A watershed is an area of land that captures rainwater and eventually carries it to the nearest lake, river, or stream. Michigan has numerous watersheds (pdf, 1.5MB) and subwatersheds.
Working with local watershed groups and member governments, SEMCOG provides technical assistance on watershed management issues and regulatory requirements within their jurisdictions.
Watershed Management Plans serve as guides for communities to protect and improve water quality and related natural resources. These plans consider all uses, pollutant sources, and impacts within a drainage area. More than 150 Watershed Management Plans exist at the local level across the state, many funded through MDEQ nonpoint source grant opportunities. A Watershed Management Plan was required for communities using Michigan’s unique watershed-based Phase II permit. Many of these plans also meet Federal EPA Section 319 requirements.
While many of these watershed plans continue to guide short- and long-term implementation activities, the Phase II permit program now emphasizes more permittee-specific activities. More information on the Phase II program is provided through MDEQ’s Municipal Program / MS4 Compliance Assistance and the Phase II permit page.
Common elements of watershed plans across Southeast Michigan include goals, objectives, and actions to address water quality and water quantity (i.e., stream flashiness) challenges in addition to identifying protection and restoration opportunities. This led to development of the Low Impact Development Manual for Michigan: A Design Guide for Implementers and Reviewers.
How much runoff reduction is necessary to realize a demonstrated improvement in receiving water quality? Two ongoing projects are studying the connection between stream flashiness and receiving water quality. By establishing water quality metrics, local watershed groups and communities can prioritize stormwater projects and seek out partnership opportunities.
Additionally, SEMCOG led the development of the Green Infrastructure Vision for Southeast Michigan. The vision brings together a holistic, coordinated plan that addresses all unique elements of green infrastructure, including natural areas, wildlife habitat, parks, hiking/biking trails, water trails, tree canopy, agricultural lands, conservation property, vacant property, and many others. It also focuses on the relationship of green infrastructure to our water resources.