The Elk River Chain of Lakes (ERCOL) watershed is located in northwestern Michigan in the lower peninsula. It is the largest sub-watershed of the Grand Traverse Bay watershed and covers over 500 square miles of land, has over 60 square miles of open water, and 200 miles of shoreline. The lakes and streams found in this watershed are some of the most pristine inland waterbodies in the entire country and provide a multitude of recreational and economic benefits for both full time residents and tourist. Despite continual efforts to protect the watershed, emerging issues such as land development pressures, invasive species, failing septic systems, and barriers to hydrologic connectivity threaten to impair these waters and degrade their ecological and economic treasures.
The SNRE team developed a comprehensive watershed management plan under the guidance of Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council and in conjunction with local lake associations and the ERCOL Watershed Plan Implementation Team (ERCOL-WPIT). The team’s efforts included: conducting road stream crossing and streambank erosion surveys across the watershed, leading town hall meetings, performing a priority parcel analysis, and generating spatial analysis reference sets and maps.
Ultimately, the ERCOL Watershed Protection Plan will be submitted for approval by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The lessons learned on restoration and protection can be carried over to similar geographies throughout the Great Lakes region, to cumulatively protect and enhance Great Lakes’ water quality and ecosystems.
- Brandon List, MS Sustainable Systems
- Stephanie Miller, MS Environmental Informatics/UMSI Invormation Analysis
- Elliot Nelson, MS Behavior, Education and Communication/Conservation Ecology
- Kevin Peterson, MS Conservation Ecology/Environmental Informatics
- Lauren Silver, MS Conservation Ecology