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Lawrence Tech leads Clinton River watershed management study

Release Date: June 29, 2009

Southfield, Mich. - Lawrence Technological University is leading a three-year, $228,000 study to identify improved management techniques to restore a more natural flow of water into the Clinton River from its upper watershed in Oakland County.

Donald Carpenter, an associate professor of civil engineering at Lawrence Tech, recently won approval for a $146,000 grant from Michigan Sea Grant, a joint program of the University of Michigan and Michigan State University. The remaining funds will be provided by Lawrence Tech and partner organizations. 

Michigan Sea Grant helps to foster economic growth and protect Michigan's coastal resources through education, research and outreach.  The program, which is administered by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), identifies critical Great Lakes resource management issues and supports university-based research through peer-reviewed competitions.

Carpenter will study ways to alleviate extreme variability in water levels experienced in the watershed and the low water levels in the Clinton River during the summer months. For many years, the Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner's office has maintained water levels for the lakes per the settings mandated in a court order established over 40 years ago. Substantial residential and commercial development has changed the river's watershed, but court ordered lake levels have not been adjusted to meet current needs, according to Carpenter.

Carpenter hopes to identify management methods that could increase the flow of water to the Clinton River without causing a major problem for people using the lakes that feed into it.

"The problem is that low water flows in the river may have a negative impact on fish and wildlife habitat and the environment," Carpenter said. "Everyone wins if we can protect and upgrade this valuable natural resource without negatively impacting the surrounding lakes."

The study will involve many public meetings to assess the issues faced by people using the Clinton River and the lakes that are part of its watershed. Major issues to be considered include water quality, fish and wildlife habitat, recreational opportunities, and the effects of lake level controls on adjoining lakes and the overall watershed. Property taxes, insurance costs and business income will also be considered.

The lake associations in the Clinton River watershed in Oakland County are expected to play a major role in the study, Carpenter said.

"We want to look at the lakes as a system and come up with a better management plan," Carpenter said. "The overall goal of this integrated assessment is to develop a more comprehensive, holistic approach to water level management in the watershed."

Carpenter, who is the director of the Hydraulics and Hydrology Laboratory at Lawrence Tech, will be assisted by a graduate student and experts from several subcontractors including Environmental Consulting & Technology Inc. of Ann Arbor, Veritas Economic Consulting of Cary, N.C., and Oakland University.

Additional project partners include Michigan Sea Grant, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, the Michigan State University Extension Service, the Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner's office and the municipalities within the watershed including Auburn Hills and Rochester Hills.

For additional information about Michigan Sea Grant, see www.miseagrant.umich.edu.

Lawrence Technological University, ltu.edu, offers over 80 undergraduate, master's and doctoral degree programs in Colleges of Architecture and Design, Arts and Sciences, Engineering and Management. Founded in 1932, the 4,500-student, private university pioneered evening classes 75 years ago, and today has a growing number of weekend and online programs. Lawrence Tech's 102-acre campus is in Southfield, and programs are also offered in Detroit, Lansing, Livonia, Petoskey and Traverse City. Lawrence Tech also offers programs with partner universities in Mexico, Europe, the Middle East and Asia.