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Wetlands ProgramBrief SummaryOverview Description of the Wetlands ProgramWayne County Wetland Mitigation Bank and Wetland Preservation FundNational Association of Counties Award to Wayne County for Wetland Preservation FundLocating and Assessing WetlandsWhy Wetlands Are ImportantRouge Project Presentations on the Wetland ProgramWetland Program Technical ReportsMDEQ Wetlands Assessment Program
Wayne County Preliminary Wetland Inventory Map

Overview Description of the Wetland Program
in the Rouge Watershed

An important component of the Demonstration Program is identification, protection and restoration of wetland habitat in the Rouge River watershed. Although the watershed is characterized as an urban area, there are still important remnant wetlands in the riparian corridor and the less developed portions of the watershed. The following is intended to provide an overview of the efforts to identify, protect and restore the wetlands in the Rouge River watershed.

The three goals of the wetland program are to identify, protect and restore wetland habitat and functions in the Rouge River watershed. To address the first goal, a map of wetlands in a pilot subwatershed was prepared. Wetland maps were prepared using information from National Wetland Inventory maps, soil survey information of wetland soils and information from the State of Michigan on land use patterns and vegetation cover types. Wetland maps for two subwatersheds in the Rouge River have been prepared and wetland maps for Wayne County will be available in late 2001. Wetlands needed to be identified so that local units of government and communities involved in subwatershed planning could incorporate this information into the subwatershed plans.

The second goal is to protect existing wetlands in the watershed that are providing environmental benefits through water quality protection and fish and wildlife habitat. This goal was achieved by working with communities in the Middle Rouge River and the Lower Rouge River subwatersheds to study the functions and values provided by wetlands in each subwatershed. These subwatersheds were selected because the pilot wetland mapping study indicated that there were numerous wetlands in the landscape of these subwatersheds. The rapid wetland assessment of functions and values was accomplished by developing a procedure--the Rapid Assessment Method (RAM)--that identified the potential for a specific wetland to provide certain functions such as wildlife habitat or water quality protection. The RAM study assessed nearly 200 wetlands in both the Middle Rouge River and Lower Rouge River. By working in cooperation with the local communities, the project increased local knowledge of wetlands in each community and the importance of protecting these unique ecological habitats. Since the studies were completed, one community has developed a comprehensive local wetland ordinance and others have developed natural feature setback ordinances in order to protect some of the functions and values identified in the RAM studies.

The third goal is to restore wetland habitats and ecological functions. For example, the wetland restoration effort at Wayne County Inkster Valley Golf Course has demonstrated that constructed wetlands can mitigate the adverse impact of nonpoint source pollution on surface waters by trapping sediment and controlling nutrient loading. Water samples from the treatment wetlands at Inkster indicate that total suspended solids have been reduced by an average of 60% and some heavy metals have been reduced by as much as 80%. Besides significant control of nonpoint source pollution, the new wetlands are valuable wildlife areas. Annual monitoring of the wetlands has shown that wildlife such as great blue heron, green heron, kingfisher, raccoon, muskrat, and mink use the new wetlands for feeding, resting and breeding. Finally, the new wetland has become a significant educational resource for a nearby high school. Programs are in place that allow the wetland classroom to be used in as many as 22 different subjects from biology to creative writing. In addition to constructing these wetlands, Wayne County has established a Wetland Mitigation Bank and a Wetland Preservation Fund that will support the planning, design and construction of future wetland restoration projects.

Identifying Wetlands in the Watershed

A wetland is an area of land that is saturated with water for at least part of the year and contains plants and animals that are adapted to live in these wet conditions. The wetlands in the Rouge River watershed represent the range of wetland types from forested and scrub-shrub to emergent and floating-leaved plant communities. Part of the Demonstration Project was to produce a map of the remaining wetlands in the Rouge River in order to alert regulators, landowners and local land planners where the remaining wetlands were located in the watershed.

The map was prepared using information on soils, vegetation and hydrology, which under normal conditions are the characteristics of wetlands.

1) Evidence of "wetland hydrology"
When standing water is not present and obvious, some common indicators of wetland hydrology are: watermarks at the bases of trees; drift lines of branches and leaves that have been pushed against trees or vegetation by water; the bases of trees are broader than their middle and seem to be grasping the earth; dark, water-stained leaves on the ground; or areas of bare soil indicating that standing water exists at the surface for a relatively long time.
2) A dominance of water-loving (hydrophytic) vegetation
Some common plant species to look for in a wetland are cattails, bulrushes, spotted touch-me-not, common reed, purple loosestrife, silver maple (shown left), eastern cottonwood, American elm and green ash.
3) Hydric soils
Soils that have been saturated by water for a prolonged period of time during the growing season (about 14 or more days) will exhibit certain characteristics. Usually found under an organic muck or topsoil layer, hydric soils will be a grayish color, sometimes with yellowish-orange spots or mottles. Often, you'll need to dig a hole about 12 inches deep to determine a hydric soil.

