Psutka Road Crossing Project
Conservation Resource Alliance
Basin Program Funds:
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.
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.
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
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.