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Follow the Huron River Water Trail to adventure . . .

Explore flat water paddling in Ann Arbor!logo-hrwt

The launch at Barton Park, just below the Barton Dam provides convenient parking and easy flat water paddling for a nice round trip down to Bandemer Park and back. The route takes you through the Barton Nature Area. There’s a parking lot at Bird Road and Huron River Drive (it is often full on weekend afternoons) and it takes about 45 minutes of paddling to get to the landing spot at Bandemer Park (river right) just downstream of the M-14 bridge. There is a launch/dock with nearby restrooms and a picnic area, including a shelter. Paddling back to Barton is a little more effort, but not bad.

The launch at Barton, just downstream of the dam.

The launch at Barton, just downstream of the dam.

The Ann Arbor Rowing Club, Michigan Men’s Rowing and Huron High School Rowing are heavy users of this section of the river, with most practices in the early mornings and evenings. To avoid problems, paddle closer to the shorelines during these times, or be prepared to get out of the way quickly. Watching these teams work the river can be exciting.

Have fun, stay safe with these TIPS from the Trail!

Join HRWC for Huron River Appreciation Day, Sunday July 10! Come along on a guided trip of the Huron River Water Trail in Dexter, paddle the Lower Huron from Flat Rock or paddle to Milford from Proud Lake, hear a talk on paddling safety and get a free life jacket, hear a river history talk or learn to fly fish! 

toyota_logoHuron River Appreciation Day is sponsored by TOYOTA.



Follow the Huron River Water Trail to adventure . . .

Tubing on the Huron River

My tubing buddies

Explore tubing on the river between Dexter and Ann Arbor

If you’ve never tubed on the river you should try it.  At first I was intimidated by the young, more rowdy crowds of tubers but found quickly that tubing can be a quiet, cooling, and beautiful way to experience the river. The tubes are relatively inexpensive.  Grab a pump that can run off your power outlet in your car.  Pick a hot day and leave a bike or car at the Washtenaw County Stokes-Burns Park on Zeeb Road and then head to Dexter-Huron Metropark.

The rest is easy.  Relax into your tube (wear a bathing suit or shorts that can get wet) and the steady current will take you gently down the river.  The mile-long trip takes about an hour and a half and takes you through a beautiful stretch of the river where you catch glimpses of fish, very large and colorful dragonflies, indian paintbrush plants, herons, osprey, and other plants and animals I can’t name. On a hot day, its just about perfect!  We do try to avoid the weekend river rush-hour and usually have a very relaxing experience.

If you are looking for a more lively adventure with lots of people and action, check out Tube the River from the City of Ann Arbor for info on trips through the Argo Cascades.

Join HRWC for Huron River Appreciation Day, Sunday July 10! Come along on a guided trip of the Huron River in Dexter, paddle the Lower Huron with Motor City Canoe Rental, hear a talk on paddling safety and get a free life jacket in Milford or Dexter, learn the history of the Huron or take a fly fishing lesson in Ypsilanti! Sponsored by TOYOTA.

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News to Us

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DIA InsideOut exhibit in Flat Rock – Huroc Park

Our monthly news roundup provides some watershed stories covering a fun event in Flat Rock and emerging research on the dioxane groundwater contamination in the Ann Arbor area.  Bridge Magazine published an in depth article on the rising profile of County Drain Commissioners.  And two new reports provide a look at how climate change is being addressed in planning efforts nationwide and is likely to impact public health in Michigan.

InsideOut exhibit brings museum-quality artwork to Flat Rock
Check out a unique art exhibit in one of the Huron River Watershed’s Trail Towns. For the second year in a row Flat Rock is displaying replica’s of fine artworks this summer through the DIA’s InsideOut program.  This year you can see 8 paintings at locations throughout the town.

Professor says dioxane probably has reached Huron River already
Dr. Lemke of Wayne State University has been studying the Pall Gelman dioxane plume since 1998. He recently presented results of some modelling efforts that show a more nuanced range of possibilities for the movement of the contamination in Ann Arbor’s groundwater. The article illustrates further the need for better monitoring and solid planning for many potential scenarios about the path and time it will take for the dioxane to reach the river. (Note: While we think this is important news to cover, the headline here is misleading. There has been no evidence to suggest the plume has reached the Huron yet and the city of Ann Arbor regularly tests Barton Pond for dioxane.)

