Overall Water Quality Summary Report

 

 

Summary Report of Water Quality Information on the

Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Reservation in

Northwestern Michigan

 

Prepared for:

Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Indians

Surface Water Quality Program

7500 Odawa Circle

Harbor Springs, Michigan

 

 

Prepared by:

Tetra Tech

1468 West Ninth Street, Suite 620

Cleveland, Ohio  44113

 

March 2015

 

 

Contents

 

I        Executive Summary. 3

II       Introduction. 4

III      Background. 4

IV     Water Quality Sampling Program.. 6

V       Lake, River, and Stream Water Quality. 8

VI     Wetland Water Quality. 17

VII    Groundwater. 17

VIII   Summary of Key Water Quality Issues. 18

IX      References. 19

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I           Executive Summary

 

The reservation of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians (LTBB) is located in northwest Michigan, along 110 miles of Lake Michigan and Little Traverse Bay shoreline. The tribe numbers approximately 4,600, with over a thousand living in and around the 336 square mile reservation. The LTBB have historically depended on water-related activities for subsistence, cultural activities, transportation, recreation, and other needs. This dependence has continued: the 2012 Tribal Code of Law contains nearly 600 references to fish, and nearly 200 mentions of water. The tribe manages a natural resources department heavily involved in water resource issues, and has moved steadily into programs pertaining to wetland management, water quality assessment, and other activities. While the tribe conducts fairly comprehensive monitoring activities for waters within and adjacent to the reservation, the tribe has not established water quality standards to protect and restore tribal waters. Water quality standards development is an effort to identify beneficial uses of waterbodies, develop narrative and numeric water quality criteria (e.g., dissolved oxygen levels, maximum pollutant concentrations, etc.), and policies and methods to prevent water quality degradation.

 

In the absence of reservation-specific tribal water quality standards, the LTBB Water Quality Protection Program staff use a variety of methods to assess water quality. Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) use designations and narrative/numeric criteria provide a broad framework for determining water quality for various parameters (e.g., bacteria, dissolved solids, pH, taste/odor, dissolved oxygen). However, existing Michigan DEQ standards do not include cultural, subsistence fishing, or other waterbody uses that may be more applicable to tribal needs. Despite these shortcomings—and because some state standards might prove to be useful for tribal purposes—Michigan DEQ water quality standards and other references provide a useful basis for summarizing water quality conditions on the LTBB reservation.

 

In general, water quality on the reservation ranges from good to excellent, with a few notable challenges. PCBs and mercury, probably deposited from airborne sources, have been detected in fish tissue samples and a few waterbodies. Temperature has also been identified as an issue in several lakes. Conductivity and chloride levels have increased over time in some waterbodies, and may be approaching Michigan pollutant limits within a few years. Nutrient pollution and suspended sediment levels are elevated in a few waterbodies, and erosion has been identified as a source of sediment runoff near some roadways. Waterbodies have been identified as impaired in some instances, due to hydromodification, habitat alteration, riparian management, urban runoff, transportation impacts, the effects of agriculture and aquaculture, and other causes.

 

These impairments and other challenges are notable, but not significant at this time. Tribal staff have been working in cooperation with other entities to address problems identified in the field, and develop broader, longer range efforts to better manage waters on the reservation.

 

II          Introduction

 

The Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians (LTBB) contracted Tetra Tech, Inc. to summarize current water quality conditions and water quality issues on the reservation. The summary of water quality conditions and issues in this report is based on existing studies and data, and provides a brief synopsis of water monitoring data, technical reports, and other materials produced by LTBB tribal staff and others. This report provides a unified overview of the key issues to inform future tribal actions regarding water resource assessment and management.

 

Surface waters on and adjacent to the LTBB reservation are affected by a wide range of activities that impact water quality. Tetra Tech contracted with the LTBB in 2015 to support a number of activities related to water quality concerns, including approaches for enhancing water quality safeguards. The LTBB tribe is exploring how to best address water quality protection, which may involve further development of existing tribal natural resource programs, development of water quality standards, and other measures.

