Cancelled: 2020 Annual Member Meeting and Picnic


The Board of Trustees of the Little Manistee Watershed Conservation Council has adjourned the annual meeting of members of the LMWCC indefinitely. The adjournment is because of the COVID-19 epidemic. The Board’s paramount concern is the health and safety of our members and guests. The Board believes that under current circumstances it would not be practical to hold a meeting of members and achieve a quorum while observing current government requirements and best practices for social distance and sanitation.

The current Trustees will continue to serve until an annual meeting of members is held. The Board of Trustees has the ability to appoint trustees to fill vacancies. If you are a member and wish to serve as a trustee, please contact our President, Tim Phillips, at

river monitor in place

Collecting data: our stream-monitoring stations

Our Little Manistee River monitoring stations are located at:

North Widewater Road (Luther) monitoring station – Our second was put in service on the Little Manistee on November 9, 2020. It is located just downstream from North Widewater Road near Luther. This station uses a cell connection to upload data every 15 minutes automatically. It uploads water depth in inches and millimeters, temperature in degrees Fahrenheit and Centigrade as well as Conductivity in microsiemen per centimeter (Also known as Micro MHO’s).

Bear Track Campground monitoring station – Our first monitoring station was put in service on the Little Manistee on April 26, 2020. It is located a mile or so upstream from Bear Track Campground and 18 Mile Bridge. The data is gathered (mostly) daily at this point from microSD cards in the monitor and manually uploaded to the internet as cell upload is not feasible at this location. We are developing radio and internet connection capabilities to take the data and upload it to the internet in real time. We hope that will happen this winter, it is a larger task than we thought. This station measures temperature in degrees centigrade and conductivity as well as the depth of the sensor below the surface of the river in mm. 25.4 mm is one inch, so 520 mm is about 20.5 inches. At the monitoring location the water is near base flow at 500 mm and very clear. Bank full at the monitoring location is about 950 mm and the water is dark.

Take a few minutes to click on the icons in the blue bands across the top of the small graphs on the web sites to get larger versions of the graphs you may find interesting. The system is still in development and can be slow to respond.

Ultimately, we plan up to five more stations to fully monitor the river along its length. The purpose of the monitoring stations is to give us a base line of data from which to track the condition of the river over time. We recognize that the Little Manistee River is in very good condition. With the monitoring stations we collect temperature, depth and conductivity data on the river multiple times a day. Over time we will build a database that shows us what the river in the current state looks like as conditions and seasons change. If in the future we see trends or large deviations from the base line develop we can recognize them and investigate causes and corrective action.

Another benefit of the monitoring station is that fishermen, kayakers and others can look at the water levels on the web and use the information to decide if the levels are in the optimal range for the activity they plan. It will take a while for everyone to learn what levels they feel are appropriate for their activities. When you visit the river its a good idea to look at the river and the water level data on the internet and consider how they correspond so over time you develop an understanding of what the levels mean.

The Mayfly Data Logger we are using was developed at the Stroud Water Research Center and was brought to our attention by Trout Unlimited as part of their project to find inexpensive ways to monitor conditions on waterways throughout the nation and the world. The computer in the Mayfly is an enhanced version of the popular Arduino computer used by hobbyists. A basic Arduino computer can be purchased for under $25. The enhanced Mayfly version with additional inputs and outputs, a real time clock and microSD card reader/writer as well as other features directed at monitoring stations is about $60. When you combine the Mayfly with a scientific grade sensor, in our case a conductivity, depth and temperature sensor you can get a monitoring station in the river for about $1500. This is about a tenth the cost of a USGS monitoring station in place on may rivers. Additional savings are achieved by using volunteers to maintain and monitor the stations. The maintenance on a USGS monitoring station we inquired about a few years ago was $17,000 annually, it does have some advanced features the Mayfly does not.

The temperature data will give us a base line on a very important characteristic for a coldwater stream. Temperature is important because colder water holds more dissolved oxygen required by the coldwater species now in the Little Manistee. Building development that removes vegetation that shades the river can cause the river to be warmed by the sun. The “hard surfaces” associated with development also cause storm water to run off directly into the river instead of being absorbed into the ground and cooled first. We estimate about 90% of the river water is from ground water sources. You can already see daily cycles in water temperature caused by the sun in our data. You can also see that when it rains and the river level rises from the additional surface runoff the water temperature also rises.

