Sedimentation Reduction Project in the Bad River Watershed

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The Gratiot Conservation District (GCD) was recently awarded a three-year grant from the Great Lakes Commission aimed at improving water quality in the Bad River Watershed by reducing sediment delivery to streams. The sediment reduction project will utilize a new online tool developed by the Nature Conservancy (TNC) and Michigan State University’s Institute of Water Research (MSU-IWR) called the “Sediment Calculator”. The Sediment Calculator will allow GCD to quickly and easily measure the benefits (in tons of sediment reduced) of on-the-ground Best Management Practices (BMPs).

Land owners in Gratiot County’s Bad River Watershed will have an opportunity to implement soil conservation practices and then receive payment for the tons of sediment they prevented from entering waterways. This type of project is the first of its kind in the Saginaw Bay Watershed. By using the Sediment Calculator to assess results at a field-level, and then rewarding landowners for the soil erosion reductions they achieve, the project is predicted to demonstrate the benefits of a “pay for performance” type of approach to soil conservation.

A 1991 Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) stream survey of the Bad River indicated poor water quality caused by bedload sediment and turbidity in the river. These findings are vitally important to the Great Lakes Commission because any pollutants found in the Bad River will eventually flow into the Shiawassee River, then into the Saginaw Bay and Lake Huron.

The Saginaw Bay Watershed is the largest watershed in Michigan and land use is 45 percent agricultural. The land use within the Bad River Watershed is 86.5 percent agricultural, thus the occurrence of unprotected bare soil is higher in the Bad River Watershed than in other areas of the Saginaw Bay Watershed.

The Bad River Watershed originates in Newark Township near the city of Ithaca in Gratiot County. The system then flows in a north-easterly direction toward St. Charles in Saginaw County where it flows into the Shiawassee River. The Upper Bad River Watershed in Gratiot County is comprised of three smaller sub-watersheds: Brady Creek, Shad Creek and the Upper Beaver Creek. According to the High Impact Targeting (HIT) Tool developed by the MSU-IWR, these three sub-watersheds deliver 4,353 tons of sediment per year to the Shiawassee River.

The total combined length of the Bad River and its tributaries is 175 miles, most of which has been channelized. Roughly 5,000 feet of streambank within the watershed has been identified as unstable. Although the Bad River and its tributaries are classified as warm water fisheries, they fail to support this because habitats for macroinvertebrates are so adversely impacted by sedimentation.

If you have a resource concern on your land that is causing soil erosion, please contact GCD’s Watershed Coordinator/Technician Ben Wickerham at (989) 875-3050 or to begin the process of saving soil and getting rewarded for doing so. Or stop in and visit the Gratiot Conservation District in the USDA Service Center at 301 E. Commerce Drive in Ithaca.

Ben Wickerham is the Watershed Coordinator/Technician for the Gratiot Conservation District. He can be reached at 989-875-3050 Ext. 180 or by email at

1 comment:

  1. Another effect form of sediment control worth considering is the use of curb inlet filters.