III         Background

 

The reservation of the LTBB is located in northwest Michigan, along 110 miles of Lake Michigan and Little Traverse Bay shoreline. The tribe numbers approximately 4,600, with over a thousand living in and around the 336 square mile reservation. The LTBB tribe manages a number of tribal programs, including those related to health, education, judicial services, law enforcement, natural resources, and other government functions. The tribe also operates a casino, hotel, and other business enterprises.

 

The LTBB tribe has historically depended on water-related activities for subsistence, cultural activities, transportation, recreation, and other needs. This dependence has continued, illustrated by the 2012 Tribal Code of Law that contains nearly 600 references to fish and nearly 200 mentions of water. The tribe manages a natural resources department heavily involved in water resource issues and has moved steadily into programs pertaining to wetland management, water quality assessment, and other activities.

 

In terms of hydrology, the reservation’s surface waters span two different watersheds in northwestern Michigan—the Cheboygan (0407004) hydrologic unit and the Boardman-Charlevoix (04060105) unit. These watersheds flow in different directions: the 1,664 square mile Boardman-Charlevoix unit drains west into Lake Michigan, while the 1,406 square mile Cheboygan unit drains east towards Lake Huron. Subwatersheds from both of these drainage areas lie within the reservation. The reservation contains 35,647 acres of wetlands, 232 lakes/reservoirs/ponds covering a combined 7,987 acres, and 394 miles of rivers and streams. Some of these rivers, streams, lakes, and wetlands are monitored by tribal staff to assess water quality and identify sources of degradation.

 

Tribal staff have identified a variety of uses for waterbodies on the reservation, including hunting, fishing, gathering, ceremonial, cultural, recreational, and other activities. Lake Michigan and Little Traverse Bay appear to be the most heavily used waters, followed by Burt Lake, Spirit Lake, Bear River, Crooked Lake, Sturgeon Bay, and Lake Charlevoix. Swimming was the most reported use type, followed by fishing and recreational activities (boating, kayaking, etc.). Tribal uses generally coincide with uses established by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), with the exception of cultural and ceremonial uses—Michigan does not recognize these uses, though a number of tribes with approved tribal water quality standards do have such designations. Numeric water quality criteria used by tribal staff as an informal gauge of use support are listed in Table 1.

 

Table 1. Benchmark water quality criteria values monitored by LTBB tribal staff.

 

 

Note 1: For temperature, the range to support steelhead spawning is 10–15 degrees Celsius; for bluegill the value is 25 degrees Celsius. The maximum habitat score is 160.

Note 2: These water quality criteria values, derived from various sources, are monitored by LTBB tribal staff; however, the tribe has not yet sought approval from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to implement a water quality standards program to formalize implementation of the criteria.

 

 

 

IV         Water Quality Sampling Program

 

Since 2000, the LTBB tribal Surface Water Quality Protection Program has been monitoring water quality and other parameters at various reservation locations. LTBB staff monitor a total of 19 river and stream sampling stations and 17 sites on lakes/reservoirs/ponds. LTBB staff collect samples on an even/odd year basis, with both summer and winter season monitoring. In general, samples are analyzed for twelve physical/chemical parameters: dissolved oxygen (DO), conductivity, pH, temperature, total phosphorus (TP), total nitrogen (TN), chloride, total suspended solids (TSS), velocity/discharge rates, depth, water clarity, and chlorophyll-a. River and stream data do not include chlorophyll-a and water clarity, and lakes are not assessed for velocity and TSS (Table 2). Because the tribe may be interested in developing its wild rice production capability in future years, other parameters relevant to wild rice may be monitored in the future, such as sulfates, hardness, and substrate composition.

 

Lake samples are taken at several depths and locations, depending on lake characteristics (e.g., deep or shallow, single or multiple basins, stratification regime). River and stream samples are collected at the origin and mouth, with mid-point collection sites along rivers. Macroinvertebrates are collected in rivers, streams, creeks, and littoral zones in lakes. The Northwest Michigan Community Health Agency conducts E. coli bacteria sampling on some lakes. Macroinvertebrate surveys are conducted in the spring, qualitative habitat assessments are completed in July, and quantitative pebble counts are conducted at various times of the year. Wetlands were monitored previously through annual floristic quality assessments (FQAs), photo monitoring, and other observations, which were recorded in the tribal wetlands field notebook. The wetlands assessment effort ended in 2013 due to staff changes.

