Local Governments and Residents are Key to the Huron’s Health

Forest in Unadilla Township

Forest in Unadilla Township

The Huron River is the cleanest river in Southeast Michigan.

This is due largely to the wetlands, forests, and grasslands that soak up rainwater to prevent flooding and erosion; store and release groundwater that supplies the Huron with clear, cool, constant recharge water; and filter polluted runoff before it can foul the river.

Who holds the key to protecting the remaining natural areas in the Huron?

Over 65 different townships, villages, cities, and counties have jurisdiction within the Huron River watershed. These local governments, through their master plans and zoning ordinances, determine the location, density, and design of all of the different land uses that exist and will be built in the future. HRWC works with local governments throughout the watershed to enact river friendly master plans and ordinances.

One of the most important policies local governments can adopt is to require that development leave buffers along the river, creeks, lakes, and wetlands so that vegetation can soak up and slow down polluted runoff from the new pavement, rooftops, and turfgrass. The City of Ann Arbor and Ann Arbor, Webster, Scio, Lyndon, Pittsfield townships and other local governments have these kinds of buffer requirements in place.

HRWC would like to welcome Unadilla Township to the group, as they recently enacted buffer requirements after working with HRWC on implementing goals of the Portage Creek Watershed Management Plan and creating a Green Infrastructure Planning Map.

You too can be a Change Maker in your community!

Every local government needs board members and planning commissioners with some land use planning and water resources know-how to ensure that all the local governments in the Huron watershed have river friendly policies like buffer requirements.

HRWC will be holding Change Makers Boot Camps this January and February to gather those who would like to encourage their local government to enact river friendly policies. Participants can choose any level of involvement with their local government, from commenting of specific developments and ordinance and master plan revisions to getting appointed to the planning commission to running for election to the board. We will teach you everything you need to know.

Check out our upcoming Change Makers Boot Camps to find out more!



Top ten things I am thankful for . . .

As we head in to Thanksgiving I am reflecting on the many things that I am grateful for.  I am lucky that I find so much to be grateful for in my work.  Just in the past few months, I have a dozen or so things that come to mind:

Pinckney Recreation Area by John Lloyd.

Pinckney Recreation Area by John Lloyd.

  1. The excitement of our partners and donors to the spotting of an osprey on a platform we installed on the river.
  2. Stopping a new wastewater treatment plant from discharging more phosphorus and nitrogen in to the Middle Huron.
  3. The finalization of a new and lower 1,4 Dioxane standard for the drinking water in Michigan that will result in additional clean-up.
  4. My memories of Suds on the River, where over 400 of our community gathered to support HRWC and celebrate clean water.
  5. Achieving a growing number of municipalities to ban cancer-causing pavement sealants with 11 in the watershed and 14 total in the state.
  6. Quantifying the annual economic activity of the river at over $78.6 million!
  7. The joy of kids in the pictures and cards we receive from hundreds of them who participate in our summer snorkeling, rain garden, paddle trips, school field trips, and creek walking programs.
  8. The new commitment of the Oakland County Board of Commissioners to fund comprehensive lake monitoring in 100 of the 562 lakes in the county.
  9. After the removal of the Mill pond dam in Dexter, the increasing number of macroinvertebrates and brown trout enjoying a cleaner and faster moving creek, along with the increasing number of people discovering and enjoying the new trails, outdoor features and restaurants near the creek.
  10. You! In my work I interact with bright, passionate, and fun partners, staff, board, and volunteers. I am inspired by your commitment to our river and your love of everything Huron River.


River Roundup Results Reviewed: October 2017

Aquatic insect sampling on the Huron River and its creeks

Thanks to 145 volunteers who contributed approximately 580 volunteer hours, the October 2017 River Roundup was a great success!  As always, HRWC 100% guarantees good weather for its volunteer events or your money back.  As a result, this year we most certainly gave everyone their free registration money back, because the day was cold and very wet.  Our volunteers came backed soaked with October rain, but in the tradition of ecologists everywhere, all were happy to simply have been outside.

It was a very full house here in the HRWC conference rooms before the 21 teams split up and traveled to 42 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 understand how the water quality of the river and creeks may be changing. From the data collected at this semi-annual event, we are able to keep abreast of the health of our waterways throughout the watershed. You can see a summary below, or detailed results in the October 14 River Roundup Report.

