Plaster Creek Watershed is a watershed in Kent County, Michigan that drains approximately 58 square miles of land. Its headwaters are in Gaines Township, and the main creek, Plaster Creek, flows through the cities of Kentwood and Grand Rapids and into the Grand River. Because most of the land in the watershed has been modified for agricultural, residential and industrial uses over the years, it is one of the most polluted watersheds in West Michigan. The excessive amounts of pollution have made the creeks in the watershed unsafe for human contact and detrimental to aquatic life.
Sections of creeks in the Plaster Creek Watershed, including Plaster Creek itself, have been converted into straight channels to accommodate for land developments. As a result, Plaster Creek experiences flow rates that exceed its natural capacity during precipitation events, causing erosion and flooding. Also, the amounts of sediment and the bacteria Escherichia coli (the watershed’s two most prevalent pollutants) in the creek increase as the flow rate increases. The bacteria come from runoff from agricultural land, especially those with livestock, and the sediment comes from any developed land. The team is working in conjunction with Calvin College Biology Department organization Plaster Creek Stewards to develop a possible solution to this problem – the re-introduction of meanders to two sections of Plaster Creek previously straightened into channels. The two primary goals of the design are to:
- Reduce peak flows and velocity in Plaster Creek to reduce flooding and erosion
- Reduce sediment and E. coli in Plaster Creek