The reservation of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians (LTBB) is located in northwest Michigan, along 110 miles of Lake Michigan and Little Traverse Bay shoreline. The tribe numbers approximately 4,600 with over a thousand living in and around the 336 square mile reservation. The LTBB have historically depended on water-related activities for subsistence, cultural activities, transportation, recreation, and other needs. This dependence has continued: the 2012 Tribal Code of Law contains nearly 600 references to fish, and nearly 200 mentions of water. The tribe manages a natural resources department heavily involved in water resource issues, and has moved steadily into programs pertaining to wetland management, water quality assessment, and other activities. While the tribe conducts fairly comprehensive-monitoring activities for waters within and adjacent to the reservation, the trivet has not established water quality standards to protect and restore tribal waters. Water quality standards development is an effort to identify beneficial uses of water bodies, develop narrative and numeric water quality criteria (e.g., dissolved oxygen levels, maximum pollutant concentrations, etc.), and policies and methods to prevent water quality degradation.
In the absence of reservation-specific tribal water quality standards, the LTBB Water Quality Protection Program staff use a variety of methods to assess water quality. Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) use designations and narrative/numeric criteria provide a broad framework for determining water quality for various parameters (e.g., bacteria, dissolved solids, pH, taste/odor, dissolved oxygen). However, existing Michigan DEQ standards do not include cultural, subsistence fishing, or other water body uses that may be more applicable to tribal needs. Despite these shortcomings – and because some state standards might prove to be useful for tribal purposes – Michigan DEQ water quality standards and other references provide a useful basis for summarizing water quality conditions on the LTBB reservation.
In general, water quality on the reservation ranges from good to excellent, with a few notable challenges. PCB’s and mercury, probably deposited from airborne sources, have been detected in fish tissue samples and a few waterbodies. Temperature has also been identified as an issue in several lakes. Conductivity and chloride levels have increased over time in some waterbodies, and may be approaching Michigan pollutant limits within a few years. Nutrient pollution and suspended sediment levels are elevated in a few waterbodies, and erosion has been identified as a source of sediment runoff near some roadways. Waterbodies have been identified as impaired in some instances, due to hydromodification, habitat alteration, riparian management, urban runoff, transportation impacts, the effects of agriculture and aquaculture, and other causes.
These impairments and other challenges are notable, but not significant at this time. Tribal staff has been working in cooperation with other entities to address problems identified in the field, and develop broader, longer range efforts to better manage waters on the reservation.
To read more about general water quality, read the Overall Water Quality Report here.
To read the most recent assessment report, click here.