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The Rouge River in Southeast Michigan is a highly urbanized river that flows through the most populated portion of Michigan. The river also has sensitive headwater areas that are still under intense development pressures. The watershed covers portions of three metropolitan counties and the City of Detroit, as well as approximately forty other municipal jurisdictions. The river receives significant wet weather contaminant loadings from CSOs, SSOs, and direct storm water runoff as well as non-point source runoff from park and agricultural areas. There are extreme flow variations due to the large impervious surface area that impacts both the base flow and the peak flows. The watershed has been a focus of local, state, and federal restoration efforts since the early 1970's, when it was declared to be the most polluted river in Michigan after the river caught fire in the lower end of the watershed.

As a result of the significant problems in the Rouge Watershed, the Federal Court urged in 1997 that a “water management authority” be created to oversee the remediation efforts underway in the Rouge. The communities, in cooperation with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, proposed an alternative institutional arrangement to the court that would not result in another layer of government but would at the same time address the issues raised by the court. One component of this innovative management approach was the Michigan General Storm Water Permit. This permit was developed to be issued to communities/agencies within the watershed who would apply on a “voluntary” basis to be regulated regarding their storm water discharges. The permit incorporated some of the better aspects of the Phase I Federal Storm Water program, such as the Illicit Discharge Elimination Program and the Public Education Program, without the onerous aspects of the intense sampling found under that program. The permit also mandated that the communities/agencies within the various subwatersheds of the Rouge cooperate to format a plan for public involvement in the restoration process and, uniquely, required that the various parties within the subwatersheds develop a comprehensive watershed management plan (WMP) for their separate areas that will be linked together to form a basin wide Remedial Action program for the Rouge River.

In May 2001 the seven Rouge River Subwatersheds submitted their Subwatershed Management Plans to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. Following acceptance of these plans each community then developed a Storm Water Pollution Prevention Initiative (SWPPI).

The SWPPI is designed to:

Reduce the discharge of pollutants to the maximum extent practicable

Be consistent with the WMP and emphasize the mitigation of undesirable impacts caused by wet weather discharges

Include actions expected to be implemented over the term of the permit

Address specific actions that will be taken by each permittee to achieve the goals of the Watershed Management Plan.

The components of the SWPPI include:

Actions proposed in the WMP

Implementation timeline for proposed actions

Evaluation of pollution prevention and good housekeeping activities including:

Maintenance activities, schedules, and inspection procedures for stormwater structural controls,

Control of street, road, highway, and parking lot pollutant discharges

Procedure for the disposal of maintenance waste (dredgings, sediments, etc.)

Procedure to ensure that new flood control projects assess impacts on water quality

Implement controls to reduce discharge of pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2002-01-01

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