Posts Tagged ‘Huron River Watershed Council’
- Biodiversity: wetlands provide a unique habitat for animals—from fish, amphibians, and macroinvertebrates to birds and mammals.
- Water quality: wetlands are like the watershed’s kidneys, filtering sediment and pollution and keeping the water in the lakes and streams cleaner.
- 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.
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/
I grew up in Milwaukee, which means that during my childhood I assumed every city smelled of malted barley, yeast, and hops, ended the work week with Friday night fish fries, and designed their waterfronts for walking, biking, kite flying, sunbathing, swimming, dining, boating, and music and ethnic festivals.
Not until I was a bit older and had done some traveling did I notice that some cities embraced their position on the water and some (unfathomably!) had turned their backs to it. While traveling to several waterfront cities this fall, I have been reminded of what a special place my hometown is for the foresight of the city’s planners to provide beautiful spaces for people to experience Lake Michigan. I have also been reminded of the power of HRWC’s work with river towns and partners on RiverUp! to create a renaissance for the Huron River and turn our villages and cities to face – and embrace — the water.
So what of my observations of these waterfront cities? Grand Rapids, Chicago, and Cleveland, like Milwaukee, necessarily utilize at least portions of their waterfront for trade and commerce. Industrial uses aside, I was on the lookout for how these places physically connect people to the water and the waterfront to downtown.
Chicago does an admirable job of connecting people and downtown to Lake Michigan even amid the skyscrapers. The city’s investment in landscaping and trail maintenance along the waterfront is rewarded by the throngs of people enjoying this space between downtown and the water. A morning run along the lake was a treat for me since I miss living next to a Great Lake.
Grand Rapids is on a quest similar to RiverUp! through its revitalization of downtown that includes returning the rapids to the Grand River. The city, with its limited water frontage, will be challenged to incorporate more green space between the river and downtown that can provide a respite for city dwellers and ecological benefits at the river’s edges. But the motivation and the private and public investment focused on the city should take this city’s re-birth far.
Cleveland still mostly has its back on Lake Erie. In Cleveland, unlike Milwaukee and Chicago, downtown beaches, recreational paths, and open public green spaces are lacking. Rather, the space between the water and downtown is mostly paved and occupied by a stadium and industrial uses. I try to go for a run in most places that I visit for my own fitness and as a great way to experience a place. I had hoped for a waterfront route but had to bail on that idea when the hotel desk clerk (a runner herself) indicated that such a route was neither safe nor accessible on foot nor very scenic. I’d love to see Cleveland take a page from Milwaukee and celebrate its location on the Great Lake Erie. This city has its gems, to be sure, and the waterfront could be the most dazzling jewel in the crown.
Which cities do you think celebrate their waterfronts?
HRWC gathers county governments to forge ahead with innovative stormwater solutions, compiles most helpful resources
This past summer has seen some major milestones in our project on green infrastructure (GI). For nearly two years we have been clarifying the way forward for Washtenaw County with regard to the implementation of green infrastructure stormwater features — rain gardens, bioswales, green roofs, pervious pavement, etc. We worked with agencies and organizations throughout the county to identify the barriers to green infrastructure, strategies for overcoming those barriers, and tools and resources for taking the next steps.
Three “Growing Green Infrastructure Forums” were held this summer on the topics of overcoming the barriers, funding green infrastructure, and operation and maintenance of green infrastructure features. Attendees ranged from state to local entities: Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, Washtenaw County Water Resource Commissioner and Road Commission, the City of Ann Arbor, the Village of Dexter, Pittsfield Township and other municipalities were involved. Stormwater directors from both Grand Rapids and Toledo talked to participants about their GI programs. Three local consultants with green infrastructure experience offered insight and assistance on topics small and large.
Throughout the forums, HRWC researched and highlighted a dozen of the most current and useful resources available online, such as Portland, Oregon’s Field Guide to Maintaining Rain Gardens, Swales, and Stormwater Planters. These resources have now been gathered together on our new Green Infrastructure Resources page under three categories: economics and funding, policies and permitting, and operations and maintenance. Each resource is presented with a description of the key findings or tools found within the resource and a link for easy access. The pages are intended for state or local policymakers, members of city councils or planning boards, municipal staff (including practical manuals and checklists for maintenance departments), developers, and even homeowners.
This green infrastructure project is wrapping up this fall with the release of additional locally-relevant tools and a major alternative proposal for a redevelopment project in Washtenaw County. However, this experience has firmly rooted HRWC’s belief that treating and infiltrating water on-site as the default stormwater management practice is an important step toward protecting the economic and environmental vitality of Washtenaw County and the broader watershed.
Portaging Argo Dam is a bit of a challenge. Do you float the cascades, or walk your watercraft around them and the dam?
This video, developed for the Huron River Water Trail, will give the proper directions for your trip! And hopefully it will make you laugh a little bit too. Make sure your sound is on!
The Huron River Water Trail website contains many useful trip planning tools to guide you on your next paddling excursion. The website include online maps, a store to purchase the waterproof Paddler’s Companion, tips on river safety and trail etiquette, real-time river flows, fishing updates, and suggested itineraries.
Want to meet the Lions, Tigers, and Bears of the Huron?
We’re happy to show them off – but you’ll have to help us hunt them down! (Though ours are a tad smaller, as they are aquatic insects.)
Join us on Saturday, October 12 for HRWC’s autumn River Roundup. You can bring a small group of friends or we’ll put you on a team with other awesome HRWC volunteers. The outing takes about 4 hours and starts at either 9:00 or 10:30 am (you get to choose!). We’ll send you to some really cool spots around the watershed to track down some of those critters. When you return we’ll have a nice snack to share over your stories in the wild!
