Scio and Dexter Townships Disagree on Middle Huron Partnership

Middle Huron Watershed in yellow
credit: Huron River Watershed Council

By Lonnie Huhman,

Scio and Dexter townships decide to go in different directions when it comes to the Middle Huron Partnership. 

This past month, both townships received requests from the Huron River Watershed Council to participate in the 2019-2023 Middle Huron Partnership, which does see participants helping with funding. 

Scio said yes to the request while Dexter Township said no.

At its Dec. 11 township board meeting, the Scio board unanimously approved the agreement to pay $70,289 over the course of the 2019-2023 contract. Scio has been part of the program since its beginning, which first took shape in 1999.

Ric Lawson, the Middle Huron Partnership Coordinator, gave a presentation at the Scio meeting. Lawson also gave information on the partnership to Dexter Township.

In his letter to Dexter Township, Lawson said, “For the past two decades, the Huron River Watershed Council (HRWC) has provided support to partner municipalities and agencies through the Middle Huron Partnership to address stormwater and other pollution sources to the Huron River system.” 

He said, “The Middle Huron Partnership has been the forum for watershed partners to work together to successfully meet state and federal requirements to reduce pollution in the middle Huron River and its tributaries. For most of this time, the effort has been funded by the partners themselves who see the value in working collaboratively and demonstrate their commitment to the goals of the Partnership through financial support.”

Accoridng to the HRWC website, the portion of the Huron River Watershed known as the Middle Huron is: home to over half the population of the Huron River Watershed; has the largest and most productive areas of active agriculture in the Watershed and contains the most urbanized areas in the Watershed.

The HRWC said the Middle Huron begins with the Mill Creek basin in western Washtenaw County and extends downstream through Belleville Lake in western Wayne County. 

“The concentration of people, agriculture and industry presents challenges to the quality of the waters in the middle Huron,” the HRWC website states.

According to the HRWC, phosphorus is the primary pollutant of focus for the program, which is a voluntary partnership of local governments.

In general, the HRWC said the overall action plan calls for the partners to: improve monitoring and modeling for nutrient sources (both phosphorus and nitrogen), which act as pollutants; support increased research and monitoring; support watershed education and planning; assist landowners and local governments to engage in practices to reduce the amount of phosphorus, and other pollutants, entering the river; upgrade sewage and wastewater treatment facilities and improve their operation and provide a source of support to test innovative ideas to reduce phosphorus pollution.

The Scio board members expressed their thanks for the partnership and its continued work to improve the Huron River.

Scio Township Manager Bryce Kelley said the next budget would have to address this new funding request. He said he has no concerns about covering the contract. Scio had been paying around $3,300 a year for the expiring contract. 

In his report to the township board, Dexter Township Supervisor Harley Rider said the previous project was a five-year project that was in front of the township board in July 2013. 

He said, “At that time the first annual payment was for $402.50. This year the first of six annual payments, if the board agrees to the project, would be $2,170.50, with a total project cost to Dexter Township of $14,686.”  

Rider said, “The increase in project cost is due to an increase in the scope of the project from the previous project, as well as increase costs that were previously covered by one of the participants at no charge to the project partners.” 

He said in 2013, the Dexter Township Board did not take any action on the previous request. 

On Dec. 18, the Dexter Township unanimously rejected the request.

The costs assigned to each partner take into consideration, among a list of them, such things as population and area within the watershed. 

Rider said much of the river, within Dexter Township, winds through metro park property. He said he was told by the HRWC they were talking with the Metro Parks, so possibly some funding could come from that organization.  

Dexter Township Board trustee Bill Gajewski said the township already follows through its zoning ordinances the standards and regulations set forth by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, so he didn’t think it was necessary for the township to help fund the HRWC’s plan. 

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