Thunder Bay River Watershed Habitat and Protection Project
Thunder Bay River,
Montmorency Conservation District/Thunder Bay River Restoration Committee
Basin Program Funds:
The Thunder Bay River in northern lower Michigan has many severely eroded sites
along its bank that are threatening coldwater fisheries. Sediments and nutrients
are entering the river from recreational use, development and construction along
the Thunder Bay River and its tributaries, spring flooding, cropland erosion
and improper management of riparian land.
Research studies performed at the Department of Natural Resources' Hunt Creek
Research Station have identified erosion and sedimentation as sources of reduced
fish populations in coldwater fisheries. Specifically, sedimentation clogs spawning
habitat, eliminates insect breeding areas, and increases water temperature.
In order to ensure the Thunder Bay River watershed is ecologically sound and
biologically diverse, nonpoint source pollution caused by soil erosion and sedimentation
needs to be minimized. The erosion is threatening a brook and brown trout fishery
in the upper river and a high quality small-mouth bass and northern pike fishery
in its lower reaches.
The Thunder Bay River Restoration Committee (TBBRC) documented
146 erosion sites along the Thunder Bay River during their River Basin planning
process and streambank erosion inventory project. Prior to this project, 32
of the 146 bank erosion sites have been restored since the TBBRC inception in1993.
Restoration efforts were initiated at the headwaters and progressed downstream,
concentrating work in the coldwater fishery to generate more immediate results.
The Montmorency Conservation District and TBBRC collaborated with the Huron
Pines RC&D, Montmorency Conservation Club, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resource Conservation Service
to restore eight sites along the Thunder Bay River. Before beginning the restoration
work, project staff obtained permission from the landowners and completed easement
forms for each of the sites. The Huron RC&D Council planned how each site
would be restored, using a combination of revetments, seeding and native plantings,
bio-logs and erosion matting. Then project staff ordered the necessary materials
and hired a work crew to complete the restoration on eight sites in the upper
end of the main branch of the Thunder Bay River.
As a result of this project, 8 additional sites, or 1,060 feet of streambank
along the Thunder Bay River were restored, keeping 175 tons of soil, 1,749 pounds
of phosphorus, and 350 pounds of nitrogen from entering the river each year.
Ultimately, this will improve spawning habitat for brook and brown trout, increase
the aquatic insect population and provide cleaner water in downstream reaches
of the Thunder Bay River.