The following is one example of the impact Michigan Sea Grant has had throughout the state, region or beyond.

Many rivers in Michigan have dams, creating chains of (impounded) lakes at their headwaters. Water flows will become increasingly hard to manage in these systems because climate change is expected to make extreme weather events more common. The problem is particularly challenging when residents expect lake levels to be steady, as is the case in the Clinton River region. Because dams are common throughout the state, the research could also be applied to other river and impoundment systems.

In 2009, Michigan Sea Grant began funding an Integrated Assessment about managing water flows in the Clinton River. Researchers from Lawrence Technological University developed a unique hydrologic model to evaluate different scenarios for managing lake water levels and better protecting downstream river health. A diverse advisory board, including the county water resource commissioner and residents, were actively engaged and met regularly throughout the project to discuss project results. MSG helped researchers communicate potential scenarios, for example developing graphics that showed the effect of dams with high and low levels of precipitation.

Results: The water resource commissioner’s office began piloting new water management strategies in lakes that the model identified as having extra storage capacity. Residents and recreation enthusiasts have already noticed improvements downstream in the Clinton River. The hydrologic model and the graphics are also being applied to the Huron River, where the watershed council is partnering with the University of Michigan to conduct a similar integrated assessment about river flows and climate scenarios. Further, the water resource commissioner has reported that he better understand the options available for modifying water management without upsetting residents.

To learn more about this project, see: Project Website