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Storm Water ManagementBackgroundWatershed Based PermitApplying for Watershed Based PermitRequirements during Watershed Based PermitWatershed Based Permit Guidance and SamplesImplementing Permit in RougeInstitutional Arrangements
Rouge AccomplishmentsEnvironmental ResultsConclusionsOther Useful InformationBack to Storm Water Management

Overview Description of Storm Water
Management for the Rouge River

Background

The early focus of the Rouge Project was on the control of combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs) in the older urban core portion of the downstream areas of the Rouge Watershed. As a finite number of point source CSO discharges could be identified and responsibility for each defined, the traditional regulatory approach of issuing NPDES permits mandating corrective action worked relatively well. Click here to learn more about the CSO control program. Additional monitoring of the river showed that the other sources of pollution such as industrial and municipal point sources, storm water runoff, discharges from illicit connections, discharges from failed on-site septic systems, and resuspension of contaminated sediment, needed to be controlled before full restoration of the river would be achieved throughout the watershed.

Based upon what was learned, the focus of the Rouge Project became more holistic to consider the impacts from all sources of pollution and use impairments in receiving waters. The Rouge Project has provided a unique opportunity for using a watershed-wide, cooperative, locally based approach to restoring and protecting an urban river system. The Project learned that the use of the watershed approach was the most cost-effective and logical method to water resource management. There is a clear interrelationship of the pollution sources within a watershed that demands an interrelated approach to a solution. Click here to learn more about the Rouge Project's watershed management program.

The Project's monitoring program showed that storm water runoff and illicit connections to separate storm water systems were a major source of pollutants entering the river. Without efforts to address storm water runoff in upstream areas, the major capital investments to control CSOs in downstream areas would not result in significant improvements in the water quality of the river. Later studies emphasized the need to control storm water runoff that was responsible for the increasing frequency, volume and velocity of flood flows in the river. These excessive flows following wet weather events in the Rouge River watershed were shown to be responsible for significant impairments to aquatic habitat and riparian properties. Click here to learn more about stream flow issues in the Rouge Watershed. For additional background information on issues associated with storm water pollution in the Rouge River Watershed see Storm Water Runoff, Management of Storm Water Runoff, and Benefits of Management of Storm Water Runoff.

In November of 1994, an ad hoc Rouge River Storm Water Advisory Group was formed that included representatives of state and local agencies with regulatory responsibility. The purpose of the group was to develop and guide the implementation of a cooperative strategy to restore the river throughout the watershed.

In March of 1995, a storm water management strategy based on the application of watershed-wide management approaches for the Rouge River was developed and implemented. The storm water strategy had six major elements:

  • develop a baseline monitoring program
  • target investigations in identified problem areas
  • fund demonstration and pilot projects to remediate pollution sources and reduce flow variability
  • document institutional options and legal impediments to watershed-wide approaches
  • propose incentives to encourage voluntary participation by communities and other public agencies and,
  • adopt a plan for short term actions and iterative steps leading to comprehensive, watershed-wide storm water management.

The Cooperative Strategy to the Restore the Rouge River was shared with the community leaders within the watershed and endorsed by the Rouge Project Steering Committee.

In April of 1996, a report, A Municipal Storm Water Discharge Regulation Strategy, was developed that outlined the legal options under Michigan law that could be used to manage storm water based on hydrologic or watershed boundaries rather than by political boundaries. This report concluded that using a General Permit or Permit by Rule concept to regulate municipal storm water on a watershed-wide or subwatershed approach would provide flexibility to the municipalities within the Rouge River watershed and support the creation of a locally managed storm water remediation control mechanism. Further, the report concluded that if the local agencies were agreeable to a voluntary mechanism to collectively remediate and control storm water discharges, current Michigan law offers a number of alternatives.

Three demonstration subwatersheds were selected for the development of pilot storm water management plans in order to examine how such a plan might differ between various areas within the watershed. The three subwatersheds selected represented:

  • older, fully developed, suburban areas with both separated and combined sewers
  • rapidly developing areas in the headwaters of the Rouge River, with separated sewers and on-site septic systems and
  • an area that was still undergoing development, but was primarily urbanized

These pilot storm water management plans were developed in cooperation with local communities, counties and regional agencies. See Overview Description of Watershed Management in the Rouge Watershed for a more detailed discussion of these three pilot studies.

In addition, over 100 storm water projects involving the application of best management practices (BMPs) in over 25 different communities and agencies were funded. The BMP categories that received funding included wetland creation and restoration; construction of grassy swales and detention ponds; pollution prevention; education programs; erosion control, streambank stabilization; habitat restoration; and management of sources of untreated sewage from failing septic systems. The results of the individual BMP pilot projects provide models for other communities and agencies to consider as elements in their own storm water management efforts.

