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Water: Nonpoint Source Success Stories

Michigan (Section 319I - 1994)

Michigan is focusing on demonstration watershed projects voluntarily implemented in priority watersheds. Michigan also provides technical assistance and information on nonpoint source issues and enforces various regulations. The state is currently concentrating on agricultural, urban, and forestry nonpoint source pollution.

Lake Erie Benefits from Phosphorus Reduction Strategy

The Great Lakes are suffering the effects of human activities--deteriorated water quality. Excess phosphorus enters the waters and contributes to accelerated eutrophication--aging of the waters from increased nutrients. Under the 1978 Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, the United States and Canada agreed to work together to reduce phosphorus loading and reverse or prevent eutrophication. In 1990, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources received a $111,000 section 319 grant. These funds were used to provide technical assistance to three counties closest to Lake Erie--Monroe, Washtenaw, and Wayne--to implement best management practices. Under the auspices of the local SWCDs, these BMPs were designed to reduce erosion and phosphorus loading in Lake Erie.

All lands within a half-mile of any surface water were considered critical since they were most likely to contribute phosphorus loading to Lake Erie from runoff, erosion, and sediment. Although all critical areas received technical assistance, the state concentrated its efforts on the Lower Rouge River and Raisin River watersheds because:

  • Both urban and agricultural nonpoint source impacts were present, making this watershed representative of other watersheds in the Tri-County area;
  • The soils have high runoff potentials, and nutrient and pesticide loadings to surface waters can be significant; and
  • The watersheds are artificially drained with surface and subsurface drains and are at high risk to affect water quality.

Areas subject to wind erosion were also considered as priority. Wind-transported soil particles are highly enriched with phosphorus, can be carried great distances, and contribute to phosphorus loading in Lake Erie.

Technical assistance focused on agricultural and urban land use, encouraging nutrient management and erosion control of both wind and water. The specific goal was to reduce phosphorus loading to Lake Erie by 11.1 tons by September 30, 1992. SCS, which assisted the conservation districts with computations and monitoring, calculated phosphorus and sediment reductions using the Universal Soil Loss and wind erosion equations. Delivery ratios and phosphorus enrichment factors specific to each of the 16 watersheds were used to estimate sedimentation and phosphorus reductions.

BMPs used in the phosphorus reduction strategy were adopted from the Rural Clean Water Program, where they were effective locally (Table 5-1). The BMPs were implemented voluntarily. From October 1990 through September 1992, phosphorus loading was reduced 12.6 tons, exceeding the original goal.

The technical reporting system is a model for section 319 and other programs. Currently, 23 watershed projects are using the model to calculate pollutant reductions and report accomplishments.

An information and education program was also a crucial part of the technical assistance. The program, which targeted a diverse urban and rural audience, included multi-media, workshops and tours, and pamphlets and brochures about the project. This program created an awareness in the upstream urban and agricultural communities that their nonpoint source inputs have an impact on Lake Erie.

Finally, the project accelerated the implementation of structural, management, and vegetative BMPs. ASCS targeted financial assistance by giving priority to water quality practices. SCS received section 319 grant money to provide additional technical assistance. The project provided the three field offices an opportunity to target their efforts on nonpoint source problems and assist the local communities with water quality improvements.


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