The Munuscong River Watershed project is located in central Chippewa County in Michigan’s Eastern Upper Peninsula. The Munuscong Watershed consists of approximately 149,101 acres: upland forest (23%); agriculture (28%); wetland (40%); urban (3%) and open field (5.6%).
The watershed includes the Munuscong River, the Little Munuscong River, and School, Demoreux, Fletcher, Taylor, Hannah, Rapson, and Parker Creeks.
The lower Munuscong River, which includes Parker Creek, is listed on the 303(d) list for sediment/siltation non-point source pollution. Parker Creek is rated “poor” for macroinvertebrate community by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) macroinvertebrate and habitat survey. Four miles of the creek are considered non-attaining for the aquatic life designated use. Suspected cause includes stream flash flows from runoff in upstream areas lacking streamside cover. MDEQ assessment also determined that a 1.4 mile reach of the East Branch of the Munuscong requires further evaluation to assess impacts of uncontrolled cattle access to the stream (category 3).
The Munuscong River hosts one of the last remnant native walleye populations in the St. Marys River watershed. Recruitment sustainability of that native walleye population depends upon sustainability of quality spawning and nursery habitat. Upstream silt and sediment deposition from non-point sources has destroyed much of that habitat and continues to threaten remaining areas. Throughout the Munuscong River watershed, artesian wells provide rural households with drinking water. Past well-drilling practices have left many of these artesian wells uncapped and continuously flowing with some wells discharging over 5000 gal/hr. Health department officials have recently identified large sink holes forming in some areas presumably due to the uncontrolled flows. There is concern over groundwater contamination and that the sink holes and the release of mud, silt, and water from the wells may cause irreparable environmental damage to the Munuscong River and its tributaries.
Soils in the watershed are relatively thick, poorly drained clays, and topography is relatively flat, overlying limestone and dolomite bedrock, which challenges agriculture and urban development. Ditches and dead furrows are installed by agriculture producers and residents to accelerate surface water drainage. This contributes to alteration of natural hydrology and erosion and limits ability of landscape vegetation to naturally filter nutrients and other pollutants. Consequently, area streams are flashy and turbid during spring and fall and nearly dry during summer months.
Potentially increasing agriculture and industry may make the watershed vulnerable to the impacts of poor land use decisions and management practices. A concerted effort is needed to corroborate existing non-point source pollution data, investigate current conditions, and create an action plan to eliminate pollution sources within the project area. This planning phase will draw together environmental and socio-economical experts from Lake Superior State University, the Chippewa-Ottawa Resource Authority, and other local, state, and federal agencies to educate the public about non-point source pollution.
The Munuscong River is the largest tributary of the St. Marys River. The St. Mary’s River was identified in 1985 by the International Joint Commission as one of 42 Areas of Concern in the Great Lakes Basin. The St. Mary’s River was identified as an AOC as a result of problems associated with phosphorus, bacteria, heavy metals, trace organics, contaminated sediments, fish consumption advisories, and impacted biota. The potential exists that many of these non-point source contaminants are originating from the Munuscong River Watershed.
The Project Manager is Ms. Kristina Denison.
Munuscong River Watershed Project
Chippewa/Luce/Mackinac Conservation District
2847 Ashmun Street
Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan 49783