However before the Cooperative Strategy could be fully implemented, the Federal District Court overseeing the cleanup of the Rouge River suggested the creation of a watershed-wide institutional structure. The Court charged the drain commissioners in the three counties and a representative of the city of Detroit with the task of developing a report on how the Michigan State Drain Code could be used to establish an institution to fund and manage water quality in the entire watershed. The subsequent report to the Court by the reluctant authors pointed out the severe limitations of the Michigan Drain Code in providing adequate representation and shared authority to the 48 communities involved. The communities, without exception, expressed grave reservations about establishing an institutional arrangement under the Michigan Drain Code.

The Wayne County Department of the Environment met with the Rouge watershed communities and proposed an alternative regulatory framework -- a watershed based general storm water permit issued under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES). The communities then asked the Court for the opportunity to develop a draft permit acceptable to the communities as well as the state and federal regulatory agencies. The Court agreed to provide the opportunity to the communities to attempt a consensus approach to a watershed based general storm water permit. At the same hearing, the Court noticed all 48 communities that they were now parties to the case before the Court. Previously only those communities with CSO discharges were formally a part of the federal court litigation.

It is within this context that the communities formed a Core Advisory Group to attempt to draft a consensus approach to a state general permit for the management of storm water within the Rouge River watershed and concurrently implement the other elements of a storm water management strategy including development of management plans in the three selected subwatersheds.

The Core Advisory Group developed a set of guiding principles that were subsequently ranked by the affected communities. From this set of priority principles a watershed based general storm water permit began to take shape. For a more extensive discussion of the steps that lead to the development of this permit see "Adapting Regulatory Framework to Accommodate Watershed Approaches to Storm Water Management".

Beginning in 1995, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ), the Rouge Project and the communities in the Rouge Watershed jointly developed a watershed based general storm water permit.

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The Michigan Watershed Based General Storm Water Permit

The innovative, watershed based General Waste Water Discharge Permit for Storm Water Discharges from Separate Storm Water Drainage Systems (Permit Number MIG610000) was issued on July 31, 1997. This General Permit was "voluntary". It was voluntary since there was no legal requirement for most storm sewers to have a permit at that point in time. However, those granted coverage under the voluntary general permit would be just as bound by its conditions as any other NPDES discharger. The permit was viewed as an opportunity to demonstrate that a flexible, locally-driven program will be effective in dealing with wet weather issues. It was the conclusion by MDEQ that if this overall approach could be proven effective, it is expected that the jurisdictions with coverage under this permit would continue the locally driven program in lieu of the coming USEPA Phase II program.

The watershed based General Storm Water Permit incorporates the following elements:

  • As stated above, coverage is voluntary until the permits under the USEPA's Phase II storm water program are required. It is important to note that USEPA endorsed Michigan's proposal to use the Voluntary Watershed Based General Storm Water Permit in lieu of permits that would otherwise be required by the Phase II regulations.;
  • Only public agencies who own, operate, or control storm water are provided the opportunity for coverage;
  • Subwatershed size is established by the potential permittees during the application process;
  • Application and permit process have limited required actions, the focus is to establish desired outcomes.

The watershed based General Storm Water Permit requires permittee to develop certain items that are to be submitted with the permit application and certain other items will be submitted during the life of the permit. To view the complete application and accompanying information developed by MDEQ, click here.

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Information to be submitted with the Watershed Based General Storm Water Permit Application

As shown on the permit application, there are a number of items that must be submitted. The items that require significant effort are delineated below.

  • General Information. The applicant shall 1) identify its legal name and mailing address, 2) identify the proposed watershed boundaries, 3) identify the location of known point source discharges of storm water for which coverage is requested and their receiving waters, and 4) provide a map of drainage area indicating the hydrologic boundary and approximate square miles of area covered. Requirements 3) and 4) would be satisfied by providing a map of the separate storm water drainage system.

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Information to be submitted during the life of the Watershed Based General Storm Water Permit

The following items must be developed and submitted during the term of the watershed based General Storm Water Permit.

  • Illicit Discharge Elimination Plan (IDEP). An illicit discharge is the introduction of polluting materials into a pipe that drains to surface water or the dumping of polluting material that can impact surface water. This is a broader definition than the "classical" definition of sanitary plumbing fixtures connected to a storm sewer. The Rouge Project found there were a number of illicit discharges that were adversely impacting water quality. Examples found in the Rouge River watershed include toilets connected to storm sewers, laundry waste discharging to a drain, swimming pool backwash water discharging to a storm sewer or situations where polluting material can move over land to a storm sewer.

