PZC GLRI Former Project: 2010-2012

Cass, Pigeon/Pinnebog, Rifle Rivers Watershed 

In 2010, the Planning & Zoning Center (PZC) at MSU, partnering with the East Michigan Council of Governments, was selected by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to receive a $399,000 two-year grant as part of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) program. The PZC project targeted 102 local units of government in three sub-watersheds to assist with master plan and zoning ordinance updates to protect water quality. Unlike other programs that received funding under the GLRI program, whose goal is the physical restoration of the Great Lakes and the rivers, streams and near shore areas that feed them; the goal of the PZC project was to prevent further environmental degradation of particularly the Saginaw Bay by assisting local and regional stakeholders with the adoption of measures that will ensure protection of water quality as new development and redevelopment occurs.

Project Team

The PZC has enlisted the expert help of two organizations to assist with the progress and development of the overall project. While various other organizations are associated with the project on an advisory basis, the two following organizations combined with PZC make up the core Project Team:

East Michigan Council of Governments logoThe East Michigan Council of Governments (EMCOG) is well-known and well-respected among local governments, nonprofits, businesses and others within the region. By using their already established long term relationships with local units of government, EMCOG assists the Team in notifying local governments and other stakeholders of education and outreach opportunities and helping to educate them on best management practices to reduce pollution and improve water quality in the Saginaw Bay Watershed. They are also the local repository of products produced by PZC on this project.

Saginaw Basin Land Conservancy logoThe Saginaw Basin Land Conservancy (SBLC) is actively working to address the Saginaw Bay/River Area of Concern Beneficial Use Impairments through expansion of its mission to protect environmentally sensitive areas like critical marsh areas and improve water quality by permanently protecting wetlands along Saginaw Bay tributary rivers and streams. The SBLC is identifying landowners in the three target sub-watersheds who have sensitive lands that would be beneficial to target for long-term protection. Soon SBLC will be contacting landowners, and sharing information about resources available and best management practices for restoration and permanent protection. They will provide technical guidance as needed, and monitor progress of landowners in implementation. The SBLC and PZC are in the early stage of planning a special effort to engage the farm community in this project.

Michigan Deparment of Environmental Quality logoTwo Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) employees serve as members of the project Advisory Committee. They provide the Project Team with institutional knowledge, expert regional perspectives, access to important resources, connections to other groups that share similar objectives and identification of key issues that require special consideration.

Project Study Area

Map: 2010-2012 GLRI Project Study Area

2010-2012 GLRI Project Study Areas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Source: Planning & Zoning Center, Land Policy Institute, Michigan State University, 2011. Click on a sub-watershed for more details. Rifle River Pigeon/Pinnebog River Cass River

The PZC project focused on the Cass, Pigeon/Pinnebog and Rifle Rivers Sub-Watersheds. Local master plans and zoning ordinances of about 100 rural municipalities within the three sub-watersheds were assessed for their application of contemporary goals and strategies for watershed protection, as well as for use of Best Management Practices (BMPs) for managing surface water and runoff. The PZC project team worked with local planning commissioners, elected officials, and the public to develop watershed protection policies and practices appropriate to small rural municipalities that are effective in protecting the quality of surface water before it is discharged into the Bay. These policies are based on Low Impact Development techniques. For more information on Low Impact Development, PZC recommends the following sites:

Outreach

Cass River Watershed

Map: Cass River Watershed Area

Cass River Watershed Area

 

 

 

 

 

 

Source: Planning & Zoning Center, Land Policy Institute, Michigan State University, 2011.

The Cass River watershed encompasses approximately 352 miles of perennial streams, draining westward into the Saginaw River south of the City of Saginaw. The watershed is about 908 square miles in size. The upper portion of the watershed (to the East) is comprised of many agricultural drains that eventually meet the Cass. The Cass River itself passes through the villages of Ubly, Cass City and Frankenmuth before discharging into the Saginaw River in Frankenmuth Township.

The highest populated municipality in the watershed is the City of Frankenmuth, with a population of 4,838 in 2010.

Problems in the Watershed

A number of suspected water quality challenges have been identified within the watershed:

  • Sedimentation from road/stream crossing;
  • Eroding streambank segments;
  • Soils with a high potential for erosion;
  • Livestock access to streams and ditches;
  • High concentrations of animal waste;
  • Inadequate storage of fertilizer;
  • Stormwater runoff from developed lands;
  • Improperly functioning septic systems; and
  • Sanitary sewer overflows (SSOs).