It was too cold and wet to get picture for this event, so here is what we WISHED it looked like. credit: Aiman Shahpurwala (October 2016)

It was too cold and wet to get pictures for this event, so here is what we WISHED it looked like. credit: Aiman Shahpurwala (October 2016)

Current Watershed Health

Status
HRWC gives a rating to each site that we monitor (Excellent, Good, Fair, or Poor). The graph below shows this breakdown for the 61 locations that HRWC considers representative for the watershed. The detailed River Roundup report gives the site condition for each location.

riverroundup-2017-graph1

 

Trends

Overall, the health of the watershed as judged by our macroinvertebrate sampling is holding steady, though there are particular areas getting worse or better.  Twenty-eight sites have had no statistically significant change over time, and 3 sites are too new to make this judgment.

Seventeen sites are declining in overall health including locations on Norton Creek, Traver Creek, Davis Creek, and Honey Creek (Washtenaw Co). Nine of the declining sites are in Livingston County, 4 are in Washtenaw, 2 are in Oakland, and 2 are in Wayne.

Thirteen sites are significantly improving.  Ten of the improving sites are in Washtenaw County, including locations on Mill Creek, Malletts Creek, Fleming Creek, and the Huron River in Ypsilanti. Two sites are improving in Livingston County (Mann Creek at Van Amberg Road and Portage Creek at Unadilla Road), and 1 site is improving in Wayne County (Woods Creek at the Lower Huron Metropark).

Highlight

There were a lot of highly diverse samples of insects collected this season.  The team at Horseshoe Creek: Merrill Road in Hamburg collected the most diverse sample seen there in many years. In the upper headwaters of the Huron, our volunteers once again found a very diverse insect population, including the rare Odontoceridae (strong case-maker caddis). In Malletts Creek, volunteers once again found a Philopotamid, a caddisfly, which is quite abundant in healthy streams but just recently popped up for the first time in this degraded-yet-improving urban creek.

The team at the Huron River: Zeeb Road collected the best sample ever taken at this site, which is saying something considering this was already the most biologically diverse location in the watershed. Twenty one insect families were found here, including 11 families from the mayfly-stonefly-caddisfly group that generally require clean water and high oxygen levels, and 5 sensitive families that are even more likely to be wiped out by the presence of pollution. (Note for people looking really close at the data report: This site is ranked #4 and and not #1 because of its large size. After controlling for size, there are three other sites that are considered more “healthy”.)

Huron River at Zeeb Road: Wide, deep, and ecologically healthy. credit: Max Bromley

Huron River at Zeeb Road: Wide, deep, and ecologically healthy. credit: Max Bromley

Lowlight

For some teams, sampling conditions were difficult.  Many volunteers faced pouring rain during most of their collection time, and a few creeks were running fast and deep. Others reported that it was simply hard to see the insects, because the ambient light was so low from the combination of  thick October rainclouds and dense trees. Despite this though, volunteers were able to find a high abundance of insects.  At only one site (Mill Creek at Manchester), was the sample so sparse that I had to reject it for failing to meet our abundance benchmark (>40% less the median abundance at this site).  The volunteers reported that the creek was flowing so fast that it was difficult to get the collector and net into the water.

Perhaps most disappointing result was the sample taken at Honey Creek: Wagner Road.  For the second time in recent years, no sensitive insect families were collected at this site. The location was known to be slightly declining over time, however, this poor sample turned the slight decline into a statistically significant one. The upstream site at Honey Creek:Jackson Road has also been significantly declining for many years now, with the last sensitive insect found in 2009.  As always, the loss of sensitive insects at Wagner Road could be a temporary blip in the data, but it is possible that the insects may not come back, similar to Jackson Road. HRWC has had a variety of projects on Honey Creek in recent years, and will continue to look into reasons why this is happening.

This graph shows the loss of sensitive insects at Honey Creek: Jackson Road

This graph shows the loss of sensitive insects at Honey Creek: Jackson Road (upstream)

This graph shows the loss of sensitive insects at Honey Creek: Wagner Road (downstream)

This graph shows the loss of sensitive insects at Honey Creek: Wagner Road (downstream)

What’s next?

Want to learn more about the data that HRWC collected this past year? On January 24th at 6 pm at our office on 1100 N. Main Street, in Ann Arbor, HRWC staff will present results and interpretation for all of the field projects conducted within the past year. Good indoor weather guaranteed!

Are you a hearty Michigander who wears shorts in January and speedos while you swim Lake Michigan in March? If so, or if you are maybe 1-2 steps lower than that, you should join the tough souls who participate in the Winter Stonefly Search on January 20.  It is like the River Roundup, only much snowier and usually colder, depending on what climate change is doing to us at the time. You can register for the event here.

riverroundup-volunteer-2017



News to Us

Florida Sea Grant agent Maia McGuire sampling for microplastics in a freshwater stream and microplastics photographed in the studio for a Florida Trend feature on Friday, July 21st, 2017.

