Rapid River Sediment Issue – Northern Michigan
Download PDF – Road-Stream Crossing Inventory Results and Action Plan For The Grass and Rapid River Systems Antrim and Kalkaska Counties
Download PDF – Understanding the Hydrologic Landscape to Assess Trajectories of Sediment Sources and Stream Condition in the Grass and Rapid River Watersheds
Final Report 5/13/2014
ESLA Rapid River 2011 Activities
The environmental problem being addressed by this ongoing project is the amount of sand and sediment accumulating in Rapid River particularly just east of Aarwood Bridge and west to where the River joins Torch River. This section of Rapid River has become noticeably wider, shallower and warmer than it was twenty years ago. We are very concerned about the amount of sediment that will be increasingly deposited in Torch River and eventually Lake Skegemog. Aerial photos also show heavy deposition of sediment in Rugg Pond where the east branch of the River and Little Rapid River each flow into the Pond. Rapid River is an important part of the Elk River Chain of Lakes, which contributes 60% of the water entering Grand Traverse Bay. Sedimentation is one of highest priority threats to lakes and streams in our EPA & DEQ-approved Watershed Protection Plan. Consequently, this project is being conducted in collaboration with The Traverse Bay Watershed Center and Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council. A parallel project to investigate sedimentation is being conducted by the Three Lakes Association on Grass River using similar methodologies and expert guidance.
The following short-term goals for this project were accomplished in 2011. These goals were based on conventional types of characterizations used by regulatory agencies and grant-making organizations to justify corrective actions:
- Conduct semiannual macroinvertebrate collections at an increasing number of sites.
- Walk the river and identify major erosion sites.
- Evaluate Road Crossings.
- Establish multiple ongoing data collection sites.
In 2011 we had over 20 volunteers (6 teams) that conducted macroinvertebrate collection and identification in June and October. We included 6 additional sites in 2011. Each team had a captain who had received training from The Watershed Center. The variety of species and number of each species is converted into a score that represents the relative health at that site on the River, compares sample sites to one another, and allows tracking of changes over time. Furthermore, data will be used by Michigan DEQ to identify sites that need further assessment and as supplemental data for statewide water resource management. Below are recent findings for different sites on Rapid River:
- West of Aarwood Bridge – Fair
- East of Aarwood Bridge – Fair
- West of Freedom Park – Good
- East of Freedom Park – Fair/Poor
- East of Kellogg Bridge – Fair
- East of Underhill Road – Poor
- Seven Bridges – Good
- Wood Road west of Rugg Pond – Fair
- Wood Road northeast of Rugg Pond – Poor
- Birch Street northeast of Rugg Pond – Poor
ESLA volunteers walked the length of Rapid River from Rugg Pond to Torch River. The length of this stretch by Valley Road is 8.1 miles, but walking the meandering River is probably twice that length or more. Our volunteers were also fishermen/women who enjoyed their sport at the same time as conducting our research. Other than road crossings, only two erosion sites were identified as caused by human intervention, both in the 7 Bridges area. Other erosion was natural and minor, such as undercutting of banks. Vegetation on the banks was very heavy throughout this stretch of the River. We will walk the length of the River east of Rugg Pond and the length of the Little Rapid River in 2012.
There are 16 road crossings; 7 west of Rugg Pond, 4 east of Rugg Pond and 5 on the Little Rapid River. Data was systematically collected at all crossings east of Rugg Pond except at Aarwood Bridge, which had been scheduled for replacement. Serious erosion was found at each of these 6 road crossings except at Rapid City Road/Freedom Park. Two of the road crossings each have two culverts both of which have multiple erosion sites. While not all of the other road crossings have been evaluated, the Wood Road crossing northeast of Rugg Pond was evaluated in July with evidence of very serious erosion and sediment deposition. The Kalkaska County Road Commission has since repaved both the north and south grades to the road crossing with curbing the length of both approaches and multiple water diverters well upland from the River. This appears to be an excellent approach to greatly reducing the amount of sand that will wash into the River.
We have established ongoing data collection sites along the stretch of the River(s). Our three Elk Rapids High School summer interns were especially helpful with this aspect of the project. They have created a report of their work and made presentations to the ESLA Board of Directors and the Elk Rapids School Board in December. The following occurred in 2011:
- A transducer was placed at the Rapid City Road crossing in June. It collects water level and temperature data every 30 minutes 24 hours a day.
- Four staff gauges installed – Freedom Park, Wood Road NW, Seeley Road, and 131 Bridge. We conduct periodic measurements at these sites that include water level, water velocity, suspended sediments, and dissolved oxygen.
- Temperature loggers have been installed at Hansen Road, Rice Road, Priest Road and west of Aarwood Bridge. These record temperatures every 30 minutes 24 hours a day.
The data from these instruments and our volunteer measurements are accumulated in computer files that are analyzed by the Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council and our consultant at the College of Brockport (NY) who is supported by The Watershed Center. We will share more of these data with you in subsequent newsletters.
Preliminary conclusions from 2011 activities:
- We are just beginning and must be diligent in collecting systematic data over time.
- Macroinvertebrate data indicates that fish habitat is less than desired.
- There are not serious human causes of erosion (sand deposits) below Rugg Pond other than road crossings.
- We need to collaborate with townships, County Commissioners, and the Road Commission.
We are now preparing for presentations to township and County officials and will continue data collection activities throughout 2012. Another 2012 goal is to submit applications for grants to further engage stream hydrology experts from Michigan State University to work with collaborators from the Tribe of Ottawa & Chippewa Indians, College of Brockport, The Watershed Center, Tip of the Mitt, and Three Lakes. The desired outcome from this collaboration of stream hydrologists is to identify specific, actionable tasks to slow down the accumulation of sediment accumulation in Rapid River