Primary Groups Active in the Watershed

Cass River Watershed Documents

Pigeon/Pinnebog River Watershed

Map: Pigeon/Pinnebog River Watershed Area

Pigeon/Pinnebog River Watershed Area map

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Source: Planning & Zoning Center, Land Policy Institute, Michigan State University, 2011.

Pigeon Watershed Background

The Pigeon River Watershed covers approximately 145 square miles within the greater Saginaw Bay Watershed and abuts the Pinnebog watershed to the West. The watershed is typically broken down into four smaller drainage basins; the Lower Pigeon River, West Branch Drain, Upper Pigeon River and the Little Pigeon River that totals approximately 391 miles of stream. The Pigeon River discharges directly into the Saginaw Bay, after passing through the coastal city of Caseville.

Caseville is the most populated urban area in the watershed with an approximate population of 777 full-time residents in 2010. That population nearly doubles during the summer tourism season.

A majority of the Pigeon River Watershed drains agricultural land uses (82% of watershed) and, to a smaller degree, undeveloped and urban lands.

Problems in Pigeon River Watershed

  • Loss of wetlands (88% loss since 1800);
  • Loss of habitat and varieties of wildlife/macro-invertebrates;
  • Erosion of streambanks and highly erodible soils;
  • Sedimentation from road/stream crossing;
  • Aging and improperly functioning septic systems and sanitary sewer overflows (SSOs);
  • High concentrations of animal feeding operations, resulting in high concentrations of animal waste;
  • Agricultural runoff; and
  • Invasive species, particularly Phragmites.

Pinnebog Watershed Background

The Pinnebog River mainstream is approximately 40 miles long. Combined with its tributaries; the Pinnebog Watershed encompasses nearly 599 miles of stream and covers an area 195 square miles. The upper portion of the watershed (to the South) is comprised of a number of agricultural drains that eventually form confluences with the Pinnebog River. The Pinnebog River drains into the Saginaw Bay approximately 3.5 miles Southwest of Port Austin, near the tip of Huron County.

The highest populated municipality in the watershed is the City of Bad Axe, with a population of 3,129 in 2010.

A majority of the Pinnebog River Watershed drains agricultural land uses and, to a smaller degree, undeveloped and urban lands.

Problems in the Pinnebog River Watershed

A number of suspected water quality challenges have been identified within the watershed:

  • Sedimentation from road/stream crossing,
  • Eroding streambank segments,
  • Soils with a high potential for erosion,
  • Livestock access to streams and ditches,
  • High concentrations of animal waste,
  • Inadequate storage of fertilizer,
  • Stormwater runoff from developed lands,
  • Improperly functioning septic systems, and
  • Sanitary sewer overflows.

Primary Groups Active in the Watersheds

Pigeon/Pinnebog River Documents

Rifle River Watershed

Map: Rifle River Watershed Area

Rifle River Watershed Area

Source: Planning & Zoning Center, Land Policy Institute, Michigan State University, 2011.

The Rifle River mainstream is approximately 60 miles long and has tributaries totaling 140 miles in length. The watershed consists of approximately 396 square miles. The Rifle River is one of the swiftest streams in the Lower Peninsula due to the fairly steep gradient found in many reaches. A clay pan underlies much of the soils within the watershed, helping create rapid runoff and “relatively flashy stream flows.”

The Rifle River watershed can be divided into two parts: the upper and lower watershed. The majority of the upper watershed is located in state controlled forests. The region’s elevation varies from 900 feet to 1,300 feet above sea level. The upper watershed supports brown trout and anadromous fisheries. The upper watershed is fed predominately by groundwater.

The lower watershed flows through the old Lake Huron lake bed, which has been drained for agriculture. This makes the lower portion of the watershed much flatter than the upper. The agricultural activities are maintained by artificial drainage networks. Anadromous fishing is also found here, most notably steelhead and salmon.

Problems in the Watershed

“In order to assure that growth within the Rifle River watershed does not adversely impact the region’s natural resources, proper planning is of paramount importance.” - Rifle River Watershed Non-Point Source Management Plan

A number of suspected water quality challenges are identified in the Rifle River Watershed Non-Point Source Management Plan:

  • Sedimentation from road/stream crossing;
  • Eroding streambank segments;
  • Impacts transmitted from various agricultural activities;
  • Stormwater runoff from developed lands;
  • Impacts related to public access needs;
  • Tapping of artesian flows;
  • Improperly functioning septic systems;
  • Industrial and municipal surface water discharges;
  • Urban sprawl;
  • Thermal pollution; and
  • Agricultural drainage.

Primary Groups Active in the Watershed

Rifle River Watershed Documents