The Middle Huron Program sets actions to reduce pollution in the middle section of the Huron River Watershed.

Location of the Middle Huron Watershed
Location of the Middle Huron Watershed

We generally define the “Middle Huron” as the section of the Huron River that moves through Washtenaw County. However, it also includes Belleville Lake in Wayne County. The map highlights the Middle Huron Watershed within the full Huron River Watershed.

Links to information on the

The portion of the Huron River Watershed known as the Middle Huron is

  • home to over half the population of the Huron River Watershed;
  • has the largest and most productive areas of active agriculture in the Watershed; and
  • contains the most urbanized areas in the Watershed.

The Middle Huron begins with the Mill Creek basin in western Washtenaw County and extends downstream through Belleville Lake in western Wayne County. The concentration of people, agriculture and industry presents challenges to the quality of the waters in the middle Huron.
Phosphorus is the primary pollutant of focus for the program. The program is a voluntary partnership of local governments.

In general, the overall action plan calls for the partners to:

  • Improve monitoring and modeling for nutrient sources (both phosphorus and nitrogen), which act as pollutants;
  • Support increased research and monitoring;
  • Support watershed education and planning;
  • Assist landowners and local governments to engage in practices to reduce the amount of phosphorus, and other pollutants, entering the river;
  • Upgrade sewage and wastewater treatment facilities and improve their operation; and
  • Provide a source of support to test innovative ideas to reduce phosphorus pollution.

The Middle Huron program began as the coordinated response to implement Michigan’s first nutrient Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL).

In 1999, point sources, communities contributing nonpoint sources of pollution, MDEQ and HRWC signed a cooperative agreement that states what efforts the signatories will take to meet the TMDL. It includes quantitative goals to reduce the loading of phosphorus by 50% of 1995 levels in order to meet the TMDL set by the state; that is, 0.05 mg/L in Ford Lake and 0.03 mg/L in Belleville Lake. This goal is being pursued through specific strategies that have been developed and implemented over the past 9 years by the Middle Huron partners. The action plan calls for these strategies, in the aggregate, to aim for a 50% reduction in the discharge of phosphorus to the middle Huron from May to September.


The overall goal of the initiative is to improve the quality of the Middle Huron River Watershed. Improving the ecological quality of the watershed will also enhance the recreational and economic qualities. HRWC works to achieve this goal by rallying communities to work collectively to reduce pollution.

The objectives of the program are:

  1. return Ford and Belleville Lakes to a state that allows people to fish and swim, and improve the water quality tributaries to these lakes;
  2. build a partnership with middle Huron communities to achieve the overall goal cost-effectively;
  3. reduce summer pollution (especially phosphorus) to the river system and meet water quality standards set by the state; and
  4. improve the overall water, fisheries and recreational qualities of the Middle Huron River Watershed.

The Middle Huron program supports the innovative research underway by the University of Michigan under Principal Investigator Dr. John Lehman. This U.S. EPA-funded study “probes the causes and possible corrective measures for the nuisance algal blooms that currently plague Ford and Belleville lakes and which threaten Barton Pond, a drinking water supply,” as the project’s website explains.

The research will improve the management plan among the MDEQ, local and county governments, and HRWC. Click here to visit the project’s website:

The success of the Middle Huron program is due, in large part, to the partnerships that have formed. Twenty-one partners signed on to the Partnership Agreement to voluntarily reduce phosphorus loading to the Middle Huron. The original 5-year agreement was revised and updated for a subsequent 5 years (Sept 2004 – Oct 2009).

Middle Huron communities have adopted wetlands protection ordinances, storm water management ordinances, natural features protection ordinances, and have raised the level of water quality protection in their standards and codes.

The Middle Huron program initiated the ongoing statewide discussions on development of state legislation to restrict the application of manufactured phosphorus fertilizers in 2003. A version of the language developed by the state working group recently was signed into law to take effect in 2012. Previous to that, the City of Ann Arbor, City of Ypsilanti, and Pittsfield and Ypsilanti Townships approved local ordinances to restrict manufactured fertilizer with implementation of the programs in 2006.

More than 2,600 agricultural acres in the Middle Huron have conservation practices including conservation tillage, nutrient management, and filter strips. In addition, over $200,000 of USDA funds have been supplied to farmers for the installation of best management practices on their Mill Creek sub-watershed farms.

Several tributaries within the Middle Huron River Watershed have had watershed management and restoration plans developed for them as a result of the original partnerships and research conducted through the Middle Huron program. Click here to find management plans for Malletts Creek, Mill Creek, and Millers Creek. Additionally, a comprehensive plan was developed for the Middle Huron Watershed that includes the creekshed plans.

The result of all this has been dramatic and substantial decreases in phosphorus levels throughout the watershed. See the news of the latest results and the Reports and Data section for more details.

Partners to the program (see list below) provide financial support for HRWC to facilitate the program. Implementation projects in the Middle Huron are funded by federal Clean Water Act grants, Clean Michigan Initiative grants, private foundations, individual donations, and business partnerships.

Current financial supporters of the Middle Huron program are:

Ann Arbor City
Ann Arbor Charter Township
Barton Hills Village
Chelsea City
Dexter Village
Loch Alpine Sanitary Authority/Webster Township
Lodi Township
Pittsfield Charter Township
Scio Township
Superior Charter Township
University of Michigan
Van Buren Charter Township
Washtenaw County
Ypsilanti City
Ypsilanti Charter Township


The partners in the Middle Huron program expanded their focus beyond phosphorus pollution several years ago as additional TMDLs were set in the Middle Huron River Watershed. Middle Huron partners developed the first implementation plan in Michigan for an E. coli TMDL in the Huron River, and one of the first in the United States. Poor macroinvertebrates and fish communities have been identified in Swift Run and Malletts Creek, with remediation plans developed for those TMDLs as well.

For more information, view the complete list and map of impaired waterbodies in the Huron River Watershed.

Ric Lawson at:
Huron River Watershed Council
1100 N. Main Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48104
734/769-5123 x609
or email:

The most recent report on the Middle Huron program is the 2005-07 Report. A new reporting “dashboard” is pending completion. The report contains background on the nutrient pollution problem in the middle Huron, updates on indicators for water health, and documentation on innovative pollution prevention activities.
2005-07 Middle Huron Partnership Report, pdf file is .63 megabytes
Appendices to the report, pdf file is 11.0 megabytes

The most recent report from the Middle Huron Stream Monitoring Program is a comprehensive report on analysis of monitoring results through the 2011 season. Results include monitoring of 9 tributaries in the middle Huron River Watershed. The report includes photos and descriptions of the monitoring sites, and discussions of methodologies and results.

2013 Middle Huron Monitoring Report

2014 Middle Huron Monitoring Presentation

Current monitoring data can be found at the bottom of the Water Quality Monitoring Program page.

The Michigan DEQ presented analysis of data they contracted for collection in 2009.