For info and to register, please check out www.hrwc.org/volunteer/roundup.
*Lampyridae, Tabanidae, and Belostomatidae are, respectively, fireflies, horse flies, and giant water bugs – OH MY!!
**Note: If you are looking for the October 9th edition of News to Us please click here. An incorrect link was circulated in our recent email.**
This edition of News to Us describes new projects dedicated to protecting the Huron River and other freshwater resources throughout the state. Read about the increasing popularity of the Huron as well as a recent bird sighting.
European frog-bit: the next invasive plant to watch – Fast moving aquatic invasive that colonizes marshes, ditches and swamps as well as shorelines of lakes and rivers discovered near Alpena.
Helping Michigan cities plan for a warmer future – A Michigan Radio interview with Beth Gibbons, project manager for the Great Lakes Adaptation Assessment for Cities (GLAA-C) on helping cities like Flint, Michigan plan for climate change adaptation.
Jackson officials accept court’s decision nullifying stormwater fee; services such as leaf pickup eliminated — The Michigan Court of Appeals ruled the city’s stormwater fee an unconstitutional tax that violates the Headlee Amendment. Jackson declines to appeal the decision.
Ann Arbor officials credit large increase in river trips to popularity of Argo Cascades – Liveries along the Huron reported record numbers of river trips this summer, including HRWC’s neighbors at the Argo Canoe Livery. The recently installed Cascades are said to be the reason. Get out on the river before the summer ends. Register here for HRWC’s last paddle trip, September 21.
Washtenaw County to back $3.33M in bonds for flood control in Ann Arbor — The Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners recently approved support for five exciting projects within Ann Arbor and the Allen Creek watershed that will help to mitigate flooding and reduce E. coli and phosphorus levels in the Huron. Projects range from installing new stormwater control measures in drains to planting trees!
Sewer overflows declining, but heavy rains still push sewage into streams – Michigan’s sewer systems seem to be out of sight and out of mind — until they break. Recent reports find that current systems will take billions of dollars to upgrade and fix. Many cities and counties are trying to adapt these systems to a changing climate, with more intense rainfall that stresses stormwater plants. Fortunately, new legislation is funding grants to be used by cities throughout the state to alleviate the problem.
Bird battle stuns shutterbug — A great blue heron recently got a little too close to a mother osprey and her nest. Mama osprey went above and beyond the call of duty to teach heron a lesson.
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.
SEMCOG is partnering with HRWC and other members to develop a regional green infrastructure vision for Southeast Michigan. Green Infrastructure is both a network of green space and natural areas in our communities, along with built techniques such as rain gardens and bioswales that preserve the function of the natural ecosystem to benefit residents of the region.
Parks can add recreational opportunities.
Rain gardens along roads can clean the rain water before it enters our rivers and lakes.
Community gardens in urban areas provide a positive use for vacant land and a local food source.
Boat access sites can meet tourism and local needs to better use our nationally recognized lakes.
Results from this short survey will help support the Green Infrastructure Vision for Southeast Michigan and provide a basis for future natural resource planning. “Communities in Southeast Michigan are realizing the value of a strong natural resource base as a mechanism to provide recreational opportunities for citizens, increase tourism, and protect water quality,” said Amy Mangus, SEMCOG Plan Implementation. “The Green Infrastructure Vision for Southeast Michigan helps create a roadmap for getting there.”
The brief survey asks questions pertaining to:
- The most important outcomes of green infrastructure
- What kinds of green infrastructure citizens would like to see (e.g., parks, rain gardens, trails)
- Where these natural areas should be located
HRWC’s own Green Infrastructure projects (focusing on both natural areas and built GI) will benefit from SEMCOG’s work on this regional vision. HRWC’s work will inform SEMCOG’s regional vision, which will aid in planning and securing funding for natural areas protection, greenway and trail development, and construction of green infrastructure for control of stormwater runoff.
You can give your input on green infrastructure planning to SEMCOG at http://bit.ly/15LhVQa
Mill Creek Middle School shower survey raises awareness on climate change, water and energy!
Seventh grade teacher Cheryl Darnton and her students learned about climate change this spring, capping off their studies with an experiment in water conservation. Will middle schoolers take shorter showers to help save water and energy? Ms. Darnton began the study in May by surveying her 80 students, asking them to record how long and how often they showered. She also asked parents how often and long they thought their kids were showering. A few weeks later, Ms. Darnton gave all of her students some handy 5-minute shower timers compliments of HRWC’s Saving Water Saves Energy project (reducing a 10-minute shower to 5 minutes can save 12.5 gallons of water or more, depending on the flow rate). In June, students and parents took a final survey recording and observing how their shower times changed.
So, how did they do?
While the results weren’t overwhelmingly positive, there was some improvement. When asked, students reported that they had cut down their shower times – some by at least 10 minutes! The amount of students showering between 21 to 30 minutes went down by 12%, while the amount between 1 and 10 minutes went up by 18%. That’s a lot of change!
“I take shorter showers because of the red timer.”
Ms. Darnton asked the parents what they thought of the survey. Most parents said that it had a very positive impact on their children – 46% said that the timer decreased their shower times! One parent said, “Just being aware of counting the minutes of when the water is running has motivated her to use less.” Often, Ms. Darnton found that usage of the timer spread to the rest of the family. One student even said, “My brother uses it sometimes.”
Want to find out more about saving water and energy in your home? Visit our new H2O Heroes website!