 

In the absence of reservation-specific, tribally approved water quality standards, LTBB Water Quality Protection Program staff use a variety of methods to assess water quality. Michigan DEQ beneficial use designations for waterbodies and corresponding narrative/numeric criteria provide a broad framework for determining water quality for various parameters (e.g., bacteria, dissolved solids, pH, taste/odor, dissolved oxygen). However, as noted above, existing Michigan DEQ standards do not include cultural, ceremonial, subsistence fishing, or other waterbody uses that may be more applicable to tribal needs. Despite these shortcomings—and because some state standards may be useful for tribal purposes—Michigan DEQ water quality standards provide a useful basis for summarizing water quality conditions on the LTBB reservation. Other water quality references used by the staff include relevant and applicable literature values for temperature, nitrogen, phosphorus, chlorophyll-a, TSS/turbidity, conductivity, habitat, and macroinvertebrates (see Table 1).

 

 

 

Table 2. Summary of water quality parameters and their relevance.

 

Parameter

Abbreviation

Relevance to Water Quality

Dissolved Oxygen

DO

Respiration for fish, other aquatic organisms

Temperature

Temp

General aquatic life support and reproduction

Conductivity

Cond

General aquatic life support, dissolved solids indicator

Chlorides

Chlor

General life support, salinity indicator, drinking water pollutant

Potential Hydrogen Ion Concentration

pH

Acidity / alkalinity indicator, drinking water pollutant

Total Phosphorus

TP

Major algae nutrient, fertilizer/manure runoff indicator

Total Nitrogen

TN

Major algae nutrient, drinking water pollutant, fertilizer/manure runoff indicator

Chlorophyll-a

Chl-a

Algae concentration indicator

Escherichia coli

E. coli

Indicator of disease-causing microbes, sewage, manure, etc.

Habitat

Hab

Instream and riparian structure to support life cycles of fish and other organisms

Macroinvertebrates

Mac

Indicator combining numerous chemical, physical, and biological parameters

Depth (Lakes Only)

Dep

Indicator of the range of aquatic life support potential, stratification, etc.

Velocity (Rivers/Streams Only)

Vel

Indicator of the range of aquatic life support potential, oxygen mixing, impoundment effects

 

 

In 2010, LTBB water quality staff completed a baseline assessment of water quality for some of the major waterbodies on and adjacent to the reservation using tribal data collected since 2000 and Michigan DEQ assessment information. Wetland data used in the assessment was available beginning in 2004. Tribal staff also conducted four types of biological assessments, which provide a more comprehensive analysis of the effects of multiple chemical and physical stressors – i.e., the parameters typically monitored by water resource professionals. These assessments include:

 

  • Macroinvertebrate surveys—collection, identification, and counts for aquatic organisms (e.g., fly larvae) large enough to be viewed without a magnifying glass or microscope, assessed via the Shannon-Weiner Diversity Index Score
  • Pebble counts—measurements and analysis of sand, gravel, cobbles, and larger material moved by streams and rivers, assessed through procedures developed by Kondolf (1997), Wolman (1954), and Schuett-Hames et al. (1994), as modified by the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians Natural Resource Department staff
  • Rapid Bioassessment surveys—habitat assessment surveys based on forms developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and published as Rapid Bioassessment Protocols for Use in Streams and Wadeable Rivers, Second Edition
  • Lake Bioassessment and biocriteria surveys—qualitative habitat assessments for lakes, modified from the Lake and Reservoir Bioassessment and Biocriteria Technical Guidance Document produced by US EPA (EPA 841-B-98-007, August 1998)

V          Lake, River, and Stream Water Quality

 

Table 3 provides a listing of monitored lakes, rivers, streams, and creeks in the LTBB reservation, a water quality data summary, and notes on impairments. Note that presentation of the water quality monitoring data in a summarized format does not include the more detailed analyses and information that are presented in the text. Water quality in monitored lakes ranged from impaired to excellent (Table 3). The most significant issues are fish tissue concentrations of mercury and PCBs and temperature in some of the shallower lakes. Elevated conductivity in some lakes may be linked to disturbance of natural marl substrates by boat motors and other activity.

