Posts Tagged ‘Stormwater’
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.
Get your hero on!
The communities of the Huron River watershed have come together to produce another spectacular calendar. Chock full of stunning Huron River photography, stormwater pollution prevention tips and local resources, this year’s version features 15 of your neighbors who are doing their part to protect water quality in their everyday actions!
Your mission if you choose to accept it is to become an H2O Hero yourself. Pick a sidekick, choose your color, select hero gear and decide which “bad guys” you will fight. You can get your hero on in seven easy steps — check the hero handbook that starts on page 28 of the calendar. Once you’ve done it, “like” HRWC on Facebook and update us with your hero name (clever or not). We’ll enter you to win one of 50 H2O Hero t-shirts that we’ll give away in January.
How to get your calendar.
By mail. City of Ann Arbor, City of Brighton and Village of Dexter are direct-mailing to most households in their communities the week of November 4th.
In person. Calendars will be at these customer service counters:
-Livingston County Drain Commission and Road Commission
-Washtenaw County Water Resources Commission and Road Commission
-City of Ypsilanti
-Village of Pinckney
-Green Oak Charter Township
-Pittsfield Charter Township
-Charter Township of Ypsilanti
From HRWC. Contact Pam Labadie at email@example.com or (734)769-5123 x 602. We can mail a calendar to you for $5 or you can pick one up for free at HRWC.
About the Calendar.
The 2014 Watershed Community Calendar is a collaborative effort to educate residents about the importance of water stewardship and nonpoint source pollution prevention. The communities listed above believe there are substantial benefits that can be derived by joining together and cooperatively managing the rivers, lakes, and streams within the watershed and in providing mutual assistance in meeting state water discharge permit requirements. HRWC would like to thank them for their continued support of the calendar program.
**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.
For the first time in the three-year run of the event, I was finally confident enough to give the Huron River Single-Fly Tournament a try — and I am so glad that I did! It was great to meet the 24 passionate anglers and hear how much they knew about the river, the fish, their food and habitat. Many told me how happy they were to have a quality river with lots of healthy fish running through a dynamic, urban population center.
Proceeds from the entrance fees and donations went to our “River Up!” initiative. The tournament raised over $3,000 for the program, as all fees and donations were matched by the Erb Foundation. That money will be used in the program to clean up areas along the river, improve access, and transform the Huron River corridor into a recreation destination.
Mike Schultz, partners and staff at Schultz Outfitters did a great job organizing the event and making sure everyone had a fun and safe time. He and his crew provide equipment and advice to make it easy for noobs like me.
As all the teams went to to their favorite spots, I was impressed by the number and variety of good fishing locations offered to me and my partner, Sean (pictured below at an undisclosed location). We chose a busy section at Island Park in Ann Arbor to start, where we met dozens of paddlers and tubers all interested in what we were catching (quite a few little small-mouth bass, as it turned out). It was great to see such a variety of activities taking place on our river.
As we moved to a different site, the traffic subsided and I was reminded about the power the river possesses. The ample rain we’ve had has kept river flows up, which has made for interesting paddling and fishing conditions. While it had not rained much over the previous week, the river flow was still up, thanks to the abundant natural land cover that keeps the groundwater flow slow and strong. We noticed that some earlier canoeists may not have been ready for these conditions earlier in the season.
While I enjoyed my time casting into spots that looked like good hiding places for big fish, as the river gently, but noticeably embraced me, I was reminded of the connection to the natural world that inspired me to become a watershed planner in the first place. Whether it is fishing, paddling, rowing, swimming, or just taking a stroll along its banks, I encourage you all to get out and enjoy this wonderful resource we have in our back yards. Then come back and do what you can to make it even better.
To see who won the Single Fly Tournament and plan for your participation next year, visit the tournament webpage.
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.
This edition of News to Us starts with a success story and we all like success stories. Learn also about the islands of plastic polluting our Great Lakes. We share a few opportunities to attend public events on flooding and fracking. Read also a refreshing perspective on approaching river conservation by finding common ground among individual objectives.
A Tern for the Better: The Detroit River Comeback The common tern has returned to Belle Isle after a 50 year absence. The refuge on Belle Isle is a bright spot showing what can be when we invest in wildlife habitat even in the most urban of places. Read about the successes of our neighbors to the north.