Microplastics photographed in the studio collected from stream samples. Credit: Flickr Creative Commons License Florida Sea Grant.

This edition of News to Us provides news coverage on several major threats to freshwater including plastics, pharmaceuticals, invasive species, dioxane, and pavement sealers.

Plastics Are Forever
HRWC has been investigating the threat and impacts of plastics in the Huron River. Researchers are learning more all the time about how widespread the problem is and what the impacts are to the environment and drinking water. This radio piece dives deep on the issue with three experts.

Without Superfund cleanup, Ann Arbor still focused on court case against polluter
This month, the EPA shared its decision that the dioxane plume in the groundwater beneath Scio Township and Ann Arbor will not be declared a Superfund site.  Michigan DEQ will remain the oversight body on the issue. Ann Arbor, Scio Township, Washtenaw County, and the Huron River Watershed Council continue to pursue legal action for stronger clean-up.

Michigan GOP to invasive species: Welcome to the Great Lakes
A bill moving quickly to the Governor’s desk (House Bill 5095) will loosen restrictions on how shipping vessels manage ballast water.  Ballast water is the primary source of invasive species to the Great Lakes.  This bill weakens 2005 bipartisan legislation designed to reduce the impacts of invasives on the Great Lakes and the economic implications of those invasions. It is not too late to call Governor Snyder and request a veto.

Coal Tar Pavement Sealant Bans Discussed at Stormwater Summit
HRWC partnered with the Clinton River Watershed Council to present on the topic of toxic pavement sealers at the Oakland County Regional Stormwater Summit last month. Coal tar and other high-PAH sealants are used to maintain low traffic asphalt surfaces such as parking lots and driveways. We are looking to get more southeast Michigan communities to take action to eliminate this source of toxins in our lakes, rivers and homes.

Issues Of The Environment: Washtenaw Drug Take-Back Programs Protect Environment And Public Health
David Fair talks with Jeff Krcmarik, the Washtenaw County Environmental Program Supervisor, on the implications of pharmaceuticals in our waterways and how residents can appropriately dispose of medications to help reduce the presence of these in lakes, rivers and drinking water. Some recent articles are covering the implications of pharmaceuticals on great lakes fish.

Issues Of The Environment: Huron River And Huron River Watershed Trail Benefits Local Economy
The Huron River is one of the area’s greatest natural resources. And a new study shows it also provides an economic boon to the region. Find out how and what is still to come as WEMU’s David Fair talks with HRWC’s Elizabeth Riggs.



Shred, Gather, or Clear: How to Get Rid of Autumn Leaves

leaf-on-grassWe’re just past Autumn’s peak color burst and it’s time to properly deal with all the leaves left on the ground. There are a few ways to dispose of your leaves:

  1. Mow right over them and leave the bits to feed your lawn (easiest method).
  2. If you have a lot of leaves, you can gather the shredded leaves and compost them and/or use them as mulch for your garden beds, shrubs, and trees.
  3. Rake whole leaves up and make “leaf mold.” You’ll have some free compost in the future but keep in mind that whole leaves take longer to breakdown so plan for your pile “to stew” for a couple of years.
  4. Find out how your city/township collects leaves and gather your leaves for pick up. Some areas vacuum leaves from piles but most only gather from composting bins and leaf bags.
keep stormdrains clear flyer

Stormdrain awareness flyer for our Honey Creek outreach program

When leaves and debris end up in the street, they can clog stormdrains and cause flooding. When large amounts of leaves wash down stormdrains and into creeks and the river, they reduce oxygen and degrade fish habitat.

As part of our outreach project in the Honey Creek area, a team of seven HRWC interns took to the streets this past August to get the word out about the importance of keeping stormdrains clear of trash and other kinds of pollution. Together they labeled 498 stormdrains in residential areas while distributing 1,258 door hangers at homes along the streets they labeled. To learn more about Honey Creek, go here.

In addition to clearing your yards of leaves or for those who don’t have yards and still want to help, check out our Adopt-a-Stormdrain program. Through this unique give-back program, you can set your own volunteer hours and meet neighbors.



HRWC gets help from the dogs!

Kenna

Kenna

Investigating Honey Creek

HRWC, with funding from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, is working to identify and control or eliminate bacteria and other pathogen sources in Honey Creek. We are currently implementing  projects within critical areas of the watershed that will address the sources of the contamination. One project is investigating areas that were identified during the watershed management planning process as having human-sourced bacteria.

