Au Sable Starts Up Water Quality Monitoring Program
Jun 06, 2013
Au Sable has received a MiCorp Start-up grant to begin a voluntary water quality monitoring program in the next year. The grant will allow Au Sable to organize a group of committed local volunteers to collect macroinvertebrate data at locations along the Upper Manistee River (see green area on map below), an important section of the 1.4 million acre watershed where comprehensive stream monitoring is needed. Data collected will help to inform decision-makers, such as the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) and Trout Unlimited, for implementation of best management practices throughout the headwaters of the watershed.
Located in the headwaters of the Manistee River, Au Sable has a long relationship with the river, bringing school groups and college courses to learn about stream ecology, natural history, and water quality monitoring techniques for over 30 years. A citizen science program adds another piece to its place-based education programs by creating hands-on opportunities for local volunteers to serve local watershed management efforts.
Monitoring the Upper Manistee River will be undertaken by the Au Sable Environmental Education Program and become a new component of the internship programs. Citizen science programs are becoming a more common way to collect important environmental, which allows Au Sable's seasonal interns to learn how to teach sampling techniques to volunteers, coordinate community outreach events, and identify and record data collected. Au Sable hopes to involve local schools in the bi-annual stream monitoring as well.
Au Sable will coordinate monitoring efforts with the Upper Manistee River Association (UMRA), formed to engage landowners and concerned citizens in watershed stewardship, which currently samples five sites in the upper reaches from Deward to M-72 (see red area on map, right), but has expressed concerns about their ability to take on more monitoring sites in spite of the need and demand from their members. Au Sable will expand the area monitored (see green area on map, right) and coordinate with UMRA to recruit and train new volunteers.
The Upper Manistee River faces a number of restoration challenges and future concerns. The watershed has experienced significant disturbance over the past century. Heavy logging within the watershed along with use of the river for log drives has permanently altered the stream corridor and substrate. Future concerns by local residents along the Upper Manistee include water withdrawals required for hydraulic fracturing, which is growing throughout the watershed. Three new hydraulic fracturing exploratory sites within the Upper Manistee have been proposed in the last year alone. The Upper Manistee River also has agricultural lands and new roadways whose effects on the river are unknown. In spite of its turbulent past, the Upper Manistee River is still recognized as a premier trout fishery and a valued waterway for floating, canoeing, and camping.