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Augusta Creek: A Treasure in Your Backyard

Tour of Private Conservation Land

Saturday, June 7, 2014, 9:00 AM to 12:00 PM

    The Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy and the Four Township Water Resources Council hosted our third annual tour to learn more about this treasure in our backyard. Augusta Creek flows from southern Barry County into the Kalamazoo River in Augusta. This is a pristine creek, like streams commonly found in northern Michigan, but this one is right here in your backyard. It is healthy because it is largely free-flowing, has extensive wetlands surrounding its headwaters, and is forested through much of the stream valley. Come learn more what makes this creek unique and why it was ranked by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality as one of the most important water bodies to conserve in the state.

    Steve Hamilton, Ecologist and Professor at MSU's Kellogg Biological Station led a tour on two private properties along the Creek. The attendees got to experience these properties solely for this event; they are not generally open to the public. We met at The Ford Farm Property, on Hickory Road between Trick Rd and Stuck Road. The Ford Farm property is conserved by a conservation easement held by SWMLC and encompasses half of Marshall Lake and associated wetlands. After a tour of this protected property we traveled to the second location, highlighting the Marshall Farm in Trust to Michigan State University and directly east of the Ford Farm Property. Approximately a mile Augusta Creek flows between these two properties. There are exciting research projects happening in the restored grasslands on the Marshall property involving long term research on the restoration of native prairies and the development of commercially viable celulosic biofuels programs.

FTWRC 2014 Kanoe the Kazoo Paddle Event on Little Long Lake, Saturday, June 14, 2014

    For the twelfth year in a row the Four Township Water Resources Council hosted a paddle as part of the Kanoe the Kazoo events. This year the Council conducted a guided tour on LIttle Long Lake in Richland Township, Kalamazoo County, on Saturday morning, June 14, 2014.

    All of the previous paddles had been on water bodies with public access. Thanks to the generosity of the Boudeman family in providing this access for our paddle, we were privileged to be able to offer an opportunity to see Little Long Lake, which is the largest of the "sister" lakes in the Gull Lake Watershed, but has no public access site. Thirty seven guests enjoyed this easy paddle with a focus on lake ecology and the interactions between the human and natural communities that live on or in the lake.

    We had two naturalist guides with us, Dr Stephen K. Hamilton, MSU Professor of Ecosystem Ecology & Biogeochemistry at the Kellogg Biological Station and Steve Allen, naturalist at the Kalamazoo Nature Center for many years and currently with Geum Services, Inc. Ecological & Native Plant Consulting.

    We saw or heard many lake shore birds and learned about the peculiar features of Little Long Lake, such as the marl bottom, natural water budget and cycle, and invasive non-native species, such as zebra mussels. There were beds of jointed spike-sedge, a rare native sedge species, known to exist in only a handful of locations in Michigan.

Annual Meeting May 15, 2014

Featured Presentation: Dam Removal on the Kalamazoo River

     The Four Township Water Resources Council held it's Annual Meeting at 7:00 PM in the Auditorium of the Stack Building at the Kellogg Biological Station on the East Shore of Gull Lake on Thursday, May 15, 2014.

    In addition to an update on the Council's activities and the election of Officers and Board Members, there was a presentation on Dam Removal on the Kalamazoo River by Jay Wesley, Supervisor of the Michigan DNR's Southern Lake Michigan Management Unit of its Fisheries Division. Jay has been involved in the analysis, planning, public education and implementation of dam removals on the Kalamazoo for many years.

    Although only a small stretch of the Kalamazoo River runs though the Four Townships area in the Southeast corner of Ross Township, the Kalamazoo receives nearly all of the drainage from the Four Townships and serves as the dominant flowing water body serving our community.

    There are fourteen dams on the Kalamazoo River, counting the remnants of the spillway of the Plainwell Dam No. 2. They were all built at least 70 years ago primarily to produce hydroelectric or hydromechanical power (e.g. for mills). Although some of these dams create impoundments which serve as recreational lake-like reservoirs and urban waterfront parks, they impede the free flow of the river and act as traps for pollutants and sediment.

    The DNR and many environmental, fishing and water sport advocates have been pursuing dam removals for over 30 years. A free flowing river is a better habitat for fish and wildlife and is easier, safer and more attractive for navigation by people too. The environmental benefits of a restored river include improved movement of sediments, water quality, temperature and spawning habitat.

    In the last few years, two dams have been removed in association with the extraction of contaminated sediments. 81 miles of the Kalamazoo River from the Morrow Dam in Comstock to Lake Michigan are designated a Super Fund contamination clean up site due to accumulation of PCBs. The most concentrated areas of contamination are behind the dams. The Plainwell Dam near 12th Street was removed in 2009 as part of the clean up effort.

