Use of the WWW for Watershed Management
Michigan Technological University
Basin Program Funds:
It is anticipated that the Otter River watershed located in Houghton County
in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, will experience increased development for recreational
use in the near future, including boating, skiing, hiking, snowmobiling, off-road
vehicles and a considerable sport fishery. The fishery has declined recently
due, in part, to degraded habitat from excessive sedimentation. The watershed
is 89% forested and road crossings are a major contributor of the sediment
degrading water quality. Michigan Technological University proposed the development
of an Internet education tool to familiarize Otter River watershed users with
land-use impacts in their watershed.
The watershed has a complex drainage pattern with a number of small streams
that are both perennial and intermittent with varying slopes and geomorphic
characteristics. There are 18 lakes in the watershed ranging from 6.3 to 933
acres in size. Only 2, Otter and Sand lakes, have significant residential development,
while the remainder have little or none. This lack of residential development
makes these other areas of the watershed excellent recreation space.
A 1993 Michigan Department of Environmental Quality study identified
poor conditions at road crossings in the Otter River watershed as a major
contributor to erosion and sedimentation problems in the basin. A Michigan
Department of Natural Resources study, based on a survey of 60 miles of watershed,
found many severe "trouble" spots. For instance, at one location almost 14,000
cubic feet of sand had been deposited over 15,000 linear feet of stream. There
is a layer of sand up to 10 feet deep in the final 7-8 miles of the Otter
River above Otter Lake. In the lake itself, a large delta stretches more than
half way across the lake bottom estimated at more than 54,000 10-yard dump
truck loads of sand!
Michigan Technological University proposed developing an interactive
web site to educate school children and members of the general public about
the processes and effects of erosion and sedimentation in a watershed. The
site is intended to raise awareness about these issues and identify ways people
can address and control sedimentation.
Michigan Technological University personnel developed an Internet site framework
for Michigan Technological University's Water Web (www.cee.mtu.edu/projects/watershed).
The theme of this site is watershed management. Water Web information is organized
to appeal to a range of ages and backgrounds. For instance, information for
children in kindergarten through sixth grade is presented primarily in images,
while that aimed at middle school and high school students builds conceptually
and is more detailed depending upon the level. Information presented at the
college and professional levels is based upon professional papers, books and
academic theses. The site also has information on meteorology, with a section
on remote sensing and monitoring expected to be added soon.
The underlying purpose of the web site is education, nevertheless
it has also been used to aid in stream rehabilitation through the Otter River
Improvement Project. This real-time project involves several agencies
and groups and illustrates a cooperative effort of watershed rehabilitation
to reduce sediment and erosion. The site allows a virtual tour of the Otter
River and can be seen at www.cee.mtu.edu/projects/watershed/otter_river/index.
The project managers have found it a challenge to find personnel
with the requisite expertise in both web page design and natural systems.
There are also difficulties associated with communication between programmers
and those working in the field.
The project team developed a range of educational modules on watershed management
directed at all age groups, Kindergarten through college levels. The project
team has coordinated their work with a number of schools and modules from the
site will be used in conjunction with local "Adopt-a-Stream" programs as part
of Michigan Technological University's outreach programs. In a addition, a graduate
hydrology class has agreed to provide hydrologic analyses for several basins
located throughout the western Upper Peninsula. Involved faculty and staff intend
to keep developing the site, including modules on water quality, remote sensing,
airshed management and pollution.
Contact: Dennis Johnson, (906) 487-3613