Why on earth is Candice Miller running for county drain commissioner?
This article discusses the role of county drain commissioners (sometimes known as water resource commissioners as they are in Washtenaw and Oakland Counties) and how this elected position is becoming higher profile in light of growing issues with water quality and water infrastructure. The Flint water crisis, combined sewer overflows, beach closings, and Great Lakes water quality are bringing much needed attention to our states aging water and sewer infrastructure.

Cities trying to plan for warmer, wetter climate
A researcher at the University of Michigan conducted a review of climate adaptation plans around the nation.  These plans are intended to determine what is necessary to create a town or city that is prepared for the impacts of climate change and able to bounce back quickly from these impacts.  While more communities are completing plans, they are falling short on implementation. How these strategies will be funded and who is responsible for carrying them out remains an area of adaptation that needs attention.

Changing climate conditions in Michigan pose an emerging public health threat
Additional new climate change research coming out of Michigan focuses on the human health impacts. “Michigan Climate and Health Profile Report 2015: Building resilience against climate effects on Michigan’s health” chronicles the many ways that more heat and more heavy rain events can affect our health.  Respiratory diseases, heat related illnesses and water and vector borne diseases are areas of concern.



Enjoy the Outdoors?

Erin Burkett examines giant leaves on a recent assessment. Can you identify the tree?

Erin Burkett examines giant leaves on a recent assessment. Can you identify the tree?

Get Outdoors and Support the Huron River!

We need volunteers to join our natural area field assessment teams!

Get outside, meet new people, learn about our local natural areas and help out HRWC’s Bioreserve Natural Areas Assessment program! HRWC is seeking field volunteers to help inventory ecologically important natural areas in the watershed.

Volunteer teams will be conducting rapid ecological assessments of grasslands, forests, wetlands, and aquatic habitats throughout this spring, summer and fall. Each visit is like a nature hike through a new woods or wetland.

The 2016 season marks our nineth field season; volunteers have so far assessed over 300 properties throughout S.E. Michigan.  These efforts have helped protect over 6,000 acres of land in the watershed. Land conservancies and community preservation programs use the data gathered to promote permanent protection of those lands identified as the highest quality and most important for protection of the Huron River. Come to our program introduction and training on

May 14, 2016
10 am to 4 pm 
at Independence Lake County Park, in Whitmore Lake

For more information, contact Kris Olsson at 734-769-5123 x 607, kolsson@hrwc.org.


News to Us

High water on the Huron

High water on the Huron

Oops, we goofed. Find our most recent News to Us, May 16, HERE.

Each of the articles highlighted in this edition of News to Us touch on the conflicts that can arise between development and water resources. From piping our rivers underground, to living with legacy pollution. From building in floodways to problems associated with aging infrastructure. There is much to be done, and there is much we are doing.

Great Lakes cities swallow streams
A recently published study set out to identify buried streams in cities throughout the Great Lakes.  In our urban areas, rivers and streams were commonly buried and constrained in pipes. The practice of daylighting is bringing some of these streams back but this is a costly endeavor. Look at maps from Detroit and Ann Arbor to see how much of our rivers are now lost beneath the pavement.

Gov. Rick Snyder makes appointments to new 21stCentury Infrastructure Commission
Several representatives from the Huron River watershed have been appointed to a commission tasked with developing strategies to insure Michigan’s infrastructure remains safe and efficient.  The group will serve in an advisory role to the Executive Office and will put forward recommendations by November, 2016.

Cleaning up the past for a brighter, ‘bluer’ economic future in Michigan
This article discusses how we are cleaning up the pollution legacy left in the Great Lakes left behind from an era of industry where not much thought was given to toxins and waste.  Learn about the role of the Clean Water Act, Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement Areas of Concern designations and the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative that have helped restore some of the most polluted areas in the State.

City releases new details about sewage spill in Malletts Creek
Last week, Ann Arbor city staff found a leaking sewer pipe in the Malletts Creek area of the city. The pipe had a relatively slow leak with volumes that could be diluted significantly by flow in the creek. A crew was able to fix the pipe immediately.  The water remained safe for recreation and no drinking water is taken below where the spill occurred.