    The presentation featured an update on the Ceresco Dam between Marshall and Battle Creek which was purchased by the Enbridge pipeline company in 2013 as the most expeditious strategy to remove entrapped oil residents following the spill from their ruptured pipeline. A large portion of the old dam was removed along with the bulk of the oil contamination allowing for the restoration of the old river channel. The remainder of the dam removal, reclamation of a more natural habitat and development of a public park will be conducted later in 2014.

Preserving the Gull Lake Experience

     On Saturday morning on July 20, 2013, the Four Township Water Resources Council and Gull Lake Quality Organization cosponsored an event hosted by the Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy (SWMLC). A combination of informational presentations and tours, this was an opportunity to see some of the most beautiful, privately held natural areas around Gull Lake. Beginning at the Boudeman Family Farm west of Gull Lake, participants were able to see and learn about many properties which are protected by Conservation Easements and one site which is held by SWMLC as a preserve open to the public.

Tour of the Headwaters, Saturday, June 8, 2013, 9:00 AM to 12:00 PM.

    The Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy and the Four Township Water Resources Council hosted our second annual tour to learn more about this treasure in our backyard. Augusta Creek flows from southern Barry County into the Kalamazoo River in Augusta. This is a pristine creek, like streams commonly found in northern Michigan, but this one is right here in your backyard. It is healthy because it is largely free-flowing, has extensive wetlands surrounding its headwaters, and is forested through much of the stream valley. Come learn more what makes this creek unique and why it was ranked by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality as one of the most important water bodies to conserve in the state.

    Steve Hamilton, Ecologist and Professor at the MSU Kellogg Biological Station led a tour on two private properties in the watershed of the Creek. The attendees got to experience these properties solely for this event; they are not generally open to the public. Steve Allen of GEUM, Inc., also shared his knowledge of birds and plants. The tour was organized by Emily Wilke, FTWRC Board Member and Director of Land Protection for SWMLC.

    We met at the Karl and Dana Smith property on Osborne Road between Gilkey Lake Road and Litts Road. The Smith property completely encompasses Little Gilkey and some of Shallow Gilkey Lakes. One highlight was territorial dispute between families of the native and recently reintroduced trumpet swams and non-native mute swams. Another was a beaver dam which had been present for several years. Then we traveled to the second location highlighting Blachmans Swamp near Delton. This large wetland is a bog, a unique habitat dominated by sphagnum moss, leatherleaf, high bush blueberries and other plants that can tolerate an acidic, relatively static environment.

Kanoe the Kazoo Paddle on Lower Crooked Lake

     For the tenth year in a row the Four Township Water Resources Council participated in the Kanoe the Kazoo Program on the morning of Saturday, May 11, 2013. The Council conducted a guided nature tour of Lower and Middle Crooked Lakes in Prairieville Township, Barry County, near Delton, using the Prairieville Township Park on Milo road as our launch site.

     The guides included Dr. Stephen Hamilton, Professor, Kellogg Biological Station and Dept. of Zoology, Michigan State University, Steve Allen, long time naturalist at the Kalamazoo Nature Center and currently with Geum Services, Inc. Ecological and Native Plant Consulting and Tyler Basset, graduate student in Botany at MSU at the Kellogg Biological Station.

     This was a great opportunity to view one of the most accessible relatively undeveloped in-land lakes in our region. Much of the shoreland of these lakes is undeveloped and included within the Lux Arbor preserve associated with the W.S. Kellogg Biological Station. Despite the cool, windy damp weather, the morning trip went well. Twenty paddlers on the water. Osprey on the nesting platform, at least two types of vireos, two types of warblers, two types of woodpeckers, some orioles, red tailed hawks, song sparrows, turkey vultures, geese, Mallards, and possibly a Bittern, possibly a Merlin.

FTWRC Annual Meeting April 29, 2013

     The Four Township Water Resources Council held its Annual Meeting at 7:00 PM in the Auditorium of the Stack Building at the Kellogg Biological Station, 3700 East Gull Lake Drive, on Monday, April 29, 2013. In addition to a short review of recent and planned Council activities, there were PRESENTATIONS ON HYDRAULIC FRACTURING - FRACKING. The meeting was well attended and the discussion was lively.

     The first speaker was Hal Fitch, Director of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality's Office of Oil, Gas & Minerals and the Michigan State Geologist, "HYDRAULIC FRACTURING IN SOUTHWEST MICHIGAN: Geology, Practices & Regulations", , an overview of oil and gas extraction in Michigan, the geologic basis of exploration and extraction in this area and the MDEQ regulation of these practices in Michgan.

    Also featured was Nicholas Schroeck, Executive Director of the Great Lakes Environmental Law Center. Mr. Schroeck, "LEGAL ISSUES AND FRACKING: the Feds, the State, the Locals and the Leases," a discussion of federal, state and local regulation as it relates to environmental and health risks and protection and some of the issues involved with oil & gas leases & contracts.