In 2013 HRWC conducted Bacterial Source Tracking (BST) on water samples from Honey Creek locations that we found to exceed the Total Body Contact standard for E. coli. A laboratory analyzed the E. coli DNA material for the presence of five markers which identify its source as human, cow, dog, horse, or goose. Samples from two target critical areas were identified as having strong indication of human-sourced bacteria.

Kenna alerting at creek.

Kenna alerting at creek.

Enter the Dog Detectives

To confirm the lab results and determine where this bacteria was coming from, HRWC took an innovative approach. We enlisted the help of a couple of dog detectives! These are not just any dogs, they are trained specifically to detect human sewage in surface water and storm water systems caused by failing septic systems, leaking sewer lines or illicit discharges. Environmental Canine Services, LLC (ECS), helped us investigate the two branches of Honey Creek identified during the BST process. We were also joined by staff from the Washtenaw Water Resources Commissioners Office, and Washtenaw County Public Health. Dogs, Kenna and Abbey, were diligent workers and a delight to watch.

Abbey alerting at creek.

Abbey alerting at creek.

Great Lakes Now recently reported on this innovative approach, interviewing Karen Reynolds, President of ECS, during her visit to Michigan.

There is still more to do. HRWC will further analyze the results from this latest investigation, and determine next steps with project partners.

More information about our work in Honey Creek

And remember, you can help keep bacteria out of our streams by maintaining your septic system.

 



News to Us

In this edition of News to Us find a wealth of local news including the economic impact of the Huron, proposed park improvements in Flat Rock, smart technology research for stormwater management, Rover pipeline troubles and the future of Peninsular dam in Ypsilanti. On the national stage read a piece on the Lake Erie algal blooms and review a list of all the environmental protections at risk under the current administration.

The Huron River near Flat RockThe Huron River Worth Billions Of Dollars To Local Economy New Report Reveals
Through our River Up! program, HRWC commissioned an economic valuation study to better understand the value of our river and natural resources. Elizabeth Riggs discusses the results of the research and the release of a new report with 89.1 WEMU’s, Lisa Barry.

Flat Rock ponders $1 million ‘river walk’ improvements along Huron River
Flat Rock has engaged an architecture firm to consider riverfront improvements along the Huron River near Huroc Park. HRWC is excited to see projects that improve river access, recreation and safety like this one.

Pipeline Company Cited For Spilling Gas-Water Mix Into Local Wetland
Energy Transfer, the company currently installing the ET Rover pipeline in Livingston County, has been cited for an incident that spilled a water and gasoline mixture into a wetland in Pinckney. HRWC has been in contact with the DEQ to keep up on actions associated with the incident and remediation.

So, Ypsilanti, should we repair or remove the Peninsular Dam?
Read an interview of Laura Rubin by Mark Maynard on the potential for removing the Peninsular dam in Ypsilanti.

NSF awards $1.8M to help develop smart stormwater system
HRWC partner Branko Kerkez, University of Michigan College of Engineering, was awarded funding to pursue the development of smart technologies to better manage stormwater. Kerkez and his team have been piloting one of these systems in the Mallets Creek watershed and will continue work in the Huron under this new grant.

52 Environmental Rules on the Way Out Under Trump
With so much news coming out of the federal government these days it has been hard to keep track of exactly what actions the Trump Administration has been able to push through. This article gives a succinct and thorough look at environmental rules and regulations either overturned already, in progress or under consideration. This list is long and troubling and will undoubtedly grow with Pruitt, who in his previous role sued the agency more than a dozen times, at the helm of the EPA.

Miles of Algae Covering Lake Erie
Once again, Lake Erie is turning green. This nearly annual explosion of algal is making national news. The New York Times reports that while this year’s bloom is low in the toxic algae that shut down Toledo’s drinking water supply, the size of algal blooms are growing. Phosphorus, agriculture and the Maumee drainage area are called out as the primary contributors to the problem.



HRWC releases first-of-its kind study on river’s economic impact

Read the newly released “Summary of The Economic Impact of the Huron River.”

In 2016, HRWC commissioned a unique study to measure the economic impact of the river on local communities, focusing on Huron River Water Trail activities and the value of natural systems that maintain a healthy, clean river.

The Huron River contributes enormous benefit to the local economy.

That’s one of the key takeaways from research conducted by a research team with Grand Valley State University lead by Dr. Paul Isely, associate dean. Their work, supported by HRWC and the RiverUp! initiative, represents a significant step forward in quantifying the economic value of the Huron River corridor and the Huron River Water Trail, a designated National Water Trail.

Read the “Full Study of The Economic Impact of the Huron River by Grand Valley State University.”

