Psutka Road Crossing Project
Manistee County, MI

Grantee: Conservation Resource Alliance
Basin Program Funds: $25,000
Non-federal Funds: $19,000 (Proposed)
Project Duration: 07/1999 - 00/0000
Status: ongoing

Problem Statement
The Betsie River, located in northwestern Michigan, is a state-designated Natural River highly utilized for salmon and steelhead fishing, and other outdoor recreation opportunities. Unfortunately, many sites along the river are experiencing severe erosion. The Psutka Road crossing in the Betsie River watershed has been a severe erosion site for many years, and a priority repair project to the Betsie River Watershed Restoration Committee.

The  Psutka Road crossing before

An estimated 75 to 100 tons of sand erode from Psutka Road crossing on an annual basis. The stretch of Betsie River located downstream of this crossing and reaching to the next crossing is heavily loaded with sand. The river in this section is fairly wide with few deep holds and gravel runs for optimal fish habitat. Spawning beds are buried and the river is often shallow, thus increasing water temperatures. Both the north and south approaches to the Psutka Bridge have been actively eroding for the last ten years as rain, snow melt and vehicle traffic carve deep crevices into the road bed and shoulders. The crossing is popular among canoeists and anglers for access to the river, and trampled pathways on either side of the bridge are evident.

The primary goal of this project is to improve the water quality and fish and wildlife habitat of the Betsie River by addressing the water quality threat caused by erosion at the Psutka Road Crossing. Several agencies interested in the Betsie River will be involved an on-the-ground erosion control project at Psutka Crossing.

Methods to be implemented in this project include: paving the approaches to Psutka Road to prevent further erosion of the road and shoulders; constructing diversion outlets to control water flow; and slowing the velocity of the water and allowing sediment to settle before runoff can reach the river.

The project team held an initial meeting at the Psutka River Crossing to agree upon construction items and a timeline for project completion. During the duration of the project, four Watershed Restoration Committee meetings were held in which the project was discussed and construction blue prints were approved. The Manistee Road Commission (MCR) proceeded with the project, installing a greater number of best management practices (BMPs) than initially planned. The MCR regraded, paved and curbed the Psutka Road approaches to the channel (1,500 feet) and established six diversion outlets complete with rock rip rap along both approaches to control runoff. Curbing helps divert water flow into diversion outlets and away from the low point on the bridge. They provided parking on the left approach so that cars will not tear up the vegetation and soil on the embankments. Additionally, the MCR revegetated some areas, replaced a culvert, and installed ditching and check dams to accommodate a spring in the clay soils on one approach to the bridge.

Once the project was completed, an on-site meeting and site tour was held for all project partners and local media to showcase the BMPs installed. Copies of the Great Lakes Better Backroads Guidebook - Clean Waters by Design (by the Huron Pines RC&D Council) were passed out at the meeting and those present reviewed the BMP sections implemented at the Psutka Road Crossing. Additionally, a mailing detailing the project and on-site tour was sent to approximately 350 people.

The  Psutka Road crossing after

This project is an example of a watershed-wide perspective and community-based approach to solving water quality and erosion problems that can be shared with community members, restoration committee partners and other road commissions. The working relationship established with the Manistee County Road Commission as a result of this project can be applied to other watersheds that overlap Manistee County. Most significantly, the project helped maintain the active operation and participation of the Betsie River Watershed Restoration Committee by giving them a focus project for a year and has uplifted their spirits because visible results were produced. Future improvements include repairing or replacing the Psutka Road Bridge. The Committee is working with the Conservation Resource Alliance to access Clean Michigan Initiative monies to help fund the repairs or replacement.

As a result of this project, approximately 3,375 tons of soil, 33,750 pounds of phosphorus and 67,500 pounds of nitrogen will be saved over the project's estimated 35 year life-span. Improvements have been made to fish and wildlife habitat, water temperatures, water quality, recreational use and aesthetics.


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