Big Sable River Road Crossing Improvement Project
Northern Mason County, MI

Grantee: Mason-Lake Conservation District
Basin Program Funds: $88,900
Non-federal Funds: $98,000
Project Duration: 07/2003 - 02/2005
Status: complete

Problem Statement
Due to unmanaged road runoff at the Stephens Road crossing of the Big Sable River, there is a problem is excess sedimentation into the river which ultimately flows directly into Hamlin Lake and Lake Michigan

The Stephens Road crossing has been identified as a severely eroding crossing in the Big Sable Watershed Road/Stream Crossing Inventory done by the Conservation Resource Alliance (CRA) in 2000. The steep sandy approaches that are each 1,350 feet long and steep (8% grade), having a low-point at the stream crossing, results in the delivery of approximately 115 tons/year of sediment to the Big Sable River. Sedimentation has been identified as a major threat to the ecology of the Big Sable Watershed in the Hamlin Lake Watershed Management Plan (including the Big Sable Watershed) that was approved by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) in 1999. Furthermore, the MDEQ completed a biological survey of the Big Sable in 2000 and stated that some segments of the mainstream have reduced habitat quality due to excessive sand bed load.

The Stephens Road site has importance as a brown trout stocking location for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. A temperature study conducted in 2002 by the Conservation Resource Alliance revealed that water temperatures in proximity to the Stephens Road crossing are superior to other locations in the watershed and are optimal for trout due to higher ground water input. For these reasons, project partners feel that it is critical that this habitat is protected from further degradation from sedimentation. In addition, improvement of the road/stream crossing would address agricultural run-off from a crop field located at the top of the north approach. The Stephens Road crossing site is also located in the upper quarter of the watershed and the improvement of this crossing would ultimately affect all river miles downstream.

The completion of the proposed project would virtually eliminate sedimentation to the Big Sable River at the Stephens Road crossing by paving and curbing the long, steep sandy road approaches to the crossing, and constructing diversion outlets to properly manage road run-off. The improvement to be done by the Mason County Road Commission (MCRC) included station grading, paving and curbing, construction of diversion outlets, necessary downspouts, and spillways to direct sediment laden run-off to settling areas away from the stream. Project evaluation will be done by the CRA including quantifying soil loss reduction using Great Lakes Basin identified equations and submitting before and after photos.

Information dissemination and outreach were done by the CRA and M-LCD through newsletters, press releases, direct mailings, media events and a post-construction site tour. In addition, CRA plans to include the project on the CRA website including a description of the problem, construction techniques, funding, photographs, and evaluation for other watershed groups and road commissions to use as an example.

The Mason-Lake Conservation District (M-LCD) and the Conservation Resource Alliance (CRA) both worked directly with the Mason County Road Commission (MCRC) to facilitate project implementation at the Stephens Road Crossing. Matching funds totaling $98,000 were leveraged from the Mason County Road Commission and Free Soil Township of Mason County toward the project. The MCRC finalized site plans and received approval of required permits from the MDEQ prior to construction. The road crossing improvements were completed between July and October of 2004 and included station grading, paving and curbing approaches that were each 1,350 feet long, construction of two diversion outlets and sediment traps to reduce sediment in runoff and direct runoff to settling areas away from the stream. Project evaluation was continued by the M-LCD and CRA in the form of calculating soil loss reduction equations before and after construction and documenting pre- and post-construction site conditions with photographs.

Information, dissemination and outreach efforts were accomplished by hosting a site tour of the completed project, including key local partners, that was open to the public. The tour was announced with a press release by a direct mailing to the Big Sable Watershed Restoration Committee mailing list and other media partners (approximately 300 people). The tour was held on November 9, 2004 and twenty people attended. An article was printed in the Ludington Daily News (circulation 9000) after the tour and in the M-LCD December newsletter. In addition, both M-LCD and CRA posted information about the project, press release and site tour on their websites. Another article about the project will be printed in the M-LCD Annual Report on Feb. 17, 2005 which is distributed as an insert in the Ludington Daily News. Before and after pictures of the project will be displayed at all district events in 2005 (Before pictures were displayed in 2004) including the Annual Meeting on February 24, Tree Sale in April and the County Fair in July.

Contact: Ms. Lynda Herremans, (231) 757-3708


Great Lakes Commission des Grands Lacs.  2805 S. Industrial Highway, Suite 100.  Ann Arbor, MI  48104-6791.  phone: 734/971.9135.  fax: 734/971-9150. Join the Friends of the Great Lakes GLIN Partner