Our Rivers Run Through Us

By Carol Moncrieff Rose

The Greek philosopher Heraclitus opined that “No man ever steps into the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.”  While there is much to be appreciated by this wisdom, northern Michigan watershed groups are doing more than pondering its nuances; plans are being made, permits being secured, crews and contractors being hired, and data being collected.  Here’s just a sampling of watershed work on the agenda for some of northern Michigan’s river keepers.AuSableBigWaterPic2

Servicing the eleven counties of northeastern lower Michigan, Huron Pines (HP) has projects planned for at least seven different watersheds.  On the Thunder Bay River, five road/stream crossing projects are planned in Oscoda, Montmorency and Alcona Counties.  On the Au Sable, Huron Pines is working with the folks of the Au Sable Big Water Preservation Committee on erosion control and habitat enhancement projects as well as projects on the North Branch.  In the Pigeon River Country State Forest, HP has plans underway for all three of the rivers there.  For the Black River, permit development is underway for removal of Saunders Dam.  For the Pigeon and Sturgeon, HP is working on developing a stand-alone stewardship group for each of these beautiful rivers, with volunteer projects planned throughout the summer.  Other projects are planned for the Rifle River (Ogemaw and Arenac Counties), Black River (Alcona County) and the Northern Saginaw Bay Watershed Initiative.

The service area of the Conservation Resource Alliance (CRA) covers the western half of Michigan’s “mitten.”  Their 13 counties include the 16 watersheds in northwestern Lower Michigan.  Perhaps their highest profile project is focused on the removal of three dams on the Boardman River.  Removal of the Brown Bridge Dam and its infrastructure was accomplished in 2012.  Once the second and third dams are removed, over 3.4 miles of the Boardman River will be restored, reconnecting 160 miles of high quality river habitat.  CRA will be continuing collaboration with its many watershed committee and municipality partners on river restoration and road/stream crossing improvements, including the dedication of a new timber-frame bridge over the Boyne River.  The waters of northwestern Michigan are ever-changing under the guidance of CRA.

Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council overlaps the service areas of CRA and HP at the top of the “mitten.” Their efforts continue on their myriad of restoration, monitoring, advocacy and volunteer activities for the rivers, lakes, wetlands and groundwater of northern Michigan.

Anglers of the Au Sable have a comprehensive list of action items on their agenda for 2013.  These include continuation of their fascinating telemetry study of 30 tagged trout as they move throughout the Au Sable system, two sediment trap clean-outs, river clean-up work bees, planting cedar seedlings along the river corridor and monitoring oil/gas activities, among many others.  Their excellent quarterly newsletter, THE RIVERWATCH gives you an inside look at the level of their passion and advocacy for this historic, hallowed trout fishery.

The volunteers of the Big Sable River Watershed Restoration Committee in Lake and Mason Counties will be doing water sampling, stream-bank stabilization and in-stream habitat work in 2013, along with assisting the MDNR with scatter-planting brown trout.  Members of the Pere Marquette Watershed Restoration Committee have some interesting projects on their horizon, too.  Among them is exploration into the removal or repair of the dam on the Baldwin River (a tributary of the PM), developing a new recreational use for an abandoned lamprey weir, and assisting the MDNR with fish shocking data collection in this cold-water fishery.

Partners of the Upper Black River Council will be fielding a seasonal river crew again this year which will be installing in-stream habitat enhancements over 8,915 feet of the main branch of this naturally reproducing brook trout fishery in Montmorency, Otsego, Presque Isle and Cheboygan Counties. One dozen temp loggers will be launched throughout the watershed, an erosion site inventory of Canada Creek will be initiated, two sediment traps will be maintained and a volunteer work bee will cap off the summer season

How fortunate we are that this region in blessed with such a bounty of rivers, and that most every one of them has a watershed committee or non-profit conservation entity watching over it; this overview covered but a handful of them.  Each group has enjoyable, educational volunteer outreach activities to introduce new stewards to “their” respective river.  You need but to “step in” to that river with them – you may find that both you, and the river, are forever changed.  These rivers flow through us all.

About Northern Michigan Conservation Network

The mission of the Northern Michigan Conservation Network is to "connect conservation-minded hunters, anglers, and outdoor enthusiasts to those issues affecting Michigan's forests, waters, and wildlife."

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