Prepared by Schrems West Michigan Trout Unlimited

With support from EGLE (Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy – State of Michigan)

The goal of this Watershed Management Plan (WMP) is to assist the Buck Creek community in ensuring the long-term protection and improvement of the creek and surrounding lands, with focus on the designated uses applicable to the Buck Creek Watershed that are mandated by state and federal water quality programs. This WMP is intended, among other things, to provide a shared strategy for moving community jurisdictions and organizations forward with respect to water quality as affected by nonpoint source pollutants. Nonpoint source pollution can include: Excess fertilizers, herbicides and insecticides from agricultural lands and residential areas. Oil, grease and toxic chemicals from urban runoff and energy production. Sediment from improperly managed construction sites, crop and forest lands, and eroding streambanks.

Watershed management plans are intended to be a guidebook to be used by individuals and organizations interested in protection, improvement and wise use of our lands and waters. This WMP has been organized in a manner intended to promote short and long-term measures that can be easily identified and efficiently implemented. The WMP has been divided into the following chapters, which, to a degree, can be read and used collectively, or independently. Chapter 2 has been crafted to stand alone as the primary driver for watershed protection and restoration. The latter seven chapters provide the information used to write Chapter 2 and all of the information necessary to meet the required nine elements. In other words, Chapters 3-9 contain supporting information, data and analyses that may or may not be of interest to readers.

Download the Buck Creek Watershed Management Plan (PDF)

The following chapters provide all of the pertinent background information, data, state and federal requirements, etc. that were used to create the Action Plan:

Chapter 2. Action Plan provides a list of activities that are recommended to protect and/or restore Buck Creek and its watershed. While this chapter is not meant to be all inclusive, it is a synopsis all of the information collected and analyzed for this plan and was written to stand alone as a “Quick Start” guidebook to be used by stakeholders of the resource.

Chapter 3. Description of the Buck Creek Watershed. This chapter provides a general overview of the BCW. This is background information that does not include specific recommendations for project

Chapter 4. Water Quality in the Buck Creek Watershed – An Overview explains Water Quality Standards (WQS) in the State of Michigan, the protected designated uses that surface water bodies must attain and the pollutants that impair or threaten the designated and desired uses of the BCW. As well, the chapter includes detailed summaries of all data reviewed, collected and analyzed during this planning

Chapter 5. Pollutants, Sources and Causes lists all of the NPS pollutants that have been identified within the BCW. Where required, a loading estimate was calculated to determine overall contribution, and the source and cause of each pollutant was identified or speculated.

Chapter 6. Critical Sites/Areas and Pollutant Loading are those areas that are in dire need of attention to improve overall water quality. Each critical site/area identified is mapped and included in a table, with the
estimated volume of pollution from that site.

Chapter 7. Addressing NPS Pollution to Protect/Restore Designated Uses makes recommendations for what needs to occur in the BCW, in terms of addressing critical sites and areas, information and education outreach and changes in local policies. Estimated costs for all improvements are included.

Chapter 8. Evaluation and Monitoring Plan provides the information necessary for measuring the successfulness of implementing this WMP.

Chapter 9. Literature Cited includes all of the studies and documents referenced in this WMP.

A new watershed monitor has been installed on Buck Creek that collects real time data for depth, temperature, turbidity, electrical conductivity (salt levels).  Calvin Christian High School teacher and FOBC Board member, Mike Hoekwater, will be maintaining this amazing device and use the data with his classes. Please share this website with other educators/interested folks to access this data:

Following is some information that may be useful to help understand the data the monitor provides:

Water Depth

Water depth is measured in millimeters using a pressure transducer, which measures water pressure. The deeper the water, the more pressure it exerts. Water depth measurements can be translated to discharge through development of a rating curve, which requires a series of discharge measurements at varying flows allowing for the development of a relationship between depth and discharge.

Discharge, or stream flow, is the volume of water that moves over a designated point over a fixed period of time. It is often expressed as cubic feet per second (ft3/sec). Access to streamflow data allows for more accurate interpretation of water-quality data. An observed trend in water quality—for example, increasing concentrations of a contaminant in a stream over a six-month period—may indicate an actual water-quality change or may be the indirect result of differences in the distribution of flow volumes when the water samples were collected.


In general, trout prefer water temperature to not exceed 20-22 degrees C. To breath, trout utilize oxygen that is dissolved in water (dissolved oxygen). The colder the water the more dissolved oxygen is present. The warmer the water the less dissolved oxygen is present.

Temperature is expressed in degrees Celsius. To convert a Celsius measurement to Fahrenheit use the formula below.

