Water quality and hydrology of the Silver River Watershed, Baraga County, Michigan, 2005-08

Scientific Investigations Report 2010-5050

Prepared in cooperation with Keweenaw Bay Indian Community
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The Silver River Watershed comprises about 69 square miles and drains part of northeastern Baraga County, Michigan. For generations, tribal members of the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community have hunted and fished in the watershed. Tribal government and members of Keweenaw Bay Indian Community are concerned about the effect of any development within the watershed, which is rural, isolated, and lightly populated. For decades, the area has been explored for various minerals. Since 2004, several mineral-exploration firms have been actively investigating areas within the watershed; property acquisition, road construction, and subsurface drilling have taken place close to tributary streams of the Silver River. The U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, conducted a multi-year water-resources investigation of the Silver River Watershed during 2005-08. Methods of investigation included analyses of streamflow, water-quality sampling, and ecology at eight discrete sites located throughout the watershed. In addition, three continuous-record streamgages located within the watershed provided stage, discharge, specific conductance, and water-temperature data on an hourly basis. Water quality of the Silver River Watershed is typical of many streams in undeveloped areas of Upper Michigan. Concentrations of most analytes typically were low, although several exceeded applicable surface-water-quality standards. Seven samples had concentrations of copper that exceeded the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality standards for wildlife, and one sample had concentrations of cyanide that exceeded the same standards. Concentrations of total mercury at all eight sampling sites exceeded the Great Lakes Basin water-quality standard, but the ratio of methylmercury to total mercury was similar to the 5 to 10 percent found in most natural waters. Concentrations of arsenic and chromium in bed sediments were near the threshold-effect concentration. A qualitative ecological assessment of fishes and macroinvertebrates showed that intolerant salmonids were present at most sampled sites, and macroinvertebrate communities were indicative of near-excellent or excellent conditions at all eight sites. This baseline information will aid in an ongoing monitoring effort designed to protect the water resources of the

Study Area

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USGS Numbered Series
Water quality and hydrology of the Silver River Watershed, Baraga County, Michigan, 2005-08
Series title:
Scientific Investigations Report
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Year Published:
U.S. Geological Survey
Contributing office(s):
Michigan Water Science Center
ix, 39 p.; Appendices
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