In the fall of 2006 the Michigan Sierra Club organized a training session for citizens interested in the health of the surface waters north of Shakey Lakes County Park. The project was made possible by a grant from the Michigan Clean Water Corps (MiCorps), which funded two years of instruction, provided equipment and educational materials, and established the structure of a citizens volunteer stream monitoring program.
The two-year grant ended in fall of 2008 and the project continued as a cooperative venture of local residents (many, but not all, from the Front 40 Organization) and University of Wisconsin-Marinette. The local citizens have provided an enthusiastic pool of volunteers, a staging area for the monitoring events, as well as an impressive picnic lunch and other refreshments for the Saturday sessions. While much of the interest in volunteering was from people concerned about mine development in the region, others have come just because of their love for the area.
UW-Marinette has been responsible for classifying, identifying, and storing the collected specimens, maintaining collection gear and other equipment, and submitting all accumulated data to the MiCorps web site. It has also worked with the Marinette County Land Office to verify the identification of all specimens.
Eight streams were originally selected based upon their proximity to the mining exploration site (monitoring on one stream has been discontinued for logistical reasons). Several originate along the boundaries of the site and would be most likely to experience changes to surface water flow or other quality issues if major development took place. The monitoring focus is on macroinvertebrate populations – a scoring system has been adopted which is based upon the presence of organisms that could display population fluctuations if their environment is stressed. Macroinvertebrate organisms (many being the larval stage of flying insects) are classified by their sensitivity to habitat damage – “Sensitive”, “Somewhat Sensitive”, and “Tolerant”. The score a stream receives is weighted by the greater sensitivity of the specimens collected.
Between 2006 and 2011, sampling took place in the fall and spring of each year. Beginning in 2012 – and due to the difficulty in scheduling monitoring events – the Sentinels received permission from MiCorps to temporarily reduce the frequency of collections to once per year, sampling either in the spring or fall in any given year. The project has been able to generate a significant volume of baseline data that should prove useful if any actions occur that could diminish the quality of the waters.
Now in their 11th year of operation, the Shakey Sentinels possess a stable core of volunteers who are joined by other concerned citizens who come and go as they find time. Many are apprehensive about potential mining impacts in the area, but the majority of the volunteers have come to realize that stream health can be changed by many things. We have all learned that there is social, environmental, economic, and personal value in getting to know our waters.
Keith West, PhD.
Associate Professor of Geography and Geology
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