Upper Tahquamenon River Restoration Project
Upper Tahquamenon River, MI

Grantee: Tahquamenon Sportsman's Club
Basin Program Funds: $4,270
Non-federal Funds: $7,889
Project Duration: 06/2000 - 11/2000
Status: complete

Problem Statement
The Upper Tahquamenon River flows through a forest area and has a naturally reproducing brook trout population. Trout habitat is being threatened by streambank erosion problems in the headwaters area. Spawning sites for trout and habitat for aquatic insects have been diminished by sedimentation. The Tahquamenon Area Sportsman's Club formed a partnership with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Fisheries Division and riparian landowners and sought to extend an experimental streambed improvement project from an initial 0.5 mile section of the river to additional eroding sites along the river.

Typical stream section prior to abatement activities

Background
Erosion problems in the Upper Tahquamenon were created by historic logging activity and natural processes that occurred thereafter. The original erosion problems were caused by impoundments created at the turn of the 20th century to facilitate log drives. The original streambank vegetation was lost as a result of the impoundments. The stream's steep slopes were left exposed to chronic erosion from storm events. While new vegetation grew along the streambanks after logging was abandoned, the shallow-rooted conifers are now maturing and adding to the sediment load as they uproot and fall into the river. The exposed, unstable sand on the river's steep slopes readily washes into the river with fast flowing run-off from storms or the spring melt.

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.

Activities
The project team reviewed an erosion site inventory created during 1999 and selected sites for remedial work. They met with interested volunteers and landowners to review proposed abatement measures. The team organized a voluntary work crew and obtained the equipment and materials required for the restoration project. During July and August, the work crew restored three sites consisting of 4.5 miles of streambank.

Restoration included removal and redirection of windfall timber, stabilizing shoreline and installing deflection and habitat logs. The work crew redirected fallen trees by cutting most branches and placing them so that they deflect water away from streambanks and toward the middle of the stream. When in place, logs are drilled and quarter inch reinforcing steel rods are driven through the logs and into the river bottom. The crew also placed some in-stream cover logs which are installed in the water above the river bottom. These provide valuable cover for trout. The crew did not remove or re-position every fallen tree. Instead, each was analyzed to determine how it might be used to maximum benefit to the river. For those that were left as they fell, some branches were removed to allow angers passage within the river rather than forcing them to the streambanks where ingress and egress points contribute significant sediment load to the stream.

Same section of the Tahquamenon River after substantial completion of treatment efforts

Results
The project team completed 4.5 miles of streambank restoration, saving an estimated 25 tons of sand from entering the stream annually over a 50 year period. The project team held a picnic to celebrate the project's completion and review progress. Those in attendance included volunteers, landowners and their guests as well as agency representatives. In addition, the project team has used this project to secure further funding from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Inland Fisheries Grant Program. Work on the Upper Tahquamenon will be ongoing. The team plans to continue long-term maintenance, including the installation of a sand trap to remove several hundred cubic yards of sand annually. They are also encouraging riparian landowners to consider replanting to ensure stable streambanks.

 

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.  projects.glc.org. Join the Friends of the Great Lakes GLIN Partner