 

Water quality in rivers and streams was found to be generally good to excellent, with scattered impairments. Water quality on tribal lands is affected by hydromodification and habitat alteration (i.e., alteration of channels and riparian areas), nonpoint source pollution (i.e., polluted runoff) from roadways and other developed areas, temperature, and fish tissue concentrations of mercury and PCBs. Tribal staff have documented that roadway stream crossings and channel modifications, in the form of culverts, bridges, or dredging, are causing erosion, obstructing fish passage, and resulting in warm temperatures and elevated nutrient concentrations at some locations. Channel modification and high temperatures affect river and stream fisheries because fish cannot find spawning and hiding places in streams with thick deposits of sediment, nor can they survive and reproduce above threshold temperatures.

 

A total of 152 river and stream impairments on and adjacent to tribal lands were noted, with approximately half resulting from alteration of channels and riparian areas. Stormwater runoff from urban areas is the second leading cause of impairment, followed by transportation infrastructure (including road maintenance), atmospheric deposition, agriculture/aquaculture, and marinas/boating (Table 3). The Crooked River watershed, which flows toward Lake Huron, has the most impairments, with 33 impaired reaches.

 

 

 

 

 

Table 3. LTBB monitored waters, with parameters summarized as poor (P), fair (F), good (G), very good (V), or no data (ND).

 

DO

Tmp

Cond

Chlor

pH

Tot P

Tot N

Chl a

E coli

Hab

Mac

Impairments* / Notes

Lakes

O’Neal Lake

F

G

V

V

G

V

V

V

ND

G

ND

Water level management issue

Possible rice production site

Round Lake

F

G

F

F

G

V

V

G

ND

G

ND

Cond/chlor trending upwards

Susan Lake

F

F

G

G

G

V

V

V

ND

V

F

Cultural sites

Possible low DO winter kills

Cond/chlor trending upwards

Tolerant macros trending up

Larks Lake

G

F

G

G

G

V

 

V

V

G

 

V

F

Possible low DO winter kills

Cond/chlor trending upwards

Spring Lake

F

F

P

P

G

G

G

V

ND

F

F

Nutrients, chlor a trending up

Possible chloride impairment

Cond/chlor trending upwards

Possible low DO winter kills

Wycamp/Spirit Lake

G

G

G

V

G

V

V

V

ND

G

F

Important cultural lake

Wild rice production lake

Crooked Lake

G

G

G

V

V

V

V

V

G

G

F

Impaired: mercury in fish tissue Emergent cultural uses

Walloon Lake

F

G

G

V

V

V

V

V

F

F

ND

Impaired: mercury in fish tissue

Invasive species issues

Impaired:

Lake Charlevoix

G

F

G

G

V

G

V

V

G

ND

G

Impaired: hydromodification, habitat alteration, riparian management, marinas/boating, urban, septic system impacts

Fish tissue PCB impairment

Some cultural uses

Little Traverse Bay

V

G

G

G

V

V

V

V

B

ND

ND

Some cultural uses

~ Mercury/PCB impairment?

Sturgeon Bay

V

V

G

V

V

V

V

V

G

ND

ND

Zebra and quagga mussels

Shoreline avian botulism

 

Streams/Creeks/Rivers

 

DO

Tmp

Cond

Chlor

pH

Tot P

Tot N

TSS

Hab

Mac

Impairments* / Notes

Wycamp/Spirit Creek

G

P

G

V

V

V

V

V

V

F

Cultural uses

~ Anadromous fish threats

Impaired

Five Mile Creek

V

F

G

V

G

G

G

G

V

V

Impaired: ag, aquaculture, hydromodification, habitat alteration, riparian management, urban impacts

Localized aquaculture impact

Tannery Creek

F

F

P

F

V

F

V

F

F

F

Cond/chlor trending upwards

Invasives along banks

Concrete in lower reach

Susan Creek

G

P

F

G

V

G

V

V

G

G

Impaired: hydromodification, habitat alteration, riparian management, transportation infrastructure, urban impacts