These monitors also measure the conductivity of the water in microsiemen (Also Known as Micro MHO’s) per centimeter. It gives a general idea of the dissolved solids in the water, like road salt. Distilled water has a conductivity ranging from 0.5 to 3 µS/cm, while most streams range between 50 to 1500 µS/cm. Freshwater streams ideally should have a conductivity between 150 to 500 µS/cm to support diverse aquatic life.

sensor in the river

Check out our 2020 Spring Summer Newsletter

The Little River News Spring/Summer 2020 edition hits members mail boxes in early June. It includes a Homeowner’s Guide, information on nitrate water testing, and more.

LMWCC Newsletter SS 2020

Support LMWCC with Amazon Smile

AmazonSmile is a website operated by Amazon with the same products, prices, and shopping features as When you shop on AmazonSmile, the AmazonSmile Foundation will donate 0.5% of the purchase price of eligible products to the charitable organization of your choice.

This is a great way to continue your support of the LMWCC and its programs!


To shop at AmazonSmile simply go to from the web browser on your computer or mobile device.

You will be asked to select a charitable organization to receive donations from eligible purchases.

Select the Little Manistee Watershed Conservation Council as your charity.


Once you have selected LMWCC as your charity, all you need to do is bookmark and start here each time you do your amazon shopping. It’s that easy!



Syers Creek Habitat Analysis at 5 Years

Syers Creek Fisheries Survey
2019 Update

Since 2012, the LMWCC has been working to improve fish habitat in Syers Creek, a tributary of the Little Manistee River. The below report has been put together by one of our partner organizations, Conservation Resource Alliance.

Read the full PDF report: LMWCC CRA Syers Lake Dam Fisheries-2019



The following is a report of fish species surveyed by electrofishing a section of Syers Creek below the Syers Lake Dam in Lake County, Michigan. The survey was performed to determine the fish species present in the creek prior to the removal of the dam, which occurred in August 2019.

Study Area
The location in which fish were surveyed in 2018 and most recently in 2019 is a section of first-order (Strahlers, 1957) creek channel that lies downstream of an earthen berm dam which impounds naturally occurring Upper and Lower Syers Lake. This location is approximately two stream miles upstream of the confluence with the Little Manistee River, a cold water trout stream. The surveyed section is characterized as being of low gradient, intermittent flow, shallow and narrow with primarily a sand bed substrate, though pockets of silt, leaf litter, and coarse particulate organic matter are common. A difference between 2018 and 2019 survey conditions was the presence of higher discharge in the creek channel as opposed to the extremely low flow with isolated pools of slightly deeper (12”) water in 2018 due to the plugged water control structure. The study reach was 300(+/-)’ in length as measured from the top leading edge of the approximately 4’ diameter corrugated metal pipe (cmp) that served as the dam water control structure outlet. A tape measure was run roughly along the course of the creek until the desired footage was achieved.

Shocking commenced at approximately 1100 hrs. on 17 June 2019 under clear skies and an ambient temperature of 62° F. Water temperature was 61° F and creek flow was moderate with good water clarity. An ETS Electrofishing Systems, LLC Model APB 12-volt battery powered backpack shocker was employed and fish were captured via dipnet-equipped anode handled by the shocker operator and multiple assistants with dipnets. Total shocking time, voltage and amperage settings were not recorded as the unit was giving some trouble to the operator and much time was expended adjusting settings to get the proper configuration for rolling fish. Fish were collected and held in a 5-gallon bucket filled with creek water until the entire 300(+/-)’ section was electrofished. Water was refreshed in the bucket to provide optimal dissolved oxygen conditions. Representatives of each fish species captured were identified, enumerated, photographed and noted, and subsequently released.

Results and Discussion
Because the water control structure in the dam was cleared of debris, discharge downstream into the stream channel was higher in 2019 than in 2018. Consequently, more stream channel was available for shocking. When flow is present the size of Syers Creek below the dam is, as mentioned above, most associated with that of a first order stream, and reflects the condition and size of the creek on the day of the survey. Channel width varied between 1.5’ and 3’ with depth of water ranging from 6”-12”. The greatest depth observed occurred in the handful of pools that also happened to be the only locations in the reach where electrofishing could occur in 2018 due o the limitations posed by the gear.

