Upper Tahquamenon River Restoration Project
Upper Tahquamenon River,
Tahquamenon Sportsman's Club
Basin Program Funds:
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.
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.
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.
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