    The IDEP has the goal of eliminating raw sewage discharges and includes addressing failing septic systems and improper connections of sanitary sewers to storm drains and open waterways. The IDEP is due at the time of permit application. At a minimum, the Illicit Discharge Elimination Plan must include the following:
    1. a description of a program to find, prioritize, and eliminate illicit discharges and illicit connections identified during dry weather screening activities;
    2. a description of a program to minimize infiltration of seepage from sanitary sewers and septic systems into the applicant's separate storm water drainage system;
    3. a method for determining the effectiveness of the program and an updated map of known storm water point sources and their receiving waters.
  • Public Education Plan (PEP). The PEP is designed to inform residents and businesses what actions they should take to protect the river. The PEP is due at the time of permit application. The Public Education Plan shall promote, publicize, and facilitate watershed education for the purpose of encouraging the public to reduce the discharge of pollutants in storm water to the maximum extent practicable. The Public Education Plan may involve combining with or coordinating existing programs for public stewardship of water resources. Pollution prevention shall be encouraged. The plan shall be designed to accomplish the following as appropriate based on the potential impact on the watershed:
    1. encouragement of public reporting of the presence of illicit discharges or improper disposal of materials into the applicant's separate storm water drainage system;
    2. education of the public on the availability, location and requirements of facilities for disposal or drop-off of household hazardous wastes, travel trailer sanitary wastes, chemicals, grass clippings, leaf litter, animal wastes, and motor vehicle fluids;
    3. education of the public regarding acceptable application and disposal of pesticides and fertilizers;
    4. education of the public concerning preferred cleaning materials and procedures for residential car washing;
    5. education of the public concerning the ultimate discharge point and potential impacts from pollutants from the separate storm water drainage system serving their place of residence;
    6. education of the public about their responsibility and stewardship in their watershed; and
    7. education of the public concerning management of riparian lands to protect water quality.
  • Watershed Management Plan prepared in cooperation with others, to resolve water quality concerns. The Watershed Management Plan is typically due two years after the certificate of coverage is issued to the applicant. The planning is iterative in nature. The completed plan is not subject to MDEQ approval. The first revision of the Watershed Management Plan is due prior to permit expiration. This is intended to support the concept of planning being an iterative process. The MDEQ states the following: "We expect frequent revisions to the Plan. And we hope that, due to the frequency of revisions, stakeholders will be willing to support Plans that are less than fully satisfactory to them, i.e. their concerns can be fully addressed in the next iteration."

    As a minimum, the Watershed Management Plans shall contain:
    • an assessment of the nature and status of the watershed ecosystem to the extent necessary to achieve the purpose of the watershed management plan,
    • definition of the short-term goals for the watershed,
    • definition of the long-term goals for the watershed, which shall include protection of designated uses of the receiving waters as defined in Michigan's Water Quality Standards,
    • determination of the actions needed to achieve the short-term goals for the watershed,
    • determination of the actions needed to achieve the long-term goals for the watershed,
    • assessment of both the benefits and costs of the actions identified above (a "cost/benefit analysis" is not required),
    • commitments, identified by specific permittee or others as appropriate, to implement actions by specified dates necessary to achieve the short-term goals,
    • commitments, identified by specific permittee or others as appropriate, to implement actions by specified dates necessary to initiate achievement of the long-term goals, and
    • methods for evaluation of progress, which may include chemical or biological indicators.

  • Storm Water Pollution Prevention Initiative (SWPPI). The SWPPI is a subset of the Watershed Management Plan and is typically due 2.5 years after the certificate of coverage is issued to the applicant. The following are the SWPPI requirements as stated in the permit:

    The permittee shall submit an approvable Storm Water Pollution Prevention Initiative and implementation schedule to the MDEQ District Supervisor of the Surface Water Quality Division by the date specified in the certificate of coverage. The Program shall be designed and implemented to reduce the discharge of pollutants to the maximum extent practicable, shall be consistent with the Watershed Management Plan, and shall include those actions expected to be implemented over the term of the permit. The Program shall be implemented upon approval of the MDEQ. The Program shall include, as a minimum:

    1. The actions required of the permittee in the Watershed Management Plan in accordance with the dates specified, taking into account any specific disagreements to the Watershed Management Plan which were provided by the permittee and included in the appendix to the Plan. (Note: if the Watershed Management Plan requirement has been deferred until a later time, as indicated on the certificate of coverage, the Storm Water Pollution Prevention Initiative shall initially be developed without consideration of the Watershed Management Plan.)
    2. Evaluation and implementation of pollution prevention and good housekeeping activities, as appropriate. The permittee shall consider the following activities for inclusion in the Storm Water Pollution Prevention Initiative:
      • maintenance activities, maintenance schedules, and inspection procedures for storm water structural controls to reduce pollutants (including floatables) in discharges from the permittee's separate storm water drainage system,
      • controls for reducing or eliminating the discharges of pollutants from streets, roads, highways and parking lots,
      • procedures for the proper disposal of operation and maintenance waste from the separate storm water drainage system (dredge spoil, accumulated sediments, floatables, and other debris),
      • ways to ensure that new flood management projects assess the impacts on the water quality of the receiving waters and, whenever possible, examine existing projects for incorporation of additional water quality protection devices or practices, and
      • implementation of controls to reduce the discharge of pollutants related to application of pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers applied in the permittee's jurisdiction.
    3. Evaluation and implementation of site appropriate, cost-effective structural and nonstructural best management practices (BMPs) to minimize the water quality impacts from areas of new development and significant redevelopment. The goal is to protect the designated uses in the receiving waters from the effects commonly associated with urbanization.
    4. The methods of assessing progress in storm water pollution preventionand a schedule for submittal of annual reports to the MDEQ District Supervisor on implementation status and pollution prevention progress. At a minimum, the annual progress reports shall include:
      1. documentation of actions taken to eliminate illicit discharges (for significant illicit discharges, the pollutant(s) of concern, the estimated volume and load discharged, and location of the discharge into the permittee's separate storm sewer system and into the receiving water shall be provided),
      2. schedules for elimination of illicit connections identified but not eliminated,
      3. documentation of the public education effort and evaluation of its effectiveness,
      4. documentation of other actions taken to reduce the discharge of pollutants in storm water.
    5. Designated contact person: On or before 60 days after the effective date of the certificate of coverage, the permittee shall designate a storm water program manager to serve as the contact person for the MDEQ regarding activities carried out to comply with this permit. The permittee may replace the program manager at any time and shall notify the MDEQ District Supervisor within ten days after the replacement.
    6. Retention of records. The latest approved version of the Storm Water Pollution Prevention Initiative shall be retained until at least three years after coverage under this permit terminates. All records and information resulting from the assessment of Storm Water Pollution Prevention Initiative effectiveness , including all records of analyses performed and calibration and maintenance of instrumentation and recordings from continuous monitoring instrumentation, shall be retained for a minimum of three years or longer if requested by the MDEQ or the USEPA Regional Administrator.

    The SWPPI must be reviewed at least 180 days prior to permit expiration and a revised SWPPI (if appropriate) must be submitted to the MDEQ for approval with the permittee's request to continue a discharge authorized under the permit. The revised SWPPI shall be consistent with revisions made to the Watershed Management Plan.

  • Monitoring and Reporting. All NPDES permits have specific requirements for the permittee to conduct necessary water quality monitoring and to report on other items such as progress being made, status of compliance with the permit requirements, etc. The watershed based General Storm Water Permit has similar such monitoring and reporting requirements including schedule for revisions to the Watershed Management Plan.

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Watershed Based General Storm Water Permit Guidance and Example Documents

Five basic guidance documents were originally developed for use by any community in applying for and then implementing the watershed based General Storm Water Permit. These guidance documents explained the individual requirements of the General Permit and provided valuable information to the potential permittees on what should be contained in each of the required parts of the watershed based General Storm Water Permit including the permit application. The original have been updated to reflect the more extensive knowledge gained by MDEQ, the local communities and other permittees on how to more effectively implement the watershed based General Storm Water Permit.. The first guidance document listed below was prepared by the MDEQ whereas the other four documents were prepared by the Rouge Project working with the local communities. Those documents are available by clicking on the appropriate item.

State of Michigan Guidance: Michigan's Watershed Based MS4 Voluntary General Permit

Rouge Project Guidance:
Subwatershed Management Plan Guidance
Public Education/Information Plan Guidance
Illicit Discharge Elimination Plan Guidance
Storm Water Pollution Prevention Initiative Guidance

To help explain the philosophy behind the watershed based General Storm Water Permit and to elaborate on the information contained in the above referenced guidance documents, the Rouge Project conducted three workshops in 1997 for the communities in the Watershed to assist them in complying with the requirements of the watershed based General Storm Water Permit. Several guidance documents were prepared for use in those workshops. Those documents are available by clicking on the following:

General Storm Water Permit: Why Volunteer to be Regulated?
Community Project Guide to Managing Grants
Improving Community Storm Water Management: A Summary Guide of Ordinances

Example Applications for the MDEQ Watershed Based General Storm Water Permit

As stated earlier, the three counties, most of the communities, and other agencies within the Rouge Watershed have applied for the watershed based General Storm Water Permit. By clicking on the following, example applications for Wayne County and the city of Canton can be viewed.

