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Bear Creek Stewardship Plan - Implementation Work Plan

The Bear Creek Watershed Implementation Work Plan outlines the specific tasks that Cannon township proposes to complete through the Bear Creek Watershed Project during 1994 through 1997. Educational, technical, and financial assistance, along with community development activities, will be promoted and utilized to help Watershed landowners and community trustees install and maintain Best Management Practices (BMPs) that restore water quality, as well as protect water resources, aquatic life, and other wildlife species from the deleterious effects of increasing urbanization. This Implementation Plan addresses water quality concerns raised by Watershed citizens, elected officials, Steering Committee members, and members of the larger Great Lakes coastal community.

A. Statement of the Problem

1. Project Location: Bear Creek Watershed is located in northeastern Kent County, in the western portion of Michigan's lower peninsula. The Watershed is a sub-watershed of the Grand River, draining some 20,096 acres in the townships of Cannon, Grattan, Ada, Vergennes, and Plainfield. Michigan's longest watercourse, the Grand River ultimately empties into Lake Michigan some 40 miles to the west. For this reason, water quality issues in the Bear Creek Watershed cannot be separated from the water quality concerns in the Grand River and the Great Lakes system as a whole.

2. General Impacts on Water Quality Problems: The small village of Cannonsburg lies within the watershed, but until the past decade, the area had not experienced extensive residential development. Since 1980, however, the population has increased significantly, with increases ranging from 59.1% in Cannon Township to a more modest, but still noticeable growth of 11.7% in Grattan Township. Population increases have been accompanied by land and water use changes involving the residential and commercial development of agricultural lands, transportation-related roadway and drain development (including increased use of impervious ground covers), and the concomitant development of recreational facilities. these changes have resulted in no small measure from the Watershed's proximity to Michigan's second largest city, Grand Rapids. Changing patterns of growth - including an improved roadway system, expanding economic base, and an eroding residential/commercial core in the central city - have made properties in this nearby Watershed desirable "natural" settings for homes, small businesses, and recreational facilities. The rural character of this area of rolling hills fuels many urban dwellers' dreams of building a home on a few pristine acres of previously undeveloped land with beautiful, undisturbed vistas and trout stream or a small pond, not to mention easy access to places of employment and the amenities of a metropolitan area just a few miles away via paved, four lane highways. It is the allure of this dream and the impact of its realization on land and water use - along with the historical impacts emanating form longstanding practices of agricultural, residential, transportation-related land and water use - which underscore the necessity for turning attention to the Bear Creek Watershed at this critical time.

3. Project Summary: The Bear Creek Watershed includes Bear Creek itself - a 17-mile long perennial, coldwater stream running generally east to west across the Watershed along with at least 9 lakes with an area of 5 acres or more. It also includes numerous unnamed, smaller bodies of water, a highly developed system of smaller, perennial streams and springs (including Waddell, Stout, and Armstrong Creeks), and a variety of intermittent and eqhemeral streams and springs which are active during much of the year. The Watershed is also liberally dotted with wetlands which comprise nearly 8% of its total area. At the present time, the quality of all of these water resources is impacted by residential, commercial, transportation-related, and/or recreational land if urbanization trends continue without considerable attention to protective, remedial, and restorative activities.

Land use patterns in the Watershed for 1991, were as follows:

Public access to Watershed water resources is available to lakes in the state-owned Cannonsburg Game Area; to Pickerel Lake at the Kent County-owned Meyer Nature Preserve; and to Bear Creek throughout the Kent County-owned Townsend Park. Public access to a significant wetland resource is available at the Natural Areas Conservancy of West Michigan (NACOWMI) - owned Saul Lake Bog.

Current land and water use practices are highly associated with significant amounts of nonpoint source (NPS) pollutants in the surface waters of the Watershed. Sedimentation and bacterial contamination (principally from fecal coliform organisms) are the two most serious NPS problems documented as a consequence of these practices. Additional urbanization in this geographic area, associated with related changes in residential, commercial, practices, is expected to exacerbate these already existing NPS pollution problems unless remedial and restorative BMPs can be implemented and maintained in concert with a strong program of public education and public policy development and enforcement. While it is clear that the water quality in the Watershed has already experienced some negative consequences from previous land and water use practices, the Bear Creek Watershed Project Implementation Plan is predicated upon the firm belief that consequences of the present NPS pollution can be significantly minimized or eliminated and that future consequences can be eliminated or markedly reduced through educational and public policy initiatives.

Unlike other approaches to water quality which are principally reparative, the Bear Creek Watershed effort has two major goals: One, to provide assistance in implementing and maintaining the BMPs most appropriate for addressing current land and water use problems; two, to aggressively educate Watershed residents, public officials, and community groups about water quality concerns and the need for enforceable policies protecting water quality in the Watershed. The aggressive public education and public policy components are thus among the most important activities of this Implementation Plan.

The Bear Creek Watershed is a geophysical resource poised on the brink of experiencing with full force the many impacts which accompany urban growth. While the growth itself cannot be stopped, the water and land use practices which are known to have adverse effects on water quality, aquatic life, and overall levels of biodiversity, are amenable to modification; indeed, most human practices with harmful consequences can be altered significantly, without untoward economic consequences for communities, individuals, or businesses. The Bear Creek Watershed Project is dedicated to demonstrating the feasibility of incorporating new strategies for land and water stewardship into the emerging and inevitable patterns of population growth and land development which are already evident in this Watershed.

B. Scope of Work

Implementation Activites: The principal activities of the Bear Creek Watershed in its 3-year implementation phase are 3-fold:

1. To provide financial and technical assistance to Watershed landowners and community officials in implementing and maintaining residential, agricultural, transportation-related, and recreational Best Management Practices that reduce sedimentation and bacterial contamination. Implementation of BMPs will not only affect the water quality of the Bear Creek Watershed, but also the quality of water in the downstream portions of the Grand River Watershed and Lake Michigan as well. The Cost Share Report contains a complete list of conservation practices planned for implementation.

2. To educate all citizens about land and water use decisions and their potential impacts on water quality, aquatic life and overall biodiversity. These educational efforts will be both broadly- base, as well as targeted to specific groups and individuals to achieve maximum impact on knowledge, attitudes, behaviors, and beliefs related to water and land use in this Watershed. The Implementation Plan Task List includes a complete elaboration of proposed educational activities.

3. To motivate, empower and support citizens and citizen groups to originate, implement and enforce policies which protect, preserve, or restore water quality, aquatic life, or biological diversity in the Bear Creek Watershed. The Implementation Plan Task List includes a complete elaboration of proposed public policy initiatives.

Page last modified March 13, 2014