Great Lakes Tributary Modeling Program
Soil erosion and runoff from farms, forests, and urban areas contribute millions of tons of sediments to Great Lakes rivers and streams every year. This pollution diminishes water quality, contains nutrients that foster harmful algae blooms, and decreases the depths in Great Lakes navigation channels, causing unsafe conditions. To combat this issue, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Great Lakes Region) has established the Great Lakes Tributary Modeling Program. The program uses computer models and web-based tools to help state and local agencies and non-governmental groups reduce the loading of sediments and pollutants to tributaries, which in turn reduces the need for navigation dredging and promotes recovery in the region’s worst toxic hotspots.
The Great Lakes Tributary Modeling Program develops sediment transport models for Great Lakes tributaries that discharge to federal navigation channels or Great Lakes Areas of Concern (AOCs). Models have already been completed at more than 30 tributaries and are being used by local, state and federal agencies for watershed and ecosystem planning, forestry management, navigation maintenance planning, and water quality compliance evaluations. State and county agencies are also using models to identify the most effective locations for buffer strips or wetland restoration projects and assess impacts of urban sprawl on sedimentation. By supporting measures that will reduce the loading of sediments and pollutants to tributaries, this work is helping to reduce the need for—and costs of—navigation dredging.
The Great Lakes Commission (GLC) provides technical and administrative support to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE-Great Lakes Region) in the implementation of the Great Lakes Tributary Modeling Program. This program is being implemented in close coordination with the GLC’s member states.
Several site-specific models have been developed in partnership with representatives of agencies and organizations from the watershed, including Soil and Water Conservation Districts, Remedial Action Plans committees, municipal and regional planning agencies, navigation interests, state and federal resource agencies.
In addition to tributary-specific models, a set of web-based tools have been developed in partnership with Michigan State University, Purdue University, and the U.S. Forest Service.
A program strategy was initially developed after surveying state priorities for tributary model development. Since 2001, models have developed at more than 30 tributaries and are being used by local, state and federal agencies for watershed and ecosystem planning, forestry management, navigation maintenance planning, and water quality compliance evaluations.
The USACE is providing training sessions throughout the Great Lakes Basin on existing models, field monitoring, and the use of web-based tools developed under this program. These web-based tools enable less technical users to examine the impacts of land use changes and best management practices for soil conservation and nonpoint pollution prevention.
Funding for the work of the Great Lakes Tributary Modeling program is provided by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
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