Protecting Wetland Functions in the Watershed

Most of the wetlands found in the Rouge River watershed are found in either wooded areas or alongside creeks and rivers. The benefits of protecting wetlands in the watershed are significant and include:

  1. Preventing flooding and protecting streambanks
  2. Providing recreational opportunities
  3. Protecting water quality in streams and creeks
  4. Providing fish and wildlife habitat and plant diversity
  5. Facilitating groundwater recharge

Many of the wetlands in the Rouge River watershed have been lost since European settlement due to human activities, such as draining the land for farming and development. Studies estimate that Wayne County has lost approximately 84 percent of its wetland areas to these activities between 1800 and 1980. In order to protect the wetlands that remain, both the state and local communities have developed wetland protection programs.

Wetland and Watercourse Setback Requirements
In addition to mapping and protecting the wetlands themselves, the Demonstration Project funded development of a setback ordinance for local communities to adopt. The intent of the natural features setback ordinance is to preserve a natural area around the perimeter of a wetland as a buffer between human uses and the wetland.

Wetland Protection Plans

The demonstration project has also prepared two subwatershed wetland protection plans-- A Wetland Protection Plan for the Headwaters of Johnson Creek and the Middle Rouge River and Wetland Assessment and Protection Plans for the Lower One and Middle One Subwatersheds of the Rouge River. These plans were prepared in conjunction with local communities and consisted of wetland mapping, functional assessment, and management actions to protect and restore wetlands in each community. For example, Canton is working with six neighboring communities that drain to the Lower Branch of the Rouge River to implement such a plan. Wetlands in the area were identified and mapped, assessed in the field for certain functions, and assigned methods for protection based on the functions provided. For instance, if a two-acre, unregulated wetland was assessed as having flood prevention benefits, the community can use this information to protect these wetland functions should the wetland be considered for filling sometime in the future. These protection measures are also considered when there is an opportunity for wetland restoration in the community. The assessment suggests that most of Canton's 149 wetlands are providing at least one of the important functions listed above. Many wetlands provide more than one of these functions.

Restoring Wetland Functions in the Watershed
The Rouge Project has also been involved in planning, design and constructing new wetlands at key locations in the watershed. Two examples of those projects are described below.

For a more detailed description of this project, the following reports are available:

  • RPO-NPS-TM17.00 - Technical Memorandum: Evaluation of NPS Control from Wetlands (WETL-1 Annual Report, June 1997)
  • RPO-NPS-FSP12 - Wetland Biological Monitoring Program Field Sampling Plan
  • RPO-NPS-TPM36.00 - Interim Final Report: Wetland Biological Monitoring Program-1996
  • RPO-NPS-TPM48.00 - Task Product Memorandum: Wetland Biological Monitoring Program - 1996
  • RPO-NPS-TPM57.00 - Task Product Memorandum: Wetland Biological Monitoring Program - 1997 (Nonpoint Work Plan No. WETL1, Task No. 5 - May 1998)
  • RPO-NPS-TPM61 - Task Product Memorandum: Wetland Biological Monitoring Program - 1998
  • RPO-NPS-TPM66 - Task Product Memorandum: Wetland Biological Monitoring Program - 1999
  • RPO-NPS-TPM65 - Task Product Memorandum: Wetland Biological Monitoring Program - 2000
  • RPO-NPS-TPM64 - Task Product Memorandum: Wetland Biological Monitoring Program - 2001
  • RPO-NPS-TM37.00 - Technical Memorandum: Conceptual Design of Wetland Management Systems (March 1995)
  • RPO-NPS01A-TR02.01 - Interim Final Report: Pilot Best Management Practices Projects (319 Grant - January 1996)

This restoration effort involved construction of several acres of wetlands at three locations in the City of Inkster in the Rouge River riparian corridor. In addition to immediately increasing fish and wildlife habitat, the wetlands provide significant water resource protection benefits through nonpoint source pollution control. The Inkster wetlands also provide educational opportunities. The wetlands are currently being used by a nearby high school as an outdoor classroom with as many as 20 different classes taught at the newly restored wetland habitat. Classes ranging from biology and water resources to fine art and creative writing use the wetland as an outdoor classroom.

Salem Elementary School Outdoor Environmental Lab Project

The Salem Elementary School Outdoor Environmental Lab Project provides an opportunity for students and local residents to experience and learn about Johnson Creek, its floodplain and its relationship to the Rouge River. A half-acre wetland constructed as part of the project is located on school property adjacent to the trail. This wetland is used as part of the school's science curriculum for field investigation. A large welcome and interpretive sign is located near the wetland and Girl Scout volunteers plan to install other signs along the trail. The wetland project qualified the school as a member of the Audubon Society Cooperative Sanctuary System.

