A wide variety and large quantity of documented insects showed once again that the White Lake Road sampling site along the Huron River is the healthiest in the Huron River Watershed.
On April 21, 140 volunteers participated in the Huron River Watershed Council’s (HRWC) annual River Roundup event. The presence or absence of aquatic invertebrates reflects the quality of both the water and habitat in the river.
And the monitoring site on White Lake Road proved to be the best for the 18th year in a row.
“It has a very wide diversity of aquatic insects and mollusks that live at that site,” said HRWC Water Ecologist Paul Steen. “There is much more diversity there than other places around the watershed. There’s almost three times as many different types of insects at that site than compared to a site more down river closer to Ann Arbor or Brighton.”
The site has certain advantages over the other 54 sites tested throughout the watershed, which not only includes areas in Oakland but in Livingston, Wayne, and Washtenaw counties, that help it remain the healthiest.
“It’s a really pristine area — at that point the Huron river is pretty small yet,” Steen said of the White Lake Road monitoring site. “It’s almost entirely contained with Indian Springs Metropark, which is almost entirely forest. It’s a very natural setting without out many human impacts affecting it.”
Other sites in Oakland County aren’t as fortunate.
The monitoring site located at the Proud Lake Recreation Area has “never done that well,” according to Steen, because it is located downstream of a lot of developed areas.
“We probably only find a quarter of the bugs there that we find at the White Lake site,” he said. “There are more impacts on the river there in terms of the hydrology being a bit messed up from dams upstream. There is more runoff coming from people’s driveways and more human impacts in general, and you can see it in the bugs found.”
Pettibone Creek through Milford and Norton Creek are two areas that didn’t fare as well in Oakland County.
Since Pettibone Creek has many dams throughout it, Steen said this may lead to the water being warmer than needed for a lot of bugs, while Norton Creek — flowing from eastern Milford Township into Wixom — is a “very unhealthy creek” as it’s surrounded by residential and commercial developments.
Nevertheless, Steen said there is something simple people can do to help improve the river’s health.
“They can watch what runs off their property — whatever they put on their grass is going to end up in the creek at some point, such as fertilizers and pesticides. Oakland County is full of beautiful natural resources. And yet the lakes are so well loved that so many houses are around them. Homeowners need to be careful what they are doing so the quality of our streams and lakes can remain high,” he said.