Example Submissions of the Completed Subwatershed Management Plans

The seven subwatershed groups comprised of Rouge River communities have developed watershed management plans and submitted them to MDEQ in accordance with the requirements of the Michigan General Storm Water Permit. The subwatershed management plans do not require state approval; however, the individual pollution prevention initiatives emanating from the watershed planning process require state approval as the activities specified in the initiatives become permit requirements upon approval. The subwatershed management plans are now being implemented. To view any of the individual subwatershed management plan, click on Completed Subwatershed Management Plans.

Example Submissions of the Illicit Discharge Elimination Program (IDEP)

A complete description of the Rouge Project's Illicit Discharge Elimination Program (IDEP) can be viewed by clicking on the above.

As stated earlier, the three counties, most of the communities, and other agencies within the Rouge Watershed have applied for the watershed based General Storm Water Permit. The permit requires communities to develop IDEPs which must be submitted with the permit application. By clicking on the following, example IDEPs for Bloomfield Township and Canton can be viewed.

Example Submissions of the Public Education Program (PEP)

The Rouge Project's strategy for a comprehensive public involvement and education program to support Rouge River restoration activities has been a success. Since the Rouge Project's inception in 1992, it was clear that public education and involvement programs were a cornerstone of the restoration of the Rouge River. A complete description of the Rouge Project's Public Involvement and Education Program can be viewed by clicking on the above.

As stated earlier, the three counties, most of the communities, and other agencies within the Rouge Watershed have applied for the watershed based General Storm Water Permit. The general permit requires permittees to develop and implement public education programs. By clicking on the following, example public education plans for Bloomfield Township and Canton can be viewed.

Example Information on the Storm Water Pollution Prevention Initiative (SWPPI)

As discussed above, a key component of the watershed based General Storm Water Permit is the Storm Water Pollution Prevention Initiative (SWPPI). The SWPPI identifies the specific responsibilities of the permittee to implement the watershed management plans with specific compliance dates included. The program is subject to MDEQ approval and is enforceable thereafter. It includes evaluation and implementation of pollution prevention and good housekeeping practices, the evaluation and implementation of BMPs to minimize impacts of new development and redevelopment, and assessment of progress and reporting.

Below are materials to assist communities and agencies in development of the SWPPI. Some files require Adobe Acrobat Reader (files ending in .pdf). This free software can be obtained at http://www.adobe.com/.
Other software required includes Microsoft Office 97 products:
Microsoft Word (files ending in .doc)
Microsoft Excel (files ending in .xls)
Microsoft PowerPoint (files ending in .ppt)

If you are unable to read files from Microsoft Office 97, please contact Barbara Farrah at 313.224.8173.

PowerPoint Presentations given at SWPPI workshop.
As discussed earlier, the Rouge Project conducted a workshop on the preparation of the SWPPI. The PowerPoint presentation used in that workshop is presented below

Summary of SWPPI-related questions and answers from the MDEQ and RPO
At the workshop, a number of questions were asked by the audience on the preparation of the SWPPIs. Those questions and the answers can be viewed by clicking on the following. (Adobe PDF files)

MDEQ SWPPI Template and Checklist
Following the aforementioned SWPPI workshop, the MDEQ issued guidance material on the required SWPPIs. The template MDEQ developed and the review checklist can be viewed by clicking on the following. (Adobe PDF files)

Goal-Specific Long Term Assessment of Progress in Subwatershed
A key element of the SWPPI process is the process by which the assessment of progress will be made in implementing the actions needed to achieve the long term goals specified in the subwatershed management plans. To assist communities and agencies in developing their SWPPI submissions, the Rouge Project, working with one of the subwatersheds developed a draft "Table 1" titled Goal-Specific Long Term Assessment of Progress in Subwatershed. This is a recommended example table that was reviewed by the MDEQ for use by the individual communities in developing their individual SWPPIs. The table is based on the Subwatershed Management Plan's chapter on monitoring. This table would be modified to fit individual needs. (Microsoft Word files)

