A Watershed Moment: The Rogue River

The Rogue River. Photo courtesy of Rogue River Home Rivers Initiative Project-Trout Unlimited Facebook Page

The Rogue River.
Photo courtesy of Rogue River Home Rivers Initiative Project-Trout Unlimited Facebook Page

On this week’s episode we hear from Nichol DeMol, Project Manager of the Rogue River Home Rivers Initiative with Trout Unlimited, who discusses the impact this initiative has on the restoration of the Rogue River watershed.

Between the Rogue River and the Grand River, both running into Lake Michigan, we have the largest fresh water supply in the Great Lakes and North America. So what does this mean? The Rogue River is the major fresh water tributary that runs into the Grand River, which in turn, runs directly into Lake Michigan, forming a large watershed. With all of the current work in restoring the Grand River, it is vital that attention is brought toward keeping each component of the watershed clean and healthy. And if you’re wondering what exactly a watershed is, it’s the land where rain and snow runs off of and into the nearby water sources. This makes the protection of our watersheds very important.

Being a unique part of the larger watershed of West Michigan, the Rogue River is one of the southernmost Trout streams, located near the second largest metropolitan area. With such a great natural resource so close to an urban environment, pollutants and sediment have a large impact on the Rogue River. Not only does the extra sediment decrease the food supply for trout, but any increases in temperature affect the growth of the species. 

The protection of our fresh water resources is not the only driving factor for intitiatives, but our community’s commerce and business also plays a large part. An Angler Survey completed by the Department of Natural Resources between 2002 and 2004 showed that anglers alone surrounding the Rockford Dam, brought in $485,000 per year. If the water was adversely affected, this could deeply hurt local businesses and the economy. According to DeMol, “whatever we can do to protect and preserve resources is going to benefit Lake Michigan and the West Michigan region and tourism.”

The Rogue River Home Rivers Initiative Program has stemmed from Trout Unlimited, which wanted to help local chapters to manage their nearby watersheds. With 15 initiatives nationwide, the Rogue River chapter works from a watershed-wide standpoint, focusing on all parts of the river and its surrounding watershed. “What happens upstream, happens downstream, and those are interconnected,” says DeMol.

Photo Courtesy of the Rogue River Home Rivers Initiative Program-Trout Unlimited Facebook Page

Photo Courtesy of the Rogue River Home Rivers Initiative Program-Trout Unlimited Facebook Page

Built upon the Trout Unlimited framework, the Rogue River Home Rivers Initiative Program is overall working to help the Rogue River fisheries by developing tools to protect the watershed. To do this, there has been cooperation with local governments, looking to see how natural resource protection can be added to the city’s master plans. Restoration activities such as cleanups, and Reconnection, the the connecting of upstream and downstream habitats, are also part of the initiative. In the end, the program wants to make the watershed sustainable for the long-term. “If we don’t inspire and empower the local stakeholders or citizens that live int he watershed, it’s not going to be sustainable for the long-term,” says DeMol.

One way citizens have been getting involved is through the Rogue River Citizens Monitoring Group, which is currently composed of 25 volunteers, which assesses the river’s habitat and temperature. There is also the Volunteer Stream Monitoring group that collects stream insect data, and don’t worry, no pre-knowledge on insects is required. The involvement with the Rogue River Watershed Council has been a major component in getting the community involved. In the past two years, there have been nine community events to bolster support and spread knowledge on the local watershed.

For the future, the Rogue River Home Rivers Initiative Program is working on putting together a Rogue River stormwater guidebook, to teach city planners and government officials about stormwater runoff and its effects on the surrounding community. There is also hope to get on-the-ground restoration started in the Rogue River watershed.

More information can be found at the Trout Unlimited website, tu.org. Any questions about the program or how to get involved can be directed to Nichol DeMol at ndemol.org. There is also a Rogue River Home Rivers Initiative Program Facebook page, where information and events are posted, and where questions are also answered.

To listen to this week’s episode, click here.

“A Watershed Moment” is a weekly radio program focused on environmental news and happenings in West Michigan, plus solutions for living a greener life.  Broadcast on WYCE-FM 88.1 on Tuesdays at 8:30am and 5:30pm, this program is produced by Grand Rapids Community Media Center and West Michigan Environmental Action Council.

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