Great Lakes Basin Program for Soil Erosion & Sediment Control
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print-ready factsheet Saginaw Bay Soil Erosion and Sedimentation Control Program
Livingston County, MI

Grantee: Michigan Department of Natural Resources
Basin Program Funds: $600,000/year for 3 years
Non-federal Funds: 0
Project Duration: 07/1993 - 01/1996
Status: complete

The Saginaw Bay Soil Erosion and Sedimentation Control Program is an excellent example of a federal/state/local partnership encouraged by the Great Lakes Basin Program. Designed to complement the Saginaw Bay National Watershed Initiative, its goal is to protect and improve the water quality of Saginaw Bay by controlling and reducing sedimentation from the surrounding watershed. The Saginaw Bay Watershed has received three $600,000 grant awards from the U.S. EPA under the Great Lakes Basin Program (Program years 1992, 1993 and 1994), funding 49 projects addressing soil erosion and sedimentation in the Saginaw Bay Watershed.

The Saginaw Bay Watershed consists of the entire land area and waterways which drain into Saginaw Bay. It includes all or portions of 22 counties. The Watershed consists of three major sub-watersheds including the Saginaw River Basin, East Coast Basin and West Coast Basin. Each of these are made up of smaller sub-watersheds.

Saginaw Bay covers 1,143 square miles with 240 miles of shoreline and is divided into an inner and outer bay on the basis of its natural configuration and depth. The inner bay averages 15 feet deep while the outer bay averages 48 feet. The Saginaw Bay Watershed is the largest drainage basin in the state. It covers more than 8,700 square miles in 22 counties or about 15% of the State of Michigan.

The Saginaw Bay Watershed is home to approximately 1.4 million people with more than 175 inland lakes and about 7,000 miles of rivers and tributaries. The Bay is a major water source for a variety of uses. Farms, industry and residents rely on the bay for irrigation, electrical power generation, industrial processes and drinking water. Other communities and residents of the watershed rely on groundwater for their water supply. Major land-uses in the watershed are agriculture (46%), forest (29%), open lands (11%), urban (8%), wetlands (4%) and water (2%).

The Saginaw Bay and its watershed is not as healthy as it once was. Declining water quality is caused mainly by nutrients, sediments and toxic substances. The bay and rivers are affected by numerous sources such as construction sites, agricultural fields, lawns and urban areas. Many of these sources are individually small in size but have a major combined impact.

The Saginaw Bay Soil Erosion and Sedimentation Control Program is one of the most important and highly successful elements of the Saginaw Bay National Watershed Initiative. Through an annual allocation of $600,000 for the past three years, a total of 49 soil erosion and sedimentation control grants have been awarded throughout the Saginaw Bay Watershed. The Pollutant Load section reports on the total loadings reduction over the duration of the project.

Much progress has been made during the past four years in the control of nonpoint source pollution under the Saginaw Bay Soil Erosion and Sedimentation Control Program. To date, this program has provided assistance to more than 4,000 farmers for implementation of Best Management Practices on nearly 100,000 acres in the watershed. This has had a significant impact on reducing pollutant loadings to the bay and watershed. Some 287,372 tons of soil have been saved and more than 57 wetlands have been restored with assistance from the Soil Erosion and Sedimentation Control Program.

The Saginaw Bay Soil Erosion and Sedimentation Control Program was designed to protect and improve the water quality of Saginaw Bay and the Saginaw Bay watershed by: 1) controlling erosion and sedimentation; 2) limiting the input of associated nutrients and toxic contaminants; 3) minimizing off-site damages to streams, recreational facilities; and 4) enhancing fish and wildlife habitat. The Saginaw Bay Soil Erosion and Sedimentation Control Program is comprised of three basic elements as identified below:

Financial Assistance and Demonstration Grants
Under this element, local water quality demonstration grant proposals were accepted which demonstrate coordinated efforts between soil conservation districts, local public health departments and county drain commissioners. The objective was to identify and eliminate improper sources of nutrients, sediment, and toxic contaminants to storm drains. This included implementation of Best Management Practices that result in proper storage of stormwater and runoff in upland portions of watersheds.

Demonstrations and Special Projects
Under this element, project proposals were accepted that implement nonpoint source pollution controls on a watershed basis. This included the development of nonpoint source watershed plans, implementation of existing plans and/or wetland restoration projects. Priority was given to projects which include integrated crop management practices including integrated pest and fertilizer management. Priority was also given to projects which incorporate the use of filter strips, vegetative row barriers, wetland restoration, innovative urban and agricultural soil erosion control practices and/or storage runoff retention, sediment control, water quality treatment/improvement, and wildlife habitat improvement.

This element included information/education/technology transfer projects that provided information regarding the importance of pollution control activities in protecting Saginaw Bay and mechanisms for informing local decision-makers and implementing agencies of new pollution control technologies.

Pollutant Reductions
One measure of program success for the Saginaw Bay Soil Erosion and Sedimentation Control Program is pollutant reductions; that is, the volume of sediment, nutrients and associated toxic chemicals saved as a result of the control measures. Total cumulative savings (reduction) from row crops utilizing no-till and conservation tillage, fertilizer management or water course treatments were: 286,971 tons of soil, 294 tons of phosphorus and 237 tons of nitrogen over the duration of the project. It should be noted that all final pollutant reduction estimates were calculated using the Section 319 format established by the U.S. EPA. The Great Lakes Basin Program has been successful in leveraging an additional $203,830 in non-federal funds over the life of the project.

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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. GLIN Partner