A Watershed Management Plan (WMP) considers many aspects of water usage and functions, and coordinates them into a comprehensive plan for managing the activities that govern how our natural resources are utilized or viewed. A WMP is developed to provide direction and prioritize how resources are used for the management, protection, or restoration of a watershed. A watershed approach is ideal for managing water resources since they cross jurisdictions and political boundaries. Often this fluid nature of water is overlooked or taken for granted. Water flows over the ground and picks up pollutants before reaching a lake, stream, wetland, or river. This same water is used for irrigation, swimming, aquatic life, and drinking. The Lower Grand River WMP takes into account the many needs that water resources must meet and composes a vision for the future.

This watershed project chose to focus on the portion of the Grand River Basin below the Looking Glass River confluence, near the City of Portland. This portion of the basin was referred to as the Lower Grand River Watershed (LGRW). Rather than following traditional guidelines for WMP development, the LGRW project produced a guidance document for creating WMPs for subwatersheds. The LGRW is intended to be used as a catalyst for developing other WMPs. One of the goals of this project is to develop a watershed organization that can serve as an umbrella for existing watershed management efforts or help establish future subwatershed groups. This WMP will be highly useful in the planning stage for future watershed projects.

A report to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1995 discovered that certain barriers to successful watershed planning exist depending on the scale of the project. The report discovered that large watershed projects often had difficulty coordinating local governments and setting water quality goals for the diverse problems that face large geographic areas. Conversely, small watershed projects lacked the scope to address regional problems and sometimes worsened conditions in other areas. The report recommends a solution to this paradox by planning on both scales. Large scale or basin-wide planning is needed to establish regional goals and objectives and small units are needed at the implementation phase (Adler, 1995).

The LGRW project is using this approach to design and implement the WMP. At the large scale, the project has produced a mission statement and vision. Goals and objectives are broad and encompass the needs of the diverse stakeholder groups. Implementation of the WMP is expected on the subwatershed level, by those closest to the problem. Small watershed projects that result from this project will be able to use the tools and information in this WMP to design and implement cost-effective solutions to local water quality problems.


Grand River, Water Quality, Jackson County, City of Portland, Michigan, Grand Rapids, Muskegon, Watershed


Natural Resources Management and Policy