The fish species observed during the 2019 survey are not dissimilar to those surveyed in 2018 with the exception of the presence of common shiner, largemouth bass, tadpole madtom, and yellow perch and the absence of central mudminnow. The presence of young-of-the-year (YOY) coho salmon again indicates some nexus between the point of capture and the point at which adult coho salmon may ascend Syers Creek and successfully spawn. Since no suitable spawning substrate (i.e. gravel) exists in close proximity, either the young-of-the-year coho salmon swam upstream to the point of capture or a pair of coho salmon utilized substandard spawning habitat in the vicinity and their progeny remained proximal.

The remaining species, which are native to the region (coho salmon are non-indigenous), are generally found in habitats not unlike that of Syers Creek (Hubbs and Lagler, 2004). Tadpole madtom and Iowa darter are commonly found in streams with soft, muddy, and/or sandy bottoms and along with largemouth bass, blacknose and northern common shiner, and yellow perch, feed on aquatic invertebrates (and small fish when considering tadpole madtom, largemouth bass and yellow perch). Pumpkinseed are known to crush snail shells to extract sustenance while northern redbelly dace are omnivorous. Tadpole madtom are well known for the venom introduced via pectoral fin puncture wounds.

See Table 1. Fish species observed below Syers Lake Dam by CRA and WMU (2019 only)

Farther downstream on Syers Creek, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) and the US Forest Service (USFS) have undertaken discretionary fish population surveys upstream of the confluence with the Little Manistee River. Both the MDNR and USFS efforts resulted in higher catches of cold water species (Salmonidae, Cottidae) than were found by CRA in the upper section.

See Table 2. Fish species observed and identified by MDNR and location observed (1966, 1994, and 2001)

See Table 3. Fish species surveyed by USFS between M-37 and confluence with the Little Manistee River

The diversity of fish species illustrated in the three tables above diverges from that normally associated with a cold water fluvial system and is explained by the presence of the eutrophic lakes at the upstream end of the relatively short creek. Warm water fish species entrained through the dam at Syers Lake likely followed the water as it receded downstream during periods of little or no flow. The ability of the creek to consistently provide habitat to cold water species (Salmonidae, Cottidae) occurs somewhere between the two crossings of M-63 whereupon groundwater spring influence and/or cold water tributaries mitigate the warm water surface discharge from Syers Lake. The data below obtained by the USFS and CRA provide a snapshot of conditions in Syers Creek, limited in its usefulness as a source of statistically significant information but provides some insight into the primary driver in determing fish species assemblages.

See Figure 1. (data courtesy of Chris Riley, USFS-HMNF)

See Table 4. Select Syers Creek Temperature Data Obtained by CRA via Stream Thermometer


Upon removal of the blockage at Syers Lake Dam, the creek flow will more consistently (dischargedependent) occupy the full width and length of Syers Creek below the dam. In the years to come, annual fish surveys will provide an opportunity to asses change if any to the fish assemblage downstream of the dam and should inform similar projects in the future.



Read the full PDF report: LMWCC CRA Syers Lake Dam Fisheries-2019



Photographs of Fish Observed During CRA Electrofishing Surveys (2018/9)



Hubbs, Carl L. and Karl F. Lagler. 2004. Fishes of the Great Lakes region. University of Michigan Riley, Chris. 2017. Syers Creek large wood augmentation: pre- and post-treatment monitoring report (draft). United States Forest Service

Strahlers, H.N. 1957. Quantitative analysis of watershed geomorphology. American Geophysical Union Transactions, 33:913-920

Tomelleri, Joseph R. and Mark E. Eberle. 1990. Fishes of the central United States. University Press of Kansas

Tonello, Mark. 2001. Syers creek – 2001 fisheries survey report. Michigan Department of Natural Resources

Presidents Annual Review 2019

This past year was a really challenging one as the wet weather and high waters in the river kept us from being able to complete several projects. For a brief period in August it let up enough to make it possible to work the Syers Dam removal project. It took almost a month and a half to de-water the pond and remove the deteriorated earthen berm then replace it with a culvert. Several delays were caused by the continuous wet weather however the contractor pushed through it all and did a wonderful job of helping restore the creek to its natural and consistent flow rate. The annual macro-invertebrate study was delayed and a second one completed later in the year because of the high flow rates limiting access in the river during the first one. Overall the results were very satisfactory indicating once again a healthy “bug” population that helps support a healthy fish population.