Green Oak Township To Apply For FEMA Grant
Sometimes water and development don’t mix.  This is the case for a neighborhood in Green Oak Township where 19 homes along Nichwagh Lake experience flooding every year.  The Federal Emergency Management Agency provides funding to help property owners get out of harm’s way. If funding is received, these homes can be purchased and demolished, restoring this area to serve as open space and a floodway in high water times.



Wild & Scenic Film Festival Comes to Ann Arbor, April 21

Celebrate Earth Day! Watch inspiring award-winning films like “eXXpedition” and meet local non-profits working together to protect the environment.

eXXpedition

“eXXpedition” follows the journey of 14 women who sailed across the Atlantic Ocean on a scientific research mission to make the unseen seen – from the plastics and toxics in our oceans to those in our bodies. A story of sailing, science, female leadership, exploration, citizen engagement and the vital interconnections between human and environmental health – it aims to inspire hope for a healthier future.

Wild & Scenic Film Festival
Date:  Thursday, April 21, 2016
Location:  Michigan Theater, 603 E. Liberty, Ann Arbor
Time:  Doors open at 6pm; films start at 6:30pm

Tickets are available online through the Michigan Theater.
$10—general admission
$8—students and seniors and donors to any of the presenting organizations
$7.50—Michigan Theater members (Gold members will not be admitted for free) and host organization members

Featured films include eXXpedition, Monarchs and Milkweed, I Heard, Soil Carbon Cowboys and HRWC’s own Osprey Return to the Huron, produced by local film makers 7 Cylinders Studio.

Motivation to take on the world’s most pressing environmental challenges often stems from a personal connection to nature and the resources involved. Wild & Scenic films speak to the environmental concerns and celebrations of our planet telling stories about the environment and outdoor adventure.

The Wild & Scenic Film Festival On Tour is a collection of films specially chosen by local hosts from the annual festival held the third week of January in Nevada City, California. Now in its 14th year, the 5-day event features over 150 award-winning films, guest speakers, celebrities, and activists. The home festival kicks-off an international tour to over 150 communities around the globe.

The Wild & Scenic Film Festival Ann Arbor is hosted by a unique partnership of six locally based environment and nature organizations – The Ecology Center, Huron River Watershed Council, Legacy Land Conservancy, Leslie Science & Nature Center, School of Natural Resources and Environment through the University of Michigan, and The Stewardship Network.



Working for the Huron at Home

In addition to being the director at HRWC, I own a home. As a homeowner we’ve been trying to reduce our carbon footprint and save water and energy.IMG_0104

My work in the environmental field makes me familiar with the many things we can do at home to protect the environment. But it takes money and time to act on these tips. This past year we were finally able to work on a few “greening” home improvements, shared here for inspiration . . .

Rain Gardens

Last year we reached out to the Washtenaw County Water Resource Commissioner’s Office to help develop a plan to capture and infiltrate more of the runoff from our roof.  Years ago we installed a rain barrel but it is limited to 50 gallons per rain, with use in between rains.  I live in Ann Arbor on a pretty small parcel and there is not much room for rain storage and infiltration…or a garden.  But we were able to identify 2 different rain garden locations—one a swale along one side of the house and another in the front of the house.

After choosing plants and a design we installed the rain garden last spring—digging, mulching, and placing rocks and native plants strategically for rain water capture and aesthetics.

At first it didn’t look like much but as the summer and fall wore on the plants blossomed and grew.  We enjoyed running outside when it was raining to see the water gushing out of the gutter/downspout and in to the rain garden where it soaked in to the ground.  We found out that we have pretty sandy soils, unusual for this area, so the water soaked in quickly.  If anything, we can divert more runoff to this garden it was so “thirsty”.  I also learned, through trial and error, what was a weed and what wasn’t.  Staying on top of the weeding is the biggest challenge now that the rain garden is in.

Solar Panels

Last summer we also decided to install solar panels.  Since we had last looked in to solar panels the cost has come down substantially.  There are also substantial tax incentives in place this year that help with the price of the panels. We got quotes, talked with colleagues and friends who had installed panels and chose an installer, Homeland.  It took over 4 months until the system was up and running but in early November we were generating electricity!  We’re still getting familiar with how it all works but we have a nice looking box in the basement that hums when we are generating energy and a website to track our power generation.  We’re looking forward to the summer when the sun really shines to see how much energy we can generate and reduce our carbon.

For You!

If you are considering home improvements, or even smaller actions that help protect the environment, HRWC promotes many of them at our Take Action pages. Our booth at the Home, Garden & Lifestyle Show, March 18-20, will feature two sustainable landscaping experts providing free information on rain gardens and native plants: Susan Bryan leader of Washtenaw County’s Rain Garden Program (Saturday) and Drew Laithin of Creating Sustainable Landscapes (Friday/Sunday).

Susan also wrote the cover story for the Spring 2016 Huron River Report, sharing success installing private rain gardens in our Swift Run Project and offering some great tips for those considering DIY rain gardens. Take a look, its a good read and will inspire you to start a rain garden movement in your neighborhood.



News to Us

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Smart planning helps protect beautiful places in the watershed.

This edition of News to Us shares updates on Ann Arbor’s Dioxane contamination, climate change and coal tar sealcoat advocacy in the watershed. Also see the Huron making headlines as a retreat from the city and how one township is taking stock of its natural resources.

DEQ proposes tougher cleanup standard to protect residents from dioxane A large plume of groundwater under Ann Arbor and Scio Township is contaminated with 1,4-dioxane originating from the Pall Corporation. After years of pressure and mounting attention over the past few months, DEQ announced a proposed change to the dioxane drinking water standard in Michigan from 85 parts per billion to 7.2 ppb. There is still a 6 to 9 month process ahead of the proposed standard where it could change or be vetoed.  Read more about the decades-long story in this piece from The Ann; Bearing Witness: Decades of dioxane. Or hear more from the acting director of the MDEQ at a Town Hall Meeting, April 18, 6-8:30pm at Eberwhite Elementary, Ann Arbor.

City and country: How metro Detroiters enjoy the best of both worlds We are blessed in southeast Michigan to have incredible natural resources nearby. The Huron River is cited as a destination for Detroit area residents to get away from it all.  Four interviews show the diverse ways metro Detroiters access nature to relax and recreate.

Freedom Township Takes First Steps Toward Shaping Future Development to Protect Watershed Freedom Township is the most recent of several communities in the watershed to participate in HRWC’s Green Infrastructure project to map and prioritize natural areas. The Township intends to use the map to help inform future growth and development.

Record-breaking heat shows world ‘losing battle’ against climate change, Alan Finkel tells Q&A No one in southeast Michigan would argue we have had a typical winter. Warmer temperatures and limited snow events made it a little easier on all of us.  It seems we were not alone. The climate has been making headlines again as February registered as the hottest February on record (global average) and by a huge margin. It is expected that temperatures will remain well above average for at least the next couple of months. Particularly worrisome about data from recent months is it shows the planet moving much more rapidly toward the maximum of 2.0°C warming agreed to by nations under the Paris Climate Agreement.

Watershed group wants ban on coal tar sealants HRWC Board Member Mary Bajcz has been championing efforts in Milford Township to increase awareness about the hazards of coal tar sealcoat products commonly used to maintain asphalt surfaces like driveways and parking lots. These sealcoats contain high levels of PAHs that can be harmful to people and river ecosystems. HRWC presented to Milford Township’s Board of Trustees who are now considering next steps.



A2’s Mitchell Neighborhood is Growing Green for Clean Streams

Here at our office, we call them “Swifties.” But really we are referring to Mitchell Neighborhood Ann Arbor residents. HRWC is working with these neighbors on a project to capture polluted runoff from rain and melting snow before it can flow into the Swift Run Creek.

Rain Gardens are pretty

Rain Gardens are pretty

We began this project by assessing the health of the creek in 2015. Results give us a baseline so we can return to evaluate the stream’s health after rain gardens are installed and are actively soaking up stormwater.

This pre-project check-up is complete and we have begun phase two, which is to build rain gardens in parks, schools, and street bump-outs in partnership with the City of Ann Arbor. Free assessments are also available to Mitchell neighbors to help them identify ways to capture rain water on their property. Examples include planting rain gardens, trees, and other deep-rooted native plants, using rain barrels, and changing the direction of their roof gutters.  The Washtenaw County Water Resources Commissioner is providing discounts to Mitchell residents who take classes from the County Master Rain Gardener Program, and the project will subsidize rain garden installation.

Miller Ave Rain Garden, Ann Arbor

Miller Ave Rain Garden, Ann Arbor

While this project will beautify the neighborhood and protect its creek, some neighbors have raised concerns about the bump outs, anticipating that they could reduce parking availability and impact traffic. That’s why project partners are using proven methods for choosing criteria for the bump out locations. HRWC will present the plans to the neighborhood for input before they are finalized.

