Collaborative Assessment of Stormwater Runoff on Tribal Lands in Michigan

Through funding from the Graham Sustainability Institute, the Inter-Tribal Council of Michigan (ITCM) and the Great Lakes Integrated Sciences and Assessments (GLISA) worked collaboratively to organize and conduct a Tribal Climate Workshop in 2017 to address extreme precipitation events and other adaptation efforts. The ITCM and member Tribes were particularly interested in learning more about available tools for quantitatively assessing vulnerability to heavy rainfall and extreme rainfall events. During the workshop, held in October 2017, GLISA presented on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s National Stormwater Calculator (SWC) (USEPA, 2014), which provides a quantitative assessment of stormwater runoff in a community, as well as the potential effectiveness and cost of low-impact development options (rain gardens, rain capture, use of semi-permeable pavement, etc.) to reduce this runoff.

A number of the participating Tribes were interested in using the SWC to assess their community’s vulnerability to heavy rainfall and extreme rainfall events, yet did not have dedicated staff with time and capacity to learn and employ the SWC. This proposed project, building upon the previous collaborative efforts between the ITCM and GLISA, obtained funding to work with ITCM member Tribes in the application of the SWC to their Tribal lands. These assessments will allow these Tribal communities to develop management best practices to protect the critical infrastructure and valued aquatic resources in their communities, as well as provide quantitative information necessary to seek new funding to implement the management practices assessed through this work.

Project Accomplishments

The project team was able to perform an assessment of stormwater run-off for four Indigenous Tribes within the state of Michigan, but for current and future climate scenarios, as well as current and alternate above-ground infrastructure scenarios. These assessments were performed for locations that each Tribe identified as being vulnerable to flooding during extreme precipitation events.

Slides from a presentation from the workshop can be found here.

Research Findings

The effectiveness of various Low Impact Development controls (above ground infrastructure improvements) on reducing stormwater run-off varied considerably with varying land use/soil characteristics of each of the assessed sites. The costs analysis performed as part of the project will assist each Tribe in performing a cost/benefit analysis for each of the locations for which assessments were performed.

Partners: Robin Clark, Inter-Tribal Council of Michigan; Keweenaw Bay Indian Community; Lac Vieux Desert Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians; Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians; Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians; Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan; Graham Sustainability Institute, University of Michigan

GLISA Contact: Frank Marsik, Research Scientist: