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In 1992, the EPA provided 46 million to Wayne County, Michigan to fund the development of a watershed-wide approach to addressing the problems of an urban river. In May 2001, seven Subwatershed Management Plans were submitted to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. This paper describes the most urban of those plans: The Rouge River Main 3–4 Subwatershed Plan.

The residents of the Main 3–4 Subwatershed have accomplished a great deal of water pollution control over the past 30 years. In the 1960s the Lower portion of the Rouge River was an example of the worst river stretches in the nation. It flooded regularly and was oil-covered and sludge-ladened, with offensive odors. This watershed plan is a key component of proceeding in a coordinated manner. For the past three years, the communities that comprise the Main 3–4 Subwatershed Advisory Group (SWAG) have met monthly to determine what actions must be taken to address impairments in their section of the Rouge River Watershed. The work of the Main 3–4 SWAG was done both to support the communities' applications for voluntary general storm water permits from the State of Michigan and to address storm water pollution to the Rouge River.

The high percentage of impervious surfaces in the Main 3–4 has contributed to the large variations in the River's flow. In addition to erratic flows, which cause stream bank erosion, sedimentation and reduction in wildlife habitat, this subwatershed is plagued by the same problems that degrade the Rouge River as a whole. These problems include high bacteria counts from untreated sewage entering the river and low dissolved oxygen. In addition, a portion of the Rouge River below Michigan Avenue has been channelized to control flooding and trees and shrubs on the streambank have been eliminated.

In the past, combined sewage systems contributed untreated sewage to the River when the systems overflowed. By 1998, four retention/treatment facilities were constructed in the subwatershed at a cost of 106 million to address these combined sewer overflows (CSOs). In addition, a 1 billion Long Term CSO Control Plan spearheaded by the City of Detroit will further reduce CSOs discharging to the Rouge River.

The Main 3–4 SWAG established the following long-term goals:

Improve water quality in the Rouge River and restore impaired uses.

Remove sources of pollution that threaten public health.

Educate the public regarding their impact on the River and the River's existing and future potential as a community asset and recreational resource.

Improve the water quality of the river to increase recreational opportunities and remove fish consumption advisories.

Enhance and preserve habitat, especially next to the river, for fish and wildlife compatible with subwatershed land uses.

Reduce water volumes and velocities in the river during a storm event to minimize bank erosion and flooding.

Each community then developed a list of long-term and short-term actions to address these goals. The Rouge Program Office has provided pilot project funding, public involvement assistance, extensive monitoring data, expertise on Best Management Practices and technical advice.

Communities are now developing Subwatershed Pollution Protection Initiatives that will identify specific actions, with timeframes and cost estimates, to implement the Subwatershed Plan.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2002

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  • Proceedings of the Water Environment Federation is an archive of papers published in the proceedings of the annual Water Environment Federation® Technical Exhibition and Conference (WEFTEC® ) and specialty conferences held since the year 2000. These proceedings are not peer reviewed.

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