Ecohydrologic Evaluation of the Higgins Lake-Level Control Structure

Higgins Lake and its outflow, the Cut River

Looking at Higgins Lake in Roscommon County, this project is analyzing the implications of a control structure dam on both the lake itself and the Cut River. Effects of erosion have been found and yet little study has been done on the structure’s role in the environment. This could play a large effect on not only the lake and river wildlife, but the economy and environment of the surrounding human population as well. The Higgins Lake Property Owners Association (HLPOA) made these possible implications and their concerns clear when they brought this issue to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment’s (MDNRE) Fisheries Division.

Higgins Lake has large economic benefits to the surrounding economy and is significant in both fishing and recreation. These were among the reasons HLPOA became concerned with the structure’s impacts in the first place. They fear that the control structure will diminish these benefits. This study aims to identify how water level management scenarios might impact fish habitat on Higgins Lake and the Cut River.

This study looks to accumulate data by analyzing the local vegetation, hydrology, weather, and wildlife. With this data, we will be better able to understand the implications of the control structure and how to prevent harm on the area’s bio-system. Furthermore, we will be looking at the possible effects of removing the control structure and returning both Higgins Lake and the Cut River to their natural conditions. All of this data will be combined, allowing us to be able to give those who are stakeholders in these areas the information they need when it comes to deciding what must be done: leave the dam alone or remove it.

Funded by the Michigan DNR and the Higgins Lake Foundation, on March 4, 2012, this project received a $100,000 grant for two years. The partners in the grant proposals are Mike Wiley at the University of Michigan and the Huron Pines Inc.