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Berrien County Group trying to cleanup dirty creek

SAINT JOSEPH, Mich. - A group is trying to clean up a polluted river in Berrien County.

Tests by the Michigan Department of Water Quality show Hickory Creek, which runs through Berrien County and into the St. Joseph River, is polluted and conditions are getting worse.
The pollutant is plain, old dirt.
Hickory Creek, not long ago, was known for an abundance of fisheries and wildlife. It’s still considered a DNR designated trout stream but now there’s so much dirt in the water, that there’s hardly any fish at all.
Jack Houser lives on the creek and has never seen a trout. “Not any at all,” he said. “Not in the time we’ve been here. We haven’t seen any.”
Houser is on Stevensville’s planning commission. When he heard about how good the trout fishing was in the 1990’s, before he moved in, he started asking around and contacting other municipalities that are on Hickory Creek.
Mary Colclough with the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission said people all over the county had noticed the waterway getting dirtier. “People that fish were saying ‘we haven’t seen as many fish as we used to see,’” she said.
Colclough looked at state water quality tests dating back to the nineties and confirmed the notion. “People don’t often think of dirt as a pollutant of water but it’s actually the number one pollutant in Southwest Michigan in our waterways,” she said.
Colclough said the natural tributaries of the creek have been tampered with by agricultural, residential and commercial development. The change led to erosion and an increase of dirt in the waterway.
In 2011, a group called the Hickory Creek Watershed Partnership formed with people from all over the county to stop erosion at unnatural developments along the creek. Colclough said the problem can be fixed. “I think we can make improvements to see the creek come back,” she said.
Houser hopes so. “I’m not a trout fisherman but I’d be looking forward to learning.”He wants to see Hickory Creek and it’s fish to come back.
The Hickory Creek Watershed Partnership is planning two workshops in March to inform residents, farmers and business owners of proactive measures to help restore the watershed.
That information can be found here.

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