Community and agency specific activities committed to under Subwatershed Management Plans -- as submitted in Common Appendix B
Within the watershed management plans and the SWPPIs, communities and agencies must identify specific activities that will be undertaken to further the restoration of the Rouge River in order to achieve the long term goals specified in the subwatershed management plans. To assist communities and agencies in developing their SWPPI submissions, the Rouge Project, working with one of the subwatersheds developed draft tables that presents possible community and agency specific activities committed to under subwatershed management plans. The tables are grouped under a specific SWAG. By clicking on the listing below, the particular SWAG will appear. The tables for individual communities within that SWAG can then be clicked on for viewing. These are example tables that were reviewed by the MDEQ for use by the individual communities in developing their individual SWPPIs. (Microsoft Excel files)

Examples of completed draft SWPPIs (Microsoft Word files)

General Comments on Draft SWPPIs
General comments were prepared by MDEQ based upon their reviews of some draft SWPPIs. The comments were prepared to assist the communities in the preparation of their final SWPPIs.

Current Status of the SWPPIs in the Rouge Watershed
The communities and agencies are proceeding to implement that actions delineated in their individual SWPPIs. Click here for the most current status.

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Implementation of the Watershed Based General Storm Water Permit in the Rouge Watershed

Subwatershed Advisory Groups Between January of 1996 and November of 1997, the Rouge Program Office (RPO) together with representatives from the Middle One Subwatershed communities and agencies convened in a series of meetings to produce the Middle One Subwatershed Management Study funded as a pilot study for the Rouge Project. Members of this cooperative group created this study to identify concerns about water quality and quantity within the Middle One subwatershed and develop ideas for management alternatives using the watershed approach to address those concerns. The control of storm water was a key area of focus of the pilot study. This management study was competed and the final report can be viewed at Middle 1 Subwatershed Management Study (NPS-TM23.00). Note that this study was superceded by a more expansive subwatershed management plan that is discussed later in this document.

The cooperative group evolved over time because of a common interest in the MDEQ voluntary watershed based General Storm Water Permit. With the goal of applying for this Voluntary Storm Water Permit, members of the original Middle One group reassembled in 1998 and extended invitations to all public agencies that were eligible for coverage under the MDEQ Permit. This group is now referred to as the Middle One Subwatershed Advisory Group (SWAG).

With its expanded membership, the Middle One SWAG began discussions on the requirements of the Permit, and by the middle of 1999 all the SWAG membership received Certificates of Coverage for the Permit. All of the Middle One SWAG communities and agencies then began to implement their watershed based General Storm Water Permits to restore and protect the Rouge River.

As stated earlier, three demonstration subwatersheds were selected to examine how a storm water management plan might differ between various areas within the watershed. In addition to the Middle 1 Subwatershed Management Study, a management study was completed for each of the other two demonstration subwatersheds. To view these other two documents see:

Note that these two study were superseded by more expansive subwatershed management plans that are discussed later in this document.

Essentially all of the communities and agencies, covering over 95 percent of the watershed, have applied for Certificates of Coverage under this innovative, watershed-based permit program. In accordance with the requirements of the permit, the communities and agencies began to address the water quality and water quantity issues on a subwatershed basis. The Rouge River Watershed contains a total of seven subwatersheds that range in size between 19 and 89 square miles. Almost all of the Rouge communities worked together to develop the required subwatershed management plans in accordance with the watershed based General Storm Water Permit. All of the subwatersheds followed the pattern discussed above on the Middle 1 in the formation of the individual SWAGs for the various subwatersheds. Click here to view a map of these subwatershed areas. The seven SWAGs in the Rouge Watershed as follows:

Main 1-2 Subwatershed Advisory Group
Main 3-4 Subwatershed Advisory Group
Upper Subwatershed Advisory Group
Middle 1 Subwatershed Advisory Group
Middle 3 Subwatershed Advisory Group
Lower 1 Subwatershed Advisory Group
Lower 2 Subwatershed Advisory Group

The SWAGs worked collaboratively with the local units of government, County and other agencies that have Certificates of Coverage under the watershed based General Storm Water Permit to:

  • Develop and implement public participation plans,
  • Establish short-term and long-term goals for protecting and/or restoring the River,
  • Compile information on the nature and status of the subwatershed,
  • Identify and agree on actions to be taken to achieve the short-term and long-term goals, and
  • Assess management alternatives.

The SWAGS developed their subwatershed management plans in accordance with the requirements of the watershed based General Storm Water Permit and submitted them to MDEQ on May 31, 2001. Review comments were provided and the plans updated accordingly. As stated in the General Permit, the MDEQ does not approve the watershed management plans. Click on the following to view these subwatershed management plans:

The communities and agencies are now implementing the subwatershed management plans.

