Watershed Center to Tackle Suttons Bay and Traverse City Runoff

TRAVERSE CITY – The Watershed Center Grand Traverse Bay has been awarded three grants totaling $2.2 million to install improved runoff filtration systems in Suttons Bay and Traverse City, and to manage sediments as two dams are removed on the Boardman River.The funding comes from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. More than 95 percent of this funding will be invested in on-the-ground projects in local communities.

"We are honored to be awarded these critically needed funds to protect our vital water resources," says Andy Knott, executive director of the Watershed Center. "Grand Traverse Bay and its 1,000 square-mile watershed are the foundation of our region's economy and our Up North quality of life."

What will happen in Suttons Bay: The installation of three runoff drain systems, which will employ green infrastructure techniques.

"By managing runoff from the three largest storm drains in Suttons Bay, we hope to drastically decrease public health risks at local beaches associated with runoff," says Sarah U'Ren, program director for the Watershed Center.

The new drain systems will eliminate bacteria sources originating from storm drains at the Village's two heavily used family swimming beaches.This project will also be integrated with other planned park, TART trail and road improvements in Suttons Bay.

The green infrastructure techniques under consideration: a bio-retention basin, porous pavement and underground storage – all techniques emphasize treatment of runoff through natural filtration rather than direct discharge to surface water.

The Traverse City project involves working with the City of Traverse City to install a runoff filtering system at East Bay Park to reduce bacterial contamination at the beach.

"The ultimate goal is to remove East Bay Park from Michigan's Impaired Waters list," says U'Ren. Techniques under consideration for this project include installation of an antimicrobial filter.

Additionally, the Watershed Center will aid the Boardman dams removal project, by employing methods to manage sediment to protect aquatic habitat during removal of Brown Bridge and Sabin dams.

Removing the two dams, part of a larger project that involves removing a third dam and modifying a fourth, will restore 184 acres of wetlands, 32 acres of upland habitat and 2.2 miles of coldwater river habitat.

Knott emphasizes the importance of regional collaboration and community support fostered under the Grand Vision as factors in receiving these funds.

All three grant applications cited the Grand Vision and other community collaborations as important supporting factors for these projects.

"More than 12,000 citizens crafted the Grand Vision, which includes protecting our magnificent natural resources as a guiding principle," said Knott. "These grants fund shovel-ready, on-the-ground projects to help realize that vision."

Grant awards for each project total: $987,000 for the Suttons Bay project, $768,000 for the Traverse City project and $533,000 for the Boardman Dams project.

Engineering work for the projects will begin this fall with construction beginning in spring 2012. Founded in 1990, the Watershed Center's mission is to advocate for clean water in Grand Traverse Bay and protect its 1,000-square-mile watershed.