Monday, December 08, 2008

Watershed Poster Part 1


In making the poster for the stewardship network conference in January, I want to show regeneration projects we have done in the Lake Plain area, including the Rouge River Watershed. We have little left of the ecosystem that was here in settlement times, the area is mostly urban; paved over and tied up with fences, if you will. We have the bones, the geology has changed little.

Regenerating an ecosystem is heady work. Few protocals show the way. Strip miners do it, but they put in golf courses and lanscape that needs heavy inputs. We have done much the same to our urban ecosystem. There is much nonnative grass, maintained with petrochemicals, and many paved roads, many roofs of buildings. Roofs and roads are impervious surfaces, little like the spongy forest floor that used to carpet our land. Much of the water that falls from the rains goes into the river, straight to the river picking up dirt and petrochemicals along the way. The natural hydrology cycle is disturbed here.

I keep thinking there is an authority who would know how we ought to proceed in these matters, could outline the path. I have some idea of what I want to highlight in the poster, projects moving toward a healthy ecosystem. There are certainly people who know a lot and have experiences that would be useful and relevant to the process of rebuilding a watershed. But the work of regenerating a city ecosystem is not work that has been done much. There are areas of the country that have progressed farther than we have in making progress toward a healthiy ecosystem. We have come far in learning what needs to be done. I wanted to put photos with captions as examples of our sucesses on the poster. I think the Rouge watershed has taken steps, baby steps, has a long way too go.

There are grow zones, over 24 acres in Wayne County alone. The County of Wayne and Oakland have many employees and many in local city government are aware of the importance of the areas that are left unmowed. Especially in Oakland county, the parks department has hired experts in the field of landscape architecture who are advocates for sustainable landscaping.

Progress has been made in part because the clean water act has mandated we clean the water in rivers all over the country. In the Rouge watershed, munipalities are struggling with ways to meet mandated standards. Some want huge, expensive waterworks and pipes that connect to huge water works. One of the problems the old core area has is combined sewers. During large rain events, the combined sanitary and storm sewers overflow. Currently much sewage water is sent to huge storage areas during large rain events, treated and sent to the river. The large storage areas are called CSO’s (combined sewer over flows). This is an expensive solution and not very elegant but it does treat sewage in the river.


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