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Emerging Institutional Arrangements

Institutional arrangements and financing options necessary to restore the Rouge are one of the many elements that the local communities in the Rouge Watershed are addressing in their SWAGs. The framework for institutional arrangements in the Rouge watershed is supported by the watershed based General Storm Water Permit, and has evolved into a "bottom up" approach with three levels of activity:

  • Local
  • Subwatershed Advisory Groups
  • Watershed-wide Rouge Assembly

Citizens and individual communities are doing much of the work of the Rouge restoration effort at the local level. This flexible framework has allowed communities to experiment with various approaches that recognize local constraints and seizes upon unique opportunities to meet the desired outcomes defined in the subwatershed management plans.

A major item of focus in 2001 was discussion by the communities on the direction of the Rouge River restoration efforts for 2002 and 2003. A planning retreat for communities with the watershed based General Storm Water Permit in the Rouge watershed was held on October 4, 2001 to explore options associated with institutional arrangements for the Rouge Watershed. Representatives from approximately 35 communities attended this all-day retreat to discuss Rouge Project activities and processes for the next several years. The principle conclusion was that a new watershed-wide organization was needed to further the continued efforts in the Rouge River restoration. It was decided that a new "Drafting Committee" would be established to work in parallel with the Watershed-wide Rouge Assembly for a period of time to develop recommendations on a number of issues including the following:

  • Planning for water quality and water quantity issues in the watershed;
  • Establishing priorities for projects that relate to goals, targets and schedules;
  • Providing advocacy for the members at the federal/state/regional and local level;
  • Coordinating the activities and management plans for the Subwatershed Advisory Groups;
  • Coordinating and perhaps managing watershed-wide sampling/monitoring; and
  • Addressing regional concerns including providing a forum for coordination of issues with the Detroit Water and Sewer Department.

The Drafting Committee met in a series of meetings over a six-month period. It examined over 40 existing watershed organizations around the country and in Michigan. It reviewed detailed reports from Wayne County on the cost of various Rouge Project services. The Drafting Committee presented its report and recommendations to a reconvening of the local watershed agencies at Rouge Retreat 2 held on June 7, 2002. The Drafting Committee proposed a transitional organization that would initially address only storm water management permit issues. The following is an overview of the Drafting Committee Recommendations:

  • Create a Rouge River Watershed Local Management Assembly (Rouge River Assembly)
    • Controlled by local agencies with storm water permits
    • Provide permit related services to local, watershed communities/counties
    • Facilitate transition from federal to local funding over 2-3 year period
  • Proposed Memorandum of Agreement to formalize institutional arrangement for at least first year that includes
    • Structure and functions
    • Allocation of voting shares
    • Allocation of costs
    • First year budget

For a more detailed presentation of the Drafting Committee’s recommendations, please click on Executive Summary of the Proposed Rouge River Watershed Management Assembly. With over 20 communities signed on to the Rouge Assembly, the process of forming this group continues to move forward.

For a more detailed discussion on this topic of institutional arrangements as it has evolved in the Rouge River Watershed, see the Overview Description Watershed Management of the Rouge River.

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Summary of Rouge Project Accomplishments To Date

The storm water control program is a key entity included in the many individual programs and actions which blend together will result in the Rouge River restoration. The following summarizes some of the most important accomplishments.

The CSO control program has made major advances. For a summary of those, see "Overview Description of the CSO Control Program".

As stated earlier, innovative storm water control and watershed management technologies are being or have been evaluated under the Rouge Project. Twenty-five (25) different communities and agencies throughout the watershed are implementing over 100 pilot projects. Categories of pilot management projects currently underway include wetlands creation and restoration, structural storm water practices such as grassed swales and detention ponds, erosion controls, stream bank stabilization and habitat restoration, to name a few.

The Rouge Project has learned that illicit connections and failing septic systems are major sources of pollution problems in the Detroit urban area. Creative ways to deal with these sources of pollution have been initiated.

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Environmental Results To Date

The Long-Term Monitoring Network of the Rouge Project includes continuous measurement of Rouge River dissolved oxygen (DO) content at five key locations. Adequate dissolved oxygen content is one key element of a healthy river ecosystem. The DO measurements are made from mid-April through mid-November each year, and most sites have been monitored since 1994. Since the measurements are continuous, they show the combined effect of dry and wet weather conditions in the river. A review of the preliminary 2001 data from these long-term monitoring locations is summarized below.