Culturally significant

Small culvert pooling water

Big Sucker Creek

G

V

G

V

V

G

V

G

V

G

Some cultural uses

Critical habitat for T&E species

Brush Cr/Maple Riv

F

F

G

G

V

V

V

V

V

F

Impaired: Hydromodification, habitat alteration, riparian management, transportation infrastructure, urban, PCBs

Wetland influenced

Bear River

V

F

F

F

V

G

V

V

G

ND

Impaired: hydromodification, habitat alteration, riparian management, urban impacts

Lower reach is more impacted

Boyne River

V

F

F

ND

V

ND

ND

ND

ND

ND

Impaired: PCB fish tissue

 Adjacent to reservation

Van Creek

P

F

G

V

V

G

V

V

ND

ND

Culvert, beaver, drying impacts

 

 

Fish tissue concentrations of mercury and PCBs are a consideration throughout the upper Midwest, including Michigan. Figures 1 illustrates mercury impairments based on fish tissue for rivers, streams, and lakes in Michigan; Figure 2 shows waterbody impairments based on fish tissue PCB concentrations. The primary source of mercury and PCBs in Michigan is atmospheric deposition. Coal-fired power plants in the region are linked to nearly half of the mercury deposits. Approximately half of the atmospheric PCBs comes from out-of-state sources. Michigan DEQ estimates that it may take upwards of 50 years to bring PCB concentrations in fish tissue down to safe levels, and even longer for mercury.

 

 

 Figure 1. Mercury impaired rivers and streams (a) and lakes (b), based on fish tissue data.

 

Source: MDEQ, 2012.

 

 

 

Figure 2. PCB impaired rivers and streams (a) and lakes (b), based on fish tissue data.

 

Source: MDEQ, 2012.

Temperature impairments were common in both lakes and rivers. Temperature impairment causes and sources were linked to different categories, with significant uncertainty regarding specifics. Tribal staff is considering whether or not numeric criteria for temperature used for water quality assessments is appropriate for lakes in northern Michigan.  The criterion used for determining temperature impairment is derived from Alaskan lakes, with temperature thresholds calculated for maximum weekly average temperatures. LTBB data, on the other hand, is collected once per month or once per season, often during the hottest part of the day. It is unknown whether the sampling frequency and time causes waterbodies to be inappropriately assessed as impaired for temperature at the present time.

 

Nutrient concentrations, while somewhat elevated in a few waterbodies, do not appear to be a major issue on LTBB lands. Mapping data generated by NASA and U.S. Forest Service researchers used satellite information, land use, forest inventory data, and other analyses to predict total phosphorus and turbidity in Great Lakes streams draining into Lake Michigan (Figure 3). The results show low risk overall on LTBB lands from excessive nutrient pollution.

 

The Great Lakes Environmental Assessment and Mapping (GLEAM) Project also produced maps illustrating the relative level of water quality stress from a combined set of indicators (Figure 4). The stress index merges 34 individual stressors, along with habitat and weighting factors. Stressor categories include aquatic habitat alteration, climate change, coastal development, fisheries management, invasive species, nonpoint source pollution, and toxics. Areas of concern to the LTBB tribe that are considered to be high risk are in the vicinity of Little Traverse Bay, Lake Charlevoix, and the area where the Crooked Lake / Crooked River / Inland Waterway system discharges into Lake Huron.

 

Figure 3. Total phosphorus (A) and turbidity (B) potential for Lake Michigan watersheds.

 

 

Figure 4. Stress index map produced by the Great Lakes Environmental Assessment and Mapping (GLEAM) Project.

 

Tribal staff reported that the source of two impairments is unknown: the decrease in macroinvertebrate scores on Susan Lake and the warm temperatures on Susan Creek. Tribal staff noted that the causes of these impairments are not apparent and are considered atypical for Susan Lake and Creek, which are less developed than waters with similar impairments. More monitoring and research is needed to better understand and mitigate these impairments.