The Swifties are enthusiastic. Six have already taken the County’s master rain gardener classes. As a result, five private rain gardens have been created — see them featured in our Huron River Report, Spring 2016. And we’ve been getting thoughtful feedback and questions from neighbors, like these:

What about flooding? The existing stormwater drainage system is NOT being removed, so if it works for the neighborhood currently, it will continue to do so. The proposed rain gardens will be designed to capture and infiltrate the first inch of runoff. The rest of the overflow will go into the existing stormwater system. This design will improve water quality by filtering the initial runoff from small storms. There currently is no water quality treatment of stormwater runoff from the neighborhood.

Won’t the bump outs take away street parking? Once a preliminary design is drafted, we will present the proposed design and gather input from the neighborhood at a public meeting in April. Streets in the neighborhood are currently much wider than current design standards. However, if there are serious concerns about the loss of on-street parking, the design team will relocate rain gardens. There is quite a bit of flexibility in the placement of street-side rain gardens within the project.

Will they cause traffic congestion? The design team has many years of experience with street projects, including residential road bump outs. Maintaining efficient traffic flow is one of a number of design criteria that are being considered in drafting the plans. The team would like to hear about concerns at specific locations following the initial draft design so that they might alter the design.

Rain gardens seem complicated unless you are a gardener. Do I have to maintain the rain garden if it is on the street in front of my house? Once the gardens are built, they will be incorporated into the City’s Green Infrastructure Maintenance Program, which ensures that all Rain Gardens installed on City property (including the right-of-way area) are maintained, either by residents, volunteers, City/County staff or a contractor.

Award-winning rain garden

Becoming a rain gardener is easy!

As this project picks up speed we will update our project page. Here are links to more information:

Growing Green for Clean Streams in Swift Run Creek project

Swift Run Creek Report (great information on why the creek needs protection)

Ways to Capture Rainwater at Home

Learn more about using native plants and creating rain gardens at the Home, Garden & Lifestyle Show, March 18-20, at the Washtenaw Farm Council Grounds, Saline. HRWC and the Washtenaw County Water Resources Commissioner’s Office will feature information and experts on rain gardens, native plants and shoreline best practices at our booth (E-169). Admission is $5. HRWC has a limited number of complimentary tickets available–please contact Pam Labadie, plabadie@hrwc.org.



Changing Rainfall Has Implication for How We Manage Stormwater

A new resource provides technical guidance to municipalities on how stormwater management is impacted by climate change.7663569208_a9187a9799_z

HRWC brought together stormwater managers from throughout the watershed and climate scientists to create a resource that provides a very usable quantification of how patterns in precipitation are changing in the Huron and what the implications of these changes are for managing the rain that falls on our communities.

This series of seven fact sheets takes the reader through the full story from the problem to the solutions.

Did you know that:

  • Total annual precipitation has increased by 15% across Southeast Michigan and 44% in Ann Arbor.
  • Heavy storms have become stronger and more frequent throughout the region.
  • A new analysis of historical rainfall data has been updated and we are seeing increases in the amount of rain falling in nearly every design storm.* For example, the 1% storm (aka, 100-year storm) is 17% larger than what we have planned for.

This means current stormwater infrastructure like pipes, pumps, detention ponds and other storage systems may reach capacity more frequently than expected which can result in more flooding, more pollution in runoff and potentially costly damage.

But there are solutions. Recommendations to municipalities outlined in the fact sheets include:

  • Use the new NOAA Atlas 14 rainfall frequency data for sizing new stormwater infrastructure which has more accurate design storms than other commonly used sources.
  • Revisit floodplain management, detention and conveyance systems and look for weaknesses in light of changing rainfall patterns.
  • Plan for a future with more rainfall and more severe storm events.
  • Utilize multiple strategies to protect people and infrastructure from harm including revised standards, improved design, green infrastructure, and appropriately sized grey infrastructure.

View, download and share Stormwater Management and Climate Change.
Implications of precipitation changes in Southeast Michigan and options for response: A guide for municipalities at hrwc.org/stormwater-and-climate.

*A design storm is a rainfall event of specified size and probability of occurrence. Design storms are used regularly by stormwater managers to design stormwater systems.



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