Sauk River Adopt-A-Stream Project
Branch County, MI

Grantee: Branch County Conservation District
Basin Program Funds: $18,200
Non-federal Funds: $19,500
Project Duration: 07/1999 - 06/2000
Status: complete

Problem Statement
The Sauk River in Branch County, Michigan has nonpoint source water quality problems due to soil erosion and sedimentation from cropland and streambank erosion and from road and rail crossings. A lack of community awareness of these problems has meant little or no action has been undertaken to combat soil erosion and sedimentation, resulting in a gradual decline in water quality within the project area.

Volunteers helping clear trash between Waterworks Park and Old 27

This project was designed to allow the community in the watershed, in particular students, to become actively involved in a project on the Sauk River through the implementation of an Adopt-A-Stream program. Project personnel wished to see better coordination and linkages between erosion control and water quality programs in the watershed. They also wished to promote a public understanding of the importance of sediment as a pollutant and its role in chemical transportation and habitat degradation.

In addition to the Branch County Conservation District, which served as the sponsoring agency, project partners included the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service, two local school districts, local government agencies, the County Board of Commissioners and the Drain Commissioner, and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality which supports an ongoing Clean Water Act, Section 319 project in the Sauk and Coldwater River watersheds.

In July 1999, several Branch County Conservation District employees and local educators received training in stream monitoring at the Kellogg Biological Station through Michigan State University Extension. The trained personnel then surveyed the Sauk River, identifying areas in need of clean up and dividing the river into eleven sections for adoption by participating community groups.

The district administrator attended a number of community group meetings to inform potential partners about the Adopt-A-Stream opportunity on the Sauk River. Eventually a number of community groups, ranging from the Rotary and Masonic Lodge to school groups, adopted a portion of the Sauk River. For its section of the river, each group agreed to pick up trash and litter twice a year, maintain access to the river and provide the district with a brief report on cleanup efforts to aid documentation and reporting. In addition, some groups agreed to plant grass, trees and shrubs on eroded streambank sites to provide restoration support. After obtaining permission to access the river from landowners, the district organized seven cleanup days.

In order to assess the impact of the cleanup, the project team arranged for water quality surveying to occur. District staff members completed the initial survey and sent it to a State of Michigan laboratory prior to beginning the cleanup. In addition, a Quincy High School teacher trained 60 students in water analysis. The students began testing water quality at four sites in two mile intervals during the fall of 1999 as part of on-going water quality monitoring efforts.

Eleven community groups participated in the initial cleanup and committed to ongoing stewardship of their section of the Sauk River. In celebration of the Sauk River cleanup, the Adopt-A-Stream program partnered with the Hospice Duck Committee to hold the Sauk River Fest in July 2000. An estimated 1,000 people enjoyed events such as a canoe race and games.

Dissemination of public information about the Adopt-A-Stream program was aided by Quincy Community schools. Teachers and students helped to develop a video and website ( to convey information about the project. The video will be available to the local cable public access channel to publicize the effort as well as to program partners to enable them to spread the word. The website was linked to the Friends of the St. Joe River Association website because of this group's interest in the program. Additional public information was conveyed through newspapers, radio shows and informational signs posted on the river.

In addition, partnership with the Section 319 project enabled two eroded streambank sites on the river to be restored, totaling 2,400 square feet. Project personnel estimate that a total of 315 tons of soil will be saved from these sites. Grass and wildflower planting that occurred during cleanup helped to reduce erosion and enhanced wildlife habitat.


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