Preparing the Huron River for Climate Change
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Posted byRebecca Esselman
Rising air temperatures and more frequent and extreme rainfall events compound existing threats to aquatic systems in urban and suburban settings. These changes threaten to push Michigan’s Huron River outside of the range of conditions within which the system can support healthy biological communities indicative of a functioning ecosystem. In response, the Huron River Watershed Council is implementing a suite of strategies to keep water temperatures cool, river flows within the natural range of variation, and fish populations healthy. These strategies include designating and restoring areas of concern, managing water flows to reduce flooding risks, and collaborating with recreational fishermen.
HRWC is working with state and local governments to strengthen compliance and enforcement of the Natural Rivers District along much of the middle reaches of the Huron River in order to keep riparian forests intact. Maintaining these vital riparian buffers helps to stabilize streambanks, reduces erosion, and provides habitat for fish and wildlife.
For fish populations to be resilient to more extreme events such as large rain events or drought, they need an environment that supports sustainable populations of each age class and high survival of juveniles. To achieve this, HRWC is:
- working with individual dam operators and the Huron River Dams Network to reduce large releases that may cause damaging high-flow events during spawning;
- restoring habitat in highly degraded stretches of river; and
- implementing a “no catch and keep” campaign encouraging fishermen to release caught fish during the spawning season.
One of the areas being actively restored is Norton Creek. Project leads are using large woody debris to support more natural flows, bioswales and rain gardens along the creekside recreation trail to capture and filter polluted water, and planting native species to provide erosion control, habitat, and water filtration.
This project is funded through the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Climate Adaptation Fund through the support of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.
Esselman R. (2019). Preparing the Huron River for Climate Change. Ed. Rachel M. Gregg. [Summary of a project by the Huron River Watershed Council]. Retrieved from CAKE: https://www.cakex.org/case-studies/preparing-huron-river-climate-change (Last updated May 2019)