With Local Funding, Huron Pines Restores Largest Inlet of Higgins Lake

New culvert at Big Creek and Dewey Avenue
Partners gathered at the crossing Oct 15 to celebrate the project’s completion.

An improved road/stream crossing in Roscommon County is the result of an entirely locally-funded push to restore vital fish habitat on a major inlet of Michigan’s 11th-largest inland lake.

Conservation organization Huron Pines led the effort late this summer to replace an undersized pipe culvert that was perched above the stream and was a significant barrier for fish wanting to reach important spawning and refuge habitat upstream of Dewey Avenue in a neighborhood of northwestern Higgins Lake. The original culvert was replaced with one that is two feet larger in diameter and set into the streambed, allowing Big Creek to flow naturally through the crossing.

“It’s a small stream but it does have brook trout and several other native species,” said Josh Leisen, Senior Project Manager for Huron Pines. “Having a well-connected river helps fish fulfill their life cycle needs like finding food and seeking refuge from environmental stresses. Just downstream is Higgins Lake, which has stocked brown and rainbow trout, and that stream habitat is really important for spawning.”

Old culvert at Big Creek and Dewey Avenue
The former culvert at the crossing of Big Creek at Dewey Avenue was perched above the downstream side, preventing fish from reaching upstream spawning habitat.

While most of Huron Pines’ river restoration work relies in part on grants from state or federal resource agencies, this project was unique because it was achieved entirely with contributions from local organizations, most of whom have a strong interest in Higgins Lake. Those include Big Creek Lane Association, Higgins Lake Foundation, Higgins Lake Land Conservancy, Higgins Lake Property Owners Association, Morley Family Foundation, Walters Family Foundation and Roscommon County Road Commission.

Fred Swinehart
Fred Swinehart, board member of Higgins Lake Property Owners Association, who rallied local support for the project.

Fred Swinehart is the board member of Higgins Lake Property Owners Association, whose mission is to protect, preserve and enhance the quality of Higgins Lake and its watershed. Swinehart rallied local support from the aforementioned organizations to get the project done.

“Working with these people is really a pleasure,” Swinehart said, gesturing to the crowd of project partners that gathered at the crossing for a site visit and group photo Oct 15. “They’re all in it for the lake.”

Total project cost was approximately $40,000.

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