Our work on continued erosion remediation projects has been on hold as the high water makes “in-stream” and bank restoration ineffective as the type of structures cannot be properly installed until water levels are normal to low. Don’t ask me, I do not know the engineering aspects of it all; but have been assured that’s the way it has to be in order to get it done right.

We are planning on completing several delayed and now three or four additional sites this coming year. When we complete these sites we will have completed work on all the major and moderate sites we have been able to get permission from the land owners to do. A total of some 32 sites will have been completed just over a four year period.

Also we have contracted for CRA to conduct a second erosion survey in the spring as it has been over six years since the last one and with this past year’s historic massive rainfall and flooding we anticipate there will be several more sites needing attention. The work never stops; but we all do what we can to help keep the river healthy.

Another area where we have had success is that we now have completed our Watershed Management Plan and are submitting it to the state and federal governments for formal approval. By enacting the WMP we feel we can be more competitive in securing grants that will fund a more diversified array of projects that will support protecting and preserving the river. We are currently pursuing a major FGHP state grant that will allow us to rework a major section on the river that due to several factors has resulted in loss of proper habitat that supports in turn a healthy and flourishing fish population. Finally, we have proceeded with an educational effort to better explain the state Natural Rivers Program and the possibility of the DNR pursuing such a designation for the Little Manistee. We are currently taking a survey of people and organizations who have in the past shown interest in what the LMWCC does. The results will be given to the director of the program indicating what level of agreement there is in support or not of the DNR pursuing the designation. It would then be up to the state to proceed or not as they wish. Well that is about it in a short form; once again the Board of Trustees of the LMWCC could not accomplish any of the varied things we do without the help of our membership both financially and through volunteer efforts. We are all in the same place in supporting our goals of preserving, protecting and enjoying our precious resource The Little Manistee River. Please feel free to contact us look us up on on Facebook as well.

Get involved, you’ll like it!!


Wishing you a joyous season to all,

Tim Phillips

Check out our 2019 Fall Winter newsletter

The Little River News Fall/Winter 2019 edition has been sent to the printer and hits members mail boxes in early January. Review the reports on annual Macro invertebrate Study, Water Quality Study, Syers Lake Dam removal and more.

LMWCC Newsletter Fall Winter 2019





Little Manistee River Private Lands Sites: Before, During, After Flooding in July 2019

Date: December 18, 2019

Subject: Little Manistee River Private Lands Sites -Before, During, After Flooding

Author: Nate Winkler, Biologist


Project Overview

The projects illustrated herein were performed on privately-owned lands along the Little Manistee River. The sites are in Stronach Township, Manistee County and were identified through an inventory of eroding streambanks and bluffs contracted to Conservation Resource Alliance (CRA) by the Little Manistee River Watershed Conservation Council. Also, design and permit application work was completed by CRA with construction being performed by Kanouse Outdoor Restoration during July 2017 using materials from on-site.

Sites #56, #57, and #60 (Grooters-Latham) had approximately 300 yds3 of wood material (whole trees, tops, slash, rootwads) incorporated into protecting 450 linear feet of streambank/bluff edge and providing overhead and lateral fish cover. Site #63 (Reif) was treated in the same manner with 40 yds3 of wood material incorporated into protecting 60 linear feet of bluff edge and providing overhead and lateral fish cover.


Heavy Precipitation Event and Flood

In late July 2019, an extremely localized heavy rain event occurred partially in the Little Manistee River watershed and resulted in substantially higher flows than normal. Unfortunately, there no longer is a USGS gage station on the river so total discharge can only be guessed at. At any rate, it was enough to cause the river to access the floodplain and move wood debris and sediment within the channel in observable quantities. Photos taken during and subsequent to the event were taken by CRA staff to record the effect on the work described above.


