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.

Watershed Groups

In addition to SEMCOG, there are numerous watershed planning organizations that collaborate on watershed issues and activities in Southeast Michigan.

  • Anchor Bay Watershed
  • Northeastern St. Clair Watershed
    • Watershed Plan includes Lower Black River, Lake Huron Direct Drainage, and St. Clair River Direct Drainage subwatersheds
  • Clinton River Watershed
    • Watershed Plans include:
      • Clinton Main Subwatershed
      • Clinton River East Subwatershed
      • Upper Clinton Subwatershed
      • North Branch Subwatershed
      • Stony Creek Subwatershed
      • Paint Creek Subwatershed
      • Red Run Subwatershed
      • Lake St. Clair Direct Drainage Subwatershed
  • Huron River Watershed
    • Watershed Plans include:
      • Brighton Lake Subwatershed
      • Huron Chain of Lakes Subwatershed
      • Kent Lake & Upper Huron Subwatershed
      • Mallets Creek Subwatershed
      • Mill Creek Subwatershed
      • Millers Creek Subwatershed
      • Lower Huron River Subwatershed
  • Shiawassee River Watershed
  • Grand River Watershed
    • Red Cedar River Subwatershed
  • River Raisin Watershed
  • Stony/Paint Creek Watershed
  • Rouge River Watershed
    • Watershed Plans include:
      • Main 1-2 Subwatershed
      • Main 3-4 Subwatershed
      • Upper Subwatershed
      • Middle 1 Subwatershed
      • Middle 3 Subwatershed
      • Lower 1 Subwatershed
      • Lower 2 Subwatershed
  • Combined Downriver Watershed
    • Watershed Plan includes Blakely Drain, Frank & Poet Drain, and Detroit River South subwatersheds.
  • Ecorse Creek Watershed
    • Watershed Plan includes North Branch, LeBlanc Drain, and Sexton-Kilfoil Drain subwatersheds.

Watershed Planning Organizations

Alliance of Downriver Watersheds combines the Ecorse Creek Watershed, Combined Downriver Watershed, and the Lower Huron Subwatershed into one planning organization.

Alliance of Rouge Communities (ARC) is a voluntary public watershed entity currently comprised of members representing public agencies with water management responsibilities whose jurisdictional boundaries are totally or in part located within the Rouge River Watershed.

Friends of the Rouge is a local nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting restoration and stewardship of the Rouge River through education and citizen involvement.

Friends of the Detroit River is a nonprofit organization seeking to enhance the environmental, educational, economic, cultural, and recreational opportunities associated with the Detroit River Watershed through citizen involvement and community action.

The River Raisin Watershed Council is a nonprofit organization with a growing constituency of individuals, businesses, municipalities, and community groups seeking to protect the natural resources of the watershed.

The Friends of the Shiawassee River is a nonprofit organization committed to improving the environment, promoting the responsible use of, and enhancing the appreciation of the Shiawassee River.

The Huron River Watershed Council is the first and oldest river protection group in Michigan. Founded in 1965 as a public, nonprofit organization, it is a coalition of Huron Valley residents, businesses, and local governments established under Michigan's Local River Management Act (253 P.A. 1964). Its mission is to inspire attitudes, behaviors, and economies that protect, rehabilitate, and sustain the Huron River system.

The Clinton River Watershed Council is a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting, enhancing, and celebrating the Clinton River, its watershed, and Lake St. Clair.

Friends of the St. Clair River Watershed is a nonprofit organization providing fun, educational experiences that engage the community in protecting water resources while providing restoration and protection of the St. Clair River and other Great Lakes Areas of Concern.

Anchor Bay Watershed Group

SEMCOG facilitates the Anchor Bay Watershed Group, which conducts quarterly meetings on watershed-wide projects, programs, and permit-related activities.

The Anchor Bay Watershed is part of the Lake St. Clair Drainage System and provides recreation and aesthetic beauty to residents of Macomb and St. Clair Counties, as well as many visitors from around the region. The watershed encompasses 171 square miles, including the delta islands in Macomb and St. Clair Counties. In St. Clair County, the watershed includes all or parts of Casco, China, Clay, Cottrellville, and Ira Townships, and the City of Algonac. In Macomb County, the watershed includes all of the City of New Baltimore and all of the City of Richmond, and parts of Chesterfield, Clinton, Harrison, Lenox, Macomb, and Richmond Townships, the Village of New Haven.

Map of the Anchor Bay Watershed (pdf, 704KB)

The watershed has 473 miles of waterways. Major tributary streams include Auvase Creek, Beaubien Creek, Crapau Creek, Marsac Creek, Swan Creek, the Marine City Drain, Swartout Creek, and Salt River.

Communities and School Districts within the Anchor Bay Watershed

Local communities within the Anchor Bay Watershed are working to protect the Anchor Bay, Lake St Clair, and the tributaries and drains leading to Anchor Bay. These communities have developed the Anchor Bay Watershed Plan (pdf, 140KB), a blueprint for improving and protecting Anchor Bay.

  • Algonac*
  • Algonac Community Schools (nested under St. Clair County)*
  • Anchor Bay Public Schools (nested under Macomb County)*
  • Chesterfield Township*
  • Clay Township*
  • Clinton Township*
  • Cottrellville Township
  • China Township
  • Casco Township
  • Harrison Township*
  • Ira Township*
  • L'anse Creuse Public Schools (nested under Macomb County)*
  • Lenox Township
  • Macomb County*
  • Macomb Township*
  • New Baltimore*
  • New Haven*
  • New Haven Schools (Jurisdictional Permit)*
  • Richmond
  • Richmond Township
  • St. Clair County*

*Phase II Permittee

Developing Regional Solutions
SEMCOG is a regional planning partnership of governmental units serving 4.7 million people in the seven-county region of Southeast Michigan striving to enhance the region's quality of life.