smallmouth bass fisheries, and is the State’s only designated Scenic River in southeast Michigan. The Huron River Watershed is a unique and valuable resource in southeast Michigan that contains two-thirds of all southeast Michigan’s public recreational lands. In recognition of its value, the State has officially designated 37 miles of the Huron River and three of its tributaries as Michigan Department of Natural Resources Country Scenic River under the State’s Natural Rivers Act (Act 231, PA 1970). The Huron is home to one-half million people, numerous threatened and endangered species and habitats, abundant bogs, wet meadows, and remnant prairies of statewide significance.
Location and size of Huron River Watershed
The Huron River basin is located in southeastern Michigan and encompasses approximately 908 square miles of Ingham, Jackson, Livingston, Monroe, Oakland, Washtenaw, and Wayne counties. The main stem of the Huron River is approximately 136 miles long, with its origin located at Big Lake and the Huron Swamp in Springfield Township, Oakland County. The main stem of the river meanders from the headwaters through a complex series of wetlands and lakes in a southwesterly direction to the area of Portage Lake. Here, the river begins to flow south until reaching the Village of Dexter in Washtenaw County, where it turns southeasterly and proceeds to its final destination of Lake Erie. The Huron is not a free-flowing river. At least 98 dams segment the river system, of which 17 are located on the main stem.
Location and size of Lower Huron River Watershed
The immediate drainage area to the Lower Huron River is 74 square miles (47,287 acres), representing approximately 8% of the Huron River basin. The vast majority of the Lower Huron River Watershed lies within Wayne County and comprises all or portions of fourteen municipalities. The southernmost portion of the Watershed is located in Monroe County and the far western portion lies in Washtenaw County’s Ypsilanti Charter Township. The Watershed includes large portions of Belleville, Brownstown, Huron Township, Flat Rock and Rockwood, the southern half of Van Buren Township, the northeastern edge of Sumpter Township, the western edge of Romulus, the northeastern portion of Ash Township, the southern portions of Woodhaven and Gibraltar, and the northern portions of Berlin Township and South Rockwood. Active agricultural fields, grasslands/old agricultural fields and low-density residential areas are found throughout the watershed while medium- and high-density residential and commercial and industrial areas are focused in the downstream communities and in the villages and cities. Nearly 10,940 acres of wetlands remain in the Watershed as of 2000. Included in the Watershed are four Metroparks (Lower Huron; Willow; Oakwoods; and Lake Erie), and the Pointe Mouillée State Game Area providing over 7,500 acres of public land for recreation and natural resource protection.
Water resources of Lower Huron River
The Lower Huron River begins downstream of the French Landing Dam that creates Belleville Lake in Van Buren Charter Township, and flows to Lake Erie. More than a dozen tributaries flow into the Lower Huron River including the more significant Silver Creek that drains the eastern areas of the watershed and has 81 miles of streams and Griggs Drain that drains the northwestern area of the watershed and has 27 miles of streams. The main stem of the Huron River itself is 28.5 miles long with an additional 145 miles of streams.
Human impacts on Lower Huron River
Impacts to the downriver reaches of the Huron River have long been felt since human activities historically have been located in this area as a result of close proximity to Detroit and other Great Lakes coastal towns and harbors. In recent decades, the Lower Huron River Watershed and the Huron River basin have experienced amplified development pressures from a growing economy and urban sprawl. The U.S. Census in 2000 counted 48,110 individuals living in the census blocks of the Lower Huron River Watershed. According to the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG), the total population of the Watershed communities averaged an increase of 23% from 1990 to 2004. Projections to 2030 estimate a 26.2% average increase in total population from 2004 levels. The number of households of the Watershed communities averaged an increase of 35% from 1990 to 2004. Projections to 2030 estimate a 42% average increase in total households from 2004 levels.