Summary and Recommendation

In general, the work held up very well and performed the services intended. The exceptions are the lower-most downstream site (#60) at Grooters-Latham adjacent to an abandoned gravel pit. The white pines utilized were swept pretty neatly away by the river and may have something to do with the amount of hydraulic force that particular site is exposed to. Another factor may be the highly erodible material making up the bank, which sloughs very easily (as was observed by CRA during the flood). The other issue was the top Grooters-Latham site (#56) in which the actual top of the bluff settled due to the rain and pushed the toe of the bluff and installed wood out further into the river.

The MDEQ (now “EGLE”) permit for the Grooters-Latham site is still valid and will remain so until September 2021. If funds are available, CRA recommends going back in and shoring up #56 and replacing the material at #60 with larger diameter wood as well as the finer material originally installed. The level of flow, while not unprecedented, was obviously not expected so soon after installation. If #60 had more time to “season”, the structure would, in all likelihood, have held.


2017-2019 Little Manistee River (Grooter-Reif) Before During After High Water_121819


Site #57 during July 2019 high water
Site #57 during July 2019 high water


radar image 072019

2019 Water Quality and Macroinvertebrate Study Results

The 2019 Water Quality Survey results are in. Check out the Annual Water Quality Survey page for more information on the study and view the current and results from past years.

The 2019 Macroinvertebrate Study results can be found on our Annual Macroinvertebrate Study page.

Thank you to Joyce Durdel and team of volunteers for their continued hard work on these fantastic studies of the Little Manistee River from year to year.


2020 Study dates TBD. If you are interested in volunteering, please contact us.


What is the Natural River Program?

In 1994, LMWCC founders John Gorys and Howard Roberts were appointed by the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture to serve on a committee studying the advisability of having the Little Manistee River designated as a Wild and Scenic River under the federal government’s program of that name. Shortly after the Council was incorporated in 1996, members were asked at an annual meeting if they were in favor of seeking a Wild and Scenic designation for the river. Most members feared ownership implications of such a designation, and the proposal was defeated.

In 2014, the LMWCC Trustees began the process of developing a Watershed Management Plan that would meet the standards of both the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and those of the Federal Environmental Protection Agency. Much of the draft document is concerned with monitoring and regulating development throughout the Little Manistee Watershed to protect the resource. It makes no attempt to restrict or limit property ownership or succession that was the major concern of the members who voted against the Wild and Scenic designation.

In 1970, the Michigan legislature passed the Natural River Act that created a process for communities along a river to develop common zoning rules to keep the ecosystem healthy and riverfront property owners happy. The new law authorized the DNR to develop a system of Natural Rivers in the interest of the people of the state and future generations, for the purpose of preserving and enhancing a river’s values for a variety of reasons, including; aesthetics, free-flowing condition, recreation, boating, historic, water conservation, floodplain, and fisheries and wildlife habitat.

Unlike the Wild and Scenic River program which is only concerned with land under federal jurisdiction, The Natural River Act is a Michigan only statute, and it recognizes the preponderance of privately-owned property along the state’s rivers. The basic concept of river protection is at the heart of Michigan’s pioneering Natural River Act. Michigan’s natural river systems support entire regions they cross. Riverbank vegetation filters pollution and protects water quality. And natural river lands stimulate local economies with fish, wildlife, scenic beauty, and an attractive quality of life. Michigan’s Natural Rivers program is a river protection effort that protects the natural quality of select river systems throughout the state by regulating their use and development through zoning rules. The Natural Rivers Program was developed to preserve, protect and enhance our state’s finest river systems for the use and enjoyment of current and future generations by allowing property owners their right to reasonable development, while protecting Michigan’s unique river resources. Since 1970, 2,091 miles on sixteen rivers or segments of rivers have been designated into Michigan’s Natural River System. In the order they were designated, those river systems include the Jordan, Betsie, Rogue, Two Hearted, White, Boardman, Huron, Pere Marquette, Flat, Rifle, Lower Kalamazoo, Pigeon, AuSable, Fox, Pine and Upper Manistee rivers.

