Saginaw Bay watershed initiates sediment reduction efforts

Ann Arbor, Mich. – Pinnebog River watershed stakeholders kicked off a large-scale sediment reduction project today in Elkton, Mich. The Pinnebog project received $745,000 in Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) funds from the Great Lakes Commission and the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA-NRCS). The project is one of nine GLRI watershed grants awarded under the Great Lakes Basin Program for Soil Erosion and Sediment Control, totaling more than $4.3 million, to reduce sediment pollution in priority watersheds.

According to the GLRI Action Plan, nonpoint sources of sediment and other pollutants are now among the most significant problems facing our lakes, rivers and streams.

Managed by the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) and implemented by the Huron Conservation District, the Pinnebog initiative will introduce an innovative technique – Best Management Practices (BMP) auctions – to develop a market-based watershed program to reduce environmental problems.

A BMP auction involves the land user submitting a bid on what BMPs they are willing to install and at what costs. Bids are then ranked by the amount of water quality improvements generated from each BMP. Sediment load reduction for each BMP is divided by the amount of the requested funds to arrive at a least cost per ton of sediment saved. BMPs to be used include filter strips, no-till cultivation, cover crops, streambank restoration and wetland restoration.

“The BMP auctions will enhance the reduction of sediments into waterways by implementing best management practices,” says Jim Johnson, MDARD’s Environmental Stewardship Division director. “The auctions provide an economically feasible tool for farmers to implement sediment-reducing practices.”

The Pinnebog River watershed, which empties into Saginaw Bay on Lake Huron, consists of nearly 125,000 acres, 85 percent of which is agricultural land. The major source of sediment in this watershed is cropland and stream bank erosion. At the end of the three-year grant, at least 20,000 tons of soil and sediment deposition will be eliminated annually through the installation of the Best Management Practices funded through this project.

The Great Lakes Commission established the Great Lakes Basin Program for Soil Erosion and Sediment Control in 1991. The program, with support from USDA-NRCS, has funded 439 local small-scale projects, allocating over $15 million to control erosion and sediment. These projects have reduced soil erosion in the Great Lakes basin by more than 1.6 million tons and phosphorus loadings by over 1.6 million pounds.

“Reducing sediment pollution from entering the Great Lakes using market-based approaches is a win-win for farmers and the Pinnebog River,” says Tim Eder, executive director of the Great Lakes Commission. “Along with our federal partner (NRCS), these GLRI funds are putting much needed resources at the local level to install conservation practices in critical watersheds.”

Other watershed-scale GLRI grants underway in Michigan focus on the River Raisin and Shiawassee River watersheds. The Blue Creek and Little Elkhart River in Indiana, Poplar River in Minnesota, Black and Oatka creeks in New York, and Old Woman Creek and the Sandusky River in Ohio are also benefiting from these GLRI funds.

The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which began in 2010, is one of the largest federal investments ever in the Great Lakes. The five-year collaborative program between federal, state, tribal and non-governmental partners is focusing on cleaning up toxics and Areas of Concern, combating invasive species, promoting nearshore health by protecting watersheds from polluted runoff, restoring wetlands and other habitats, and related education and monitoring activities.

The Pinnebog River project is expected to be completed in 2013.

Erosion from crop fields such as this will be reduced to prevent soil and agriculture chemicals from washing into the streams and Lake Huron.
Farmers will be participating in a special auction process to install conservation practices, like the farmer planting cover crops in this wheat field, providing the most reduction of soil erosion with the most cost-effective method.

Map showing location of the Pinnebog River watershed, which empties into Saginaw Bay on Lake Huron.

For immediate release: August 11, 2011 | Download PDF
Gary Overmier,, office: 734-971-9135


The Great Lakes Commission, chaired by James Tierney, assistant commissioner for water resources at the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, is an interstate compact agency established under state and U.S. federal law and dedicated to promoting a strong economy, healthy environment and high quality of life for the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence region and its residents. The Commission consists of governors’ appointees, state legislators, and agency officials from its eight member states. Associate membership for Ontario and Québec was established through the signing of a “Declaration of Partnership.” The Commission maintains a formal Observer program involving U.S. and Canadian federal agencies, tribal authorities, binational agencies and other regional interests. The Commission offices are located in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Learn more at

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