Kanoe the Kazoo Paddle on the Three Lakes: Where Gull Lake Water Goes

     For the ninth year in a row the Four Township Water Resources Council participated in the Kanoe the Kazoo Programon the morning of June 9, 2012. The Council conducted a guided nature tour of the Three Lakes southeast of the Village of Richland in Richland Township, which are part of a tributary branch of the Gull Lake/Creek system.

     The guides included Dr. Stephen Hamilton, Professor, Kellogg Biological Station and Dept. of Zoology, Michigan State University and Steve Allen, long time naturalist at the Kalamazoo Nature Center and currently with Geum Services, Inc. Ecological and Native Plant Consulting. This was a great opportunity to learn more about what happens to the water that leaves Gull Lake and see the streams, lakes and wetland habitats and their inhabitants downstream.

    The weather was beautiful with a warm sun and pleasant breeze. Participants learned about the natural history and ecology of this chain of lakes and enjoyed the oppotunity to see and hear, insect eating Pitcher Plants, invasive and native Phragmities, the nest and cygnets of a family of swans, an abandoned beaver dam, Yellow Warblers, Common Yellowthroats, Kingbirds, Swamp and Song Sparrows, a wide variety of dragonflies and many other plants and animals of our inland lakes and wetlands.

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FTWRC Annual Meeting April 30, 2012

     The Four Township Water Resources Council held its Annual Meeting at 7:00 PM in the Kellogg Biological Station Auditorium in the Stack Building on Monday, April 30, 2012. We provided an update on the development of Conservation Easements in the Augusta Creek Watershed which fills much of Barry and Ross Townships and other Council activities.

     The feature presentation titled "The Enbridge Oil Spill Revisited: Remediation and Rehabilitation" was presented by Dr. Stephen Hamilton, Professor, Kellogg Biological Station and Dept. of Zoology, Michigan State University. Dr Hamilton has a long history of conducting studies on water resources in the Kalamazoo River Watershed and involvement in protection of these resources. He is a representative on the U.S. EPA's Enbridge Scientific Team.

Augusta Creek Tour: See a Treasure in Your Backyard

    Despite a tornado warning and severe weather over 100 people joined us on March 4th at MSU's Kellogg Biological Station for an informational seminar entitled Augusta Creek . . . a treasure in your backyard!

    The seminar, hosted by SWMLC and the Four Township Water Resources Council, presented information by four natural resources experts on wetlands, fisheries, bird life, and environmental protection.  The evening revealed many distinctive qualities of the stream and its valley, and why Augusta Creek is recognized by the MDEQ as one of the most important high-quality water bodies in the state for conservation.

    The evening began with Stephen Hamilton, a professor at the Kellogg Biological Station, discussing the ecology of the creek. The rich diversity of habitats, especially wetlands, a variety of rare and uncommon plants and animals, and the large areas of protected land help to make this a high quality system. Most of the creek's flow is sustained by groundwater inputs. Hamilton explained the importance of groundwater to the fen wetlands lining the creek, and to life in the creek which depends on the stable flows and good water quality conferred by groundwater inputs.

    Kregg Smith, MDNR Senior Fisheries Biologist, talked about Augusta Creek's fishes, characterizing the stream's flow regime and morphology, highlighting the diversity of fish species found in the creek, and providing detail on the life and health of the trout population and MDNR's trout stocking history. Cool stream temperatures in the summer are critical to support the trout fishery, and high groundwater inputs help keep the stream cooler than many in the region.

    Augusta Creek supports at least 16 different species of fish including two species of greatest conservation need, the Lake Chubsucker and Tadpole Madtom, which are found in the headwater lakes, stated Kregg.

    Josh Haas, birder and nature photographer, presented spectacular photos of birds that nest and forage in different parts of the creek system depending on each of their specific habitat needs. And Julia Kirkwood, environmental quality analyst with the MDEQ, ended the evening by discussing the state's efforts to prioritize and conserve high quality water bodies such as Augusta Creek, including conservation easements and other measures that protect water quality.

    As a follow up to the seminar, FTWRC and SWMLC offered an educational tour of the Augusta Creek lead by Dr. Stephen Hamilton on Saturday, May 5, 2012. The tour started with a presentation on stream/habitat management efforts by the Trout Unlimited and an exploration of the ecology of Augusta Creek at the MSU Kellogg Forest on 42nd Street near Augusta, Michigan. And then moved to Sherriff's Marsh, an extensive wetlands on the headlands of the east branch of the headwaters of Augusta Creek. Naturalists and local landowners viewed and discussed the role of natural cycles and human intervention on the wetlands, their inhabitants and the waters of the Augusta Creek system.

Last edited: June 18, 2014