Rather than restricting private ownership, the law was designed to protect river corridors by encouraging river-front landowners to follow basic tenets of environmentally responsible land use practices. Michigan’s rivers are clearly statewide public assets. They also are lined with private property that is under tremendous real estate and resort development pressure. But riverbanks covered by construction and impervious surfaces, stripped of natural vegetation can no longer stop erosion, filter pollution, or support habitat and a genuine outdoor environment for visitors and local residents. Without taking some simple, basic steps in their construction plans, property owners can unwittingly undermine the natural resources that attracted them in the first place.

The 1970 law created a process for communities along a river to develop common zoning rules to keep the ecosystem healthy and riverfront property owners happy. The whole process — from enabling Act to local implementation — is called the Natural River Program. It establishes simple zoning criteria that local communities use to design a plan for protecting their river together across township and county boundaries. The criteria revolve around the river’s “riparian area,” that streamside zone that buffers pollution, supports wildlife, and keeps rivers natural and healthy for everyone. Protecting the riparian area is a basic matter of maintaining natural vegetation strips on riverbanks, requiring minimum lot widths to avoid overcrowding, and establishing reasonable setback distances for buildings and septic systems to minimize pollution and keep wildlife corridors open. The Natural River Program sets up a permit process in which property owners learn how their construction choices can best protect the river and their economic investment. Each of these principles is consistent with the LMWCC Mission statement: “…to bring together persons and organizations who have an interest in the resource conservation and restoration of the Little Manistee River and its watershed. Our goals are to restore, protect, and preserve the natural character of the watershed by communicating resource problems and then offering and implementing problem resolution…” These are the fundamental principles driving the LMWCC’s pursuit of an MDEQ and EPA approved Watershed Management Plan. While the Natural River designation does not create a non-developmental zone, it puts into place standards that will be unique to the Little Manistee River, defining “best usage” of the river’s corridor within 400 feet of either side of the river’s banks. The WMP has a broader focus of protecting the entire watershed including tributaries, in- land lakes, wetlands, and groundwater beyond the 400 foot riparian zone. Obviously the two, the WMP and the Natural River designation, dovetail in providing the most comprehensive protections for the river and its watershed without infringing on responsible ownership and development.

The following is a list of facts pertaining to the Natural River Program provided by the DNR and Michigan State University. These should clarify the information already provided and assist members in preparing to vote on the issue at the annual meeting on July 6th.


Facts about the Natural River Program

A comprehensive 1996 Michigan State University study found that property on designated Natural Rivers sells at higher prices and sells more readily than land on non-designated rivers. In particular, the study found:

  • The number of property sales on Natural Rivers increased at a rate of 20.8% from 1986 to 1995, while non-designated rivers showed no upward trend.
  • Prices paid for Natural River properties were both higher and increased faster — at a rate of 17.8% from 1986 to 1995 —than on non-designated rivers.
  • Prices paid for vacant, undeveloped land were the same along Natural Rivers and non-designated rivers. That is, Natural River zoning restrictions had no negative effect on a property’s potential in the eyes of buyers.

Private property along designated Natural Rivers DOES NOT become public land.

The public MAY NOT use private property along designated Natural Rivers without the property owner’s permission.

The Natural River Act DOES NOT authorize condemnation of private land.

Existing structures DO NOT have to be moved away from the river.

Existing lawns can continue to be mowed, and property owners WILL NOT be required to convert lawn areas to native plants (although for the benefit of the river corridor, it is recommended that lawns be converted to native plants).

Vegetative buffer zones ARE NOT “no cut” zones.

There WILL NOT be a 400 foot building set-back or “no development zone” established.

There WILL NOT be a prohibition on land divisions (as long as the divisions meet minimum lot width and area standards).

Small, legally established lots WILL NOT be declared unbuildable due only to their size, assuming they are otherwise buildable lots.

Properly administered Natural River or other zoning DOES NOT constitute a “taking” of private property under current law.


It is the hope of the LMWCC board of trustees that the information contained in this article will guide members in drawing reasonable conclusions about the advisability of pursuing a Natural River designation for the Little Manistee.

There will be a vote of all members present at the Annual Meeting on July 6th to determine if LMWCC shall proceed in seeking such a designation for our river from the Michigan DNR. Brian Bury of the DNR’s Natural River Program will be our guest speaker at the meeting.