The water quality in the Rouge River continued to show the very encouraging trend of continuous improvement because of these efforts and others. The MDEQ water quality standard for DO is 5 mg/l. The mean DO in the lower reaches of the Rouge River has increased from 4.5 mg/l in 1994 to almost 7.0 mg/l in 2001. The percent of DO readings that violated the DO standard of 5 mg/l dropped from 61 percent in 1994 to less than 4 percent in 2001. Similar improvements occurred at all stations in the watershed where those stations met the standard 100% of the time. The water quality improvements that are occurring clearly reflect the benefits of the watershed management strategies that have been implemented to address and control both dry and wet weather pollution sources in the watershed.

Because of these efforts and others, the water quality in the Rouge River continues to show significant improvement. For example, during the year 2000 at the lower end of the River the mean dissolved oxygen (DO) increased from 4.5 mg/l in 1994 to almost 7.0 mg/l in 2000. The percent of DO readings that violated the State water quality standard of 5 mg/l dropped from 61 percent in 1994 to less than 4 percent in 2000. Similar improvements occurred at all stations in the watershed where those stations met the standard 100% of the time. It is important to note that these figures are for the entire year, during both wet and dry periods. The water quality has not been at these levels in decades.

Coupled with the water quality improvements, the ecosystem health continues to improve as well. This improvement is demonstrated by the results of the 4th Annual Friends of the Rouge Frog and Toad Survey. Over 400 volunteers listened for the mating calls of nine different species of frogs and toads in the areas of Wayne, Oakland and Washtenaw Counties within the Rouge River Watershed. They heard a greater number of green frogs and northern leopard frogs during the 2001 survey than they did in the previous year.

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Conclusions

The Rouge Project is a working demonstration of a watershed-wide approach to restoring and protecting an urban river system by using a cooperative, locally based approach to pollution control. The watershed management tools developed by the Rouge Project has aided decision-makers and the general public in evaluating options for preventing, reducing and minimizing pollution loading impacts on the Rouge River. The Rouge watershed management tools facilitate the prioritization and tailoring of pollution control and ecosystem restoration solutions to specific river reaches while coordinating efforts throughout the watershed.

The Rouge Project approach demonstrates that a watershed can be "managed." When water quality objectives can only be reached through the control of CSO, storm water and non-point sources-then watershed management must involve the active participation of local units of government.

The Rouge Project staff feel an overwhelming success with what has been accomplished to date. The improvements in water quality are outstanding, and the demonstration techniques have resulted not only in concrete and steel structures, but also in real institutional changes that integrate the work of storm water and watershed improvement into the basic institutions of government.

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Other Useful Information on Storm Water Issues

The Center for Urban Policy and the Environment at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) in cooperation with the Watershed Management Institute, Inc. has used EPA grant money to develop a Web site designed to help communities find ways to pay for stormwater management projects. The site includes the following: an annotated bibliography of existing stormwater finance materials; an archive that contains selected previously published materials concerning stormwater finance; a manual that discusses the financing options available to communities for stormwater management programs; a set of case studies that describe successful finance mechanisms that have been used in seven communities around the country; and a group of links to other useful web sites about stormwater management.

Other sources of useful information on storm water can be found at the following:

  • The Center for Watershed Protection (CWP) has extensive information on watershed protection including storm water. See http://www.cwp.org/ for information on BMP performance, design, maintenance and watershed planning.
  • The CWP sponsored site http://www.stormwatercenter.net/ provides a comprehensive library of articles about BMP performance and is designed specifically for storm water practitioners, local government officials and others that need technical assistance on storm water management issues.
  • Storm water BMP links for developed or developing communities, emphasizing documents and standards developed by other states can be found at http://www.EPA.gov/OST/stormwater/#nsbd.
  • Technical fact sheets on a number of BMPs are available on the USEPA Web site at http://www.EPA.gov/owm/mtbfact.htm.
  • The American Society of Civil Engineers National Stormwater Best Management Practices Database was developed in partnership with USEPA. This can be found at http://www.asce.org/peta/tech/nsbd01.html.
  • An online BMP search engine has been established to research 70 different studies over the past 15 years. This website is managed by the Urban Water Resources Council of the American Society of Civil Engineers and is cosponsored by the USEPA. http://www.bmpdatabase.org/.
  • The state of New York has a comprehensive design manual that addresses storm water, urban erosion, and sediment controls. http://www.dec.state.ny.us/website/dow/swmanual/swmanual.html


Last Updated: 12/10/2003

Please address all comments and suggestions about the contents of this Web page to rougeweb@co.wayne.mi.us.

The Rouge River National Wet Weather Demonstration Project is funded, in part, by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Grants #XP995743-01, -02, -03, -04, -05, -06, -08 and C-264000-01.