F = (C x 1.8) + 32 ….  So for a measurement of 16 degrees Celsius… F = (16 x 1.8) + 32 >>> F = 60.8

Michigan water quality regulations dictate that streams capable of supporting coldwater species should not receive a heat load that would cause either of the following occurrences:

(a) Increase the temperature of the receiving waters at the edge of the mixing zone more than 2 degrees Fahrenheit above the existing natural water temperature.

(b) Increase the temperature of the receiving waters at the edge of the mixing zone to temperatures greater than the following monthly maximum temperatures:

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
38 38 43 54 65 68 68 68 63 56 48 40

Electrical Conductivity

Electrical conductivity is a measurement of the ability of water to pass an electrical current and is expressed in microsiemens per centimeter (μS/cm). The conductivity of water is affected by the presence of dissolved inorganic ions, such as calcium, chloride and magnesium, which enter the water through erosion of rocks and soils, as well as various human impacts such as urban runoff and agriculture. Every stream has a baseline conductivity, which can vary widely from stream to stream ranging from 50 to 1500 μS/cm. Think of conductivity as a tool for a rough assessment of stream health, like a doctor taking your temperature. A rapid increase in conductivity indicates that there is something in the stream that was not there previously, which may signify a water quality problem. Generally, as flow increases conductivity will decrease since rainwater has a low conductivity and dilutes higher conductivity groundwater. An increase in conductivity corresponding to an increase in streamflow indicates that rainwater is picking up some type of ion before entering the stream. A common cause of high conductivity readings is road salt washing into a stream during snowmelt or a rain event. Conductivity will also vary with temperature, so readings displayed on are standardized to 25 degrees C. There are no numeric standards for conductivity in Michigan. High conductivity has the potential to negatively affect aquatic life, especially benthic macroinvertebrates. Starting at approximately 500 μS/cm, some macroinvertebrate species are negatively impacted. Trout growth may be impacted when conductivity exceeds ~2,150 μS/cm.


Turbidity measures the ability of light to pass through water. The higher the turbidity the cloudier the water. Measured in Nephalometric Turbidity Units (NTU) turbidity is primarily affected by sediments and other material suspended in the water column. There are no numeric standards for turbidity in Michigan. Narrative standards state that “The surface waters of the state shall not have any of the following physical properties in unnatural quantities which are or may become injurious to any designated use.” Designated uses include agricultural, industrial water supply, public water supply (at point of intake), navigation, warm water and/or coldwater fishery, other indigenous aquatic life and wildlife support, and partial and total body contact recreation. See the table below for some thresholds to ecosystem impacts.

Some information collected from:

Birtwell, Farrell, and Jonsson 2008: The validity of including turbidity criteria for aquatic resource protection in land development guideline

Quick Facts

  • HUC: 04050006-0508
  • 32,392 Acres
  • 20.3 Total Miles Long
  • 15.6 Miles Trout Stream

Land Use

  • 64% Urban
  • 18% Agricultural
  • 11% Forest Land
  • 4% Wetlands
  • 3% Open Land

Pollutant Loadings

  • Sediment: 1,024 tons/yr
  • Phosphorus: 28,061 lbs/yr
  • Nitrogen: 153,436 lbs/yr

Priority Pollutant

  • Pathogens (disease causing agents)

Priority Sources

  • Cropland
  • Livestock
  • Septic Tanks

Summary from 10/ 23/ 2017 report prepared by Streamside Ecological Services.

The study found that Buck Creek is impacted by a variety of issues.  Brown trout populations do indeed inhabit Buck Creek, but not in every stretch of the creek. Stream temperatures were found to be favorable for trout in portions of the watershed, such as the cool waters of Sharps Creek tributary. However, stream temperatures are too warm for trout in other areas of the watershed, including near Lemery Park.

Degraded water quality and/or physical habitat may be impacting trout and other coldwater species. Monitoring indicates that the stream is flashy and impacted by excessive sediment. Rainwater falling on agricultural, residential and commercial developments, reaches the creek faster and at warmer temperatures than rainwater falling on previous surfaces such as grasslands and forests. Data show that levels of dissolved oxygen and total dissolved solids could be limiting the survival of sensitive aquatic species.

Excessive nutrients, particularly nitrates, appear to be a ubiquitous problem in Buck Creek. Fertilizer runoff from urban and rural areas is the most likely source. Excess phosphorus concentrations were measured in the rural headwaters. E. coli, or bacteria, are also water quality concerns.

This study helped to show that Buck Creek is still a high quality stream, but it is in a fragile state.  Recommendations:

  • Plant a rain garden or native plants.
  • Add a vegetative buffer along creek.
  • Install a rain barrel.
  • Reduce use of fertilizers.
  • Pick up your pet waste.