Key Findings

The Huron River and Huron River Water Trail are conservatively estimated to have the following economic impact on the five-county region in which they are located:

  • $53.5M in economic output ($29.9M direct + $23.6M indirect spending) annually
  • $150M annual economic value of ecosystem services provided by the Huron River
  • $3.8B total economic value of services provided by the Huron River
  • 2.6 million visitor days

The study provides robust baseline information about who’s using the river and trails along it, how the downtowns and businesses near the river relate to it, and how the value of maintaining the river corridor’s natural features can be monetized. As a result, HRWC and its partners can make more targeted investments, track changes over time, and have another tool for engaging new partners.economic-impact-pull-quote-web

The team followed a two-part approach to understanding the value of the Huron River: measure the river’s economic impact using visitor and business surveys; and assess the positive benefits of the Huron River watershed to people, also known as ecosystem services. The Huron River supports recreation, tourism, and business activities that greatly support the local economy. The majority of this spending is driven by outdoor activity around or near the water.

The second part of the study estimates the ecosystem value of the Huron River. Nature provides vital contributions to economic and social well-being that are often not traded in markets or fully considered in land use, business, and other economic decisions. In the case of a river, these contributions include protection against erosion and flooding, habitat for diverse birds, fish, and mammals, and cultural and aesthetic benefits that come from people’s interactions with nature.

Measuring the economic impact of the Huron River will benefit local partners as well as similar placemaking efforts and water trails around the country. A 2015 survey of impact studies for water trails by the National Park Service found only three reference studies. Water trails in Michigan and around the country through the National Water Trails System are ready to learn from findings on the Huron River Water Trail.economic-output-and-aesthetic-value-pull-quote-web

Since it began in 2012, RiverUp! has contributed more than $2 million in private and public investments to restore and protect the Huron River, revitalize community waterfronts, and increase water-based recreation for all. RiverUp!’s work is leveraged by an additional $40 million in riverfront improvements by partners over that time. This new report provides HRWC and its RiverUp! partners with reliable information on the value of these investments compared to the river-based economy.



River Roundup Show & Tell

Volunteer to study the Huron River! We can’t do it without you.

At HRWC’s River Roundup, our long-running study of the Huron River, volunteers get to know a special place in the Huron’s tributaries, while helping us learn about the river’s health.

River Roundup is an all-age friendly event, where trained volunteers guide small teams in fieldwork to search through river samples for pollution-sensitive ‘bugs’ called macroinvertebrates, that live in our waterways. The event is followed by Insect ID Day where we work inside to identify the species found.
_________________

Volunteer videographer: David Brown

David produced “HRWC River Roundup” from concept to creation and did all the scripting, narrating, directing, filming, music and editing. Thank you David for your support of HRWC and the Huron River!
_________________

With Jason Frenzel, HRWC Stewardship Coordinator and Zaina Al Habash and Laurie Domaleski
_________________

Sign Up! HRWC’s next River Roundup is Saturday, October 14, with Insect ID Day following on Sunday, October 29.



2018 Watershed Community Calendar

You can be an H2O Hero!

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 to inspire you to enjoy and protect our beloved river.2018-watershed-community-calendar-cover-lo-res

Our hope is that, just like the H2O Heroes featured in the calendar, you turn inspiration into action. That you do something every day to protect clean water or work with HRWC in 2018 as a volunteer. Your calendar is conveniently marked with the dates of our Winter Stonefly Search, Spring and Fall River Roundups and the kick off training for our summer Water Quality Monitoring program!

How to get your calendar.

By mail.  Ann Arbor and Dexter have already direct-mailed it to most households in their communities.

In person.  Calendars are at these customer service counters:
-Livingston County Drain Commission and Road Commission
-Washtenaw County Water Resources Commission and Road Commission
-City of Ann Arbor
-City of Brighton
-City of Dexter
-City of Wixom2018-watershed-community-calendar-p2-lo-res
-City of Ypsilanti
-Village of Pinckney
-Green Oak Charter Township
-Hamburg Township
-Marion Township
-Pittsfield Charter Township
-Putnam Township
-Charter Township of Ypsilanti

*Barton Hills Village, Ann Arbor Public Schools, Eastern Michigan University and University of Michigan Environment, Health & Safety are also distributing calendars.

From HRWC. Contact Pam Labadie at plabadie@hrwc.org 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 in the NEW Center 1100 North Main Street, Ann Arbor, M-F, 8am-5pm.

About the Calendar.

The 2018 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.




Donate to HRWC
Calendar
2018PrintCalendar
Huron River Water Trail
Coal Tar Sealers
RiverUp
Donate to HRWC
SwiftRun
rss .FaceBook-Logo.twitter-logo Youtubelogo