 

Table 4 contains a complete list of impaired waters, by major drainage area (i.e., 8 digit HUC) and subwatershed. The two columns on the right indicate whether or not LTBB staff monitor the impaired reaches/areas.

 

Table 4. Impaired waterbodies by major drainage area and subwatershed.

 

 

 

Also of interest is a table that LTBB water quality staff developed to rank the relative pollution potential for lakes, rivers, and streams (Table 5). The severity of impairments was ranked by considering whether or not the waterbody was listed as impaired by Michigan DEQ, tribal water quality or wetlands data explains the source or severity of the impairment, or the impairment has been identified in another watershed plan or assessment on that waterbody/watershed (high risk); observations or local knowledge indicate that more data is needed to appropriately assess the level of degradation or impairment (medium risk); or water quality impairments have not been observed but there is a possibility water quality could become impaired in the future (low risk).

 

 

Table 5. Relative pollution potential for LTBB lakes, rivers, streams, and creeks.

 

 

 

 

VI         Wetland Water Quality

 

Tribal staff have expressed special concerns regarding wetland water quality, because LTBB culture relies heavily on wetlands for traditional medicines and cultural activities. A Native Plants Initiative was launched recently to increase awareness of culturally significant plants and uses and to guide staff in developing wetland management guidelines. Chapter 4 of the tribal code established protective measures for wetlands 1/3 acre in size or larger.

 

LTBB staff monitor a number of wetland sites (Table 4), including some with impaired adjacent waterbodies. Wetlands aid in preventing or mitigating degradation of adjacent waters by moderating storm flows, filtering pollutants, storing and using nutrients, recharging groundwater, and providing habitat and refugia for aquatic and other biota. Overall water quality for wetlands mirrors the general trend for other tribal waters. Wetland areas of highest risk for degradation include those with nearby roads, road/stream crossings, highly erodible soils, nearby developed lands, and wetlands adjacent to steep slopes.

VII        Groundwater

 

Generally speaking, the reservation area has groundwater that is very close to the surface, with wells between 10 and 50 feet deep. Groundwater flow varies as there are many recharge areas, especially wetlands. In fact, most of the reservation is a groundwater recharge area, unlike the eastern tip of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula (HUC codes 0407004 and 0407003), which is a groundwater discharge area, according to tribal water quality staff. The watersheds in HUC code 04060105 recharge their groundwater from Lake Michigan. The groundwater then flows towards the east and south in those watersheds.

 

Overall groundwater quality for the region is good. Previous well testing programs (LTBB, 2006) indicate that the only parameter that commonly exceeded drinking water standards was hardness. Groundwater is considered “hard” if the ionic composition contains high concentrations of dissolved magnesium and calcium. Much of the geologic structure of Northern Michigan is predominately composed of minerals containing magnesium and calcium carbonates, which accounts for the commonly “hard” groundwater. As hardness poses no health risk, all wells tested during this program were considered safe to drink. However, it should be noted that this program was limited in scope and many private wells on the reservation have not been tested since installation or in several years.

 

Despite the general good quality of groundwater, there may be localized contamination in the vicinity of old industrial facilities, waste sites, dumping locations, and other areas. Locations with the potential for groundwater contamination are indicated in Figure 5, which maps facilities subject to various US EPA programs, such as Superfund, Toxic Release Inventory, Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (hazardous waste), brownfields, and the Toxic Substances Control Act. Note that the numbers of facilities clustered in each general location is indicated by the number within the green circles.

Figure 5. Map of clustered facilities regulated under various US EPA programs.

 

VIII       Summary of Key Water Quality Issues

 

There are 408 miles of streams, creeks, and rivers along with 7,987 acres of lakes, reservoirs, and ponds on the LTBB reservation. Surface water quality is generally good, with scattered exceedances of numeric and narrative water quality targets. The primary challenges are elevated mercury and PCBs in fish tissue, impacts from channel and shoreline activities (e.g., vegetation clearing, channelization, ditching, etc.), channel and shoreline erosion, nonpoint source pollution, and stormwater runoff.

 

Conductivity and chloride have increased over time in some waterbodies. If this trend continues, they