By DAVID GREEN
The future of Bean Creek might be determined by citizens with an interest in how to best preserve the river flowing down the west side of Lenawee County into Ohio.
Or, on the other hand, decisions could be made by the Lenawee County Drain Commission.
The Lenawee Conservation District office received a $10,000 grant from Maumee Valley Resource Conservation and Development—a branch of the U.S. Department of Agriculture formed to improve the economy and environment of a 10-county section of Northwest Ohio.
The grant provides funds to encourage the organization of local watershed partnerships among various groups and individuals with an interest in Bean Creek. It will also cover the cost of a survey and printed materials.
The Lenawee Conservation District will determine concerns and consider the formation of a watershed council.
“We want to get as many people involved as possible,” said Judith Holcomb of the Lenawee Conservation District office. “It helps to have a variety of voices. It gives diversity of opinion.”
She would like to see involvement on many fronts, such as farmers who own land adjacent to the river, citizens who see the Bean as a recreational resource, and government agencies including townships and municipalities and the county drain commission.
Watershed council meetings would be open to anyone interested in preserving the value of the river and preventing its degradation, Holcomb said.
Formation of a council might not be favored in all areas, she said. Instead, a less formal approach might be preferred, with an interest group focusing on particular preservation, protection and/or recovery projects.
A Bean Creek marketing plan would be developed to “enhance visibility, strengthen partnerships and increase awareness of the importance of protecting watershed resources.” Through public meetings, residents will be encouraged to develop a sense of community ownership and involvement to improve and protect the resources of the watershed.
Holcomb said the two main water quality issues facing Bean Creek are erosion along the riparian areas—floodplains, stream banks and wetlands—and sedimentation—soil that washes into the river and forms a layer of silt on the riverbed.
People living near the river will have different views of problems facing Bean Creek, Holcomb said.
“We want to hear from people to learn what they see,” she said.
The Conservation District personnel would like to develop a best management practice (BMP) demonstration project to highlight a water quality problem and show a solution.
For example, Holcomb said, years ago a common approach to fighting stream bank erosion resulted in dumping concrete along the banks. A BMP would involve layering materials along the bank and planting trees and shrubs to hold soil in place.
Holcomb said there’s some need for dredging due to sedimentation, but only a limited amount.
A Bean Creek survey from the Conservation District asks respondents if the river should be classified as a county drain.
This would make the Lenawee County Drain Commission the primary agency to address problems associated with the river, Holcomb said.
If corrective action were left to townships, she said, it’s optional and might never happen due to financial constraints. If the drain commission is in charge, corrective action becomes a necessity because the agency has criteria it must follow. Funding would then come from assessments levied on the owners of property in the drainage area.
With the drain commission in charge, Holcomb said, residents can be assured that action will be taken, such as the removal of log jams. On the negative side, she said citizens would lose their place in the decision-making process.
“There’s good and bad to either approach,” she said.
Holcomb hopes many people will visit the Conservation District website (lenaweeconservationdistrict.org ) and look for the Bean Creek Survey link. Survey forms will also be mailed by calling 517/263-7400, ext. 5. Surveys must be returned by March 31 when responses will be tallied.
“This is a good opportunity for people to speak up and give their input on what happens,” Holcomb said. “The worst thing would be to receive no input.”
She realizes people are leading busy lives and often become separated from their natural environment. The Bean Creek project will allow citizens to take a personal interest in an important resource.