Polluting Plastic Waste Invades Great Lakes: Pacific Garbage Patch May Have a Rival This article brings to light a less often cited, yet major source of pollution in the Great Lakes. Plastics in our waters have implications for birds, fish and other organisms in the food chain. Consider finding ways to keep plastics out of our waterways like switching to reusable bags and cleaning debris and trash away from stormdrains that carry plastics directly to our waterways during rain events.
Ann Arbor kicks off $1.2M study of sewer system, footing drain program and basement sewage backups It is the wet season again. Spring rains rejuvenate our rivers, groundwater, forests and landscaping. But for some households the rains can mean problems when water ends up in basements or sits on roads. Ann Arbor is holding a public meeting to provide updates on ongoing efforts to reduce damaging flooding including an assessment of the sanitary sewer system and footing drain disconnection program.
Sunday Brunch: A tiny trickle turns into a torrent of conservation issues for Michigan This blog from Helen Taylor, State Director of the Nature Conservancy in Michigan, shares a nice perspective on river protection. She encourages individuals and groups to consider the “whole-system” rather than a more personal view of the river with an eye on shared goals rather than win-lose propositions—a healthy lens through which to envision the path to a healthy river serving many purposes for many interests.
University of Michigan to hold town hall on future of fracking in the state For those interested in learning more about the practice of fracking to extract natural gas, University of Michigan is hosting a forum on the topic this evening. As far as we are aware, there are no plans for fracking in the watershed at this time but there is very active debate on this topic at the national and state level.
Interested in chasing storms?
The City of Ann Arbor is offering a unique opportunity for residents to participate in collecting needed data as part of the recently-launched Stormwater Model Calibration and Analysis project, which is the first step in evaluating and recommending improvements to the City’s stormwater system. (Read more about the project here.)
As part of the City of Ann Arbor’s “Citizen Storm Corps,” you would be the eyes on the ground, recording and submitting visual observations from one or more of the Large Event Data Gathering (LEDG) locations where the City is monitoring surface flooding. (See a map of LEDG locations here.) “Large Events” is the technical term for a big rain storm!
Volunteering is easy, fun, and will not require much time. If you can take a photo and use a map, you’re qualified! The City anticipates that over the next few years, Storm Corps volunteers will be asked to submit observations 1-3 times after significant rain events – although more frequent participation would be most welcome, if you choose.
The City of Ann Arbor is hosting several orientation sessions for people who may be interested in serving as part of the Citizen Storm Corps:
- Tuesday, March 19: 10:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. at the Downtown Library multipurpose room
- Tuesday, March 19: 6:00 – 7:30 p.m. at the Traverwood Library
- Thursday, March 21: 3:00 – 4:30 p.m. at the Downtown Library multipurpose room
No need to RSVP – please feel free to join at your convenience during any of the above blocks of time (the actual orientation will only take about a half hour). Also, please note that attending an orientation does not obligate you to participate – come by, check it out, and see what you think!
Finally, if you are not able to attend one of the sessions, but think you might be interested in volunteering in the Citizen Storm Corps, simply contact Jen Lawson at the City of Ann Arbor (734.794.6430 x43735, firstname.lastname@example.org). She will help you identify a convenient location, and orient you to the materials via phone or email.
- 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.
The Washtenaw County Rain Garden program has been building and planting rain gardens for 7 years, and in that time, they have learned a thing or two about what makes them successful. They are offering Master Rain Gardener training beginning this month. While I have not taken the class myself, I have seen the work of some of the graduates, and their gardens inspired my own efforts at home.
Rain Gardens provide working Green Infrastructure for home owners to clean and cool stormwater so that our streams and rivers run clean. Stormwater runoff is a major source of pollution, and rain gardens can help address the problem. Anyone can plant one in their own back (or front) yard. Visit the Master Rain Gardener Hall of Fame (photos).
Help spread the word in the tradition of the MSU Extension’s Master Gardener program by becoming a Master Rain Gardener Volunteer.
Master Rain Gardener Training Class
Wednesday mornings 9:30am-12:30, January 16 – February 13, 2013.
Attendees must attend all five classes, and plant a rain garden to receive their Master Rain Gardener “Blue Thumb” certificate.
Location: 705 N. Zeeb, MSU Extension Classroom
Cost: $80 (Scholarships available)
Instructors: Harry Sheehan, Shannan Gibb-Randall, RLA, Susan Bryan, MLA
To register, visit the Master Rain Gardener information page.