Wayne County Wetland Mitigation Bank and Wetland Preservation Fund

Wayne County has created two innovative wetland programs known as the Wetland Mitigation Bank and the Wetland Preservation Fund (WPF). This merges environmental restoration, wetland protection, passive recreation, outdoor education, and public participation while encouraging economic development. These programs will facilitate a streamlined wetland permitting process within the County by providing wetland replacement at locations that were selected for their value to water quality, fish and wildlife, and restoration of the Rouge River. Wetlands created to date have been valuable outdoor classrooms, wildlife habitat, and filters of storm water runoff. Wetland Mitigation Banks have been used in numerous locations across the country. The WPF is the first of its kind.

Wayne County established the WPF on June 4, 1998 with the assistance of a grant from the Environmental Protection Agency. Its purpose is to restore, create, and protect wetlands in the watershed at locations that provide benefits to the public through improved environmental quality. The improvement is achieved by designing wetland projects that improve water quality, increase fish and wildlife habitat, improve flood control and provide educational and passive recreation opportunities.

The most appropriate, ecologically beneficial and geographically feasible wetland restoration and protection sites were identified through a GIS based wetland mapping and assessment program. Once a site is selected, a design is developed that provides for the values and benefits to be created and restored at the selected site. The WPF has been organized to allow the fund to be renewed from a variety of funding sources. Wetlands that are created in the watershed may be sold to qualified buyers for use as mitigation credits associated with state or federal permits or as special environmental projects associated with settling a complaint from a resource agency for unauthorized wetland disturbance. The funds acquired by sale of created wetlands are deposited in the WPF to be used for creation and restoration of additional wetland areas. Funding to maintain the WPF may also be derived through acquiring grants, gifts, and other sources of funding. All funds acquired on behalf of the WPF are restricted and can be used only for the planning, design, and construction of wetlands or for the purchase of land required for protecting existing wetland resources.

For more information on the Wetland Preservation Fund and Mitigation Bank, click on "Wayne County Wetland Mitigation Bank and Wetland Preservation Fund". The National Association of Counties awarded the Achievement Award for 2000 to Wayne County for its Wetland Preservation Fund. The award said in part "In recognition of an innovative program which contributes to and enhances county government in the United States." Click on "National Association of Counties Award to Wayne County for Wetland Preservation Fund" for additional information about the WPF.

MDEQ Wetland Assessment Program

The identification of wetlands is fundamental to the establishment of any wetlands protection program. Different methods are used by agencies to identify wetland boundaries. The federal government uses one method and while the State of Michigan uses a similar but slightly different method. No matter which method is used, the results of the delineation are always very comparable.

In their Wetland Identification program the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) primarily uses the determination of two key factors in delineating wetlands: signs of hydrology and the predominance of wetland vegetation or aquatic life.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) developed a Wetland Assessment Program. MDEQ began implementation of the fee-based program on July 17, 1998. The program offers three levels of service to assist the public in identifying wetland and upland areas on their property. The three-level structure of the program provides the public with a choice of services depending on their individual needs. Individuals interested in assessment services are required to submit an application to the DEQ indicating the level of service desired, a description of the area to be assessed, and the associated fee. Fees submitted for any of the three assessment levels are non-refundable.

For a more detailed description of this program, please access the MDEQ Web site.

MDEQ Wetland Program

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) has worked very closely with the Rouge Project on all aspects of the wetlands program. MDEQ has a web site that has a great deal of useful information on the wetland program in the State of Michigan as well as the Federal wetland program. Specifically, their site includes a description of the MDEQ Wetlands Protection Program, access to State and Federal wetland regulations (with list of local communities with regulations), a full description of their Wetland Banking program, information pertaining to obtaining permits, a description of their wetland assessment program, information on wetland identification, information on wetland education and stewardship, as well other areas of potential wetlands interest. Soon to be added to MDEQ site is their new Wetland Banking Guidebook. As inventories are generated they too will be included in the web site. The site can be accessed at http://www.deq.state.mi.us/lwm/grt_lakes/wetlands/wetlands.html.

Summary Results of the Wetlands Program

The goals of the wetland program in the Rouge River National Wet Weather Demonstration Project are to identify, protect and restore wetlands throughout the watershed. Wetland maps have been prepared for two subwatersheds and Wayne County. Local wetland protection efforts have been implemented in areas of the watershed where local protection did not exist before. Functional assessment of wetland values in 400 specific wetlands has been completed and this information has been integrated into the subwatershed planning efforts. Finally, wetland restoration has been accomplished in three locations and watershed planning has been completed that includes restoration of wetland values and benefits. The restored wetlands are removing 60-80% of nonpoint source pollution that flows into them and wildlife habitat has significantly increased.

Last Updated: 8/31/01

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, -07 and C-264000-01.