ARC logo    History of the ARC

Working Together, Restoring the River

The Rouge River watershed, located in southeast Michigan , runs through the most densely populated and urbanized land area in the state. The watershed is approximately 438 square miles in size and includes all or part of 48 municipalities in three counties, with a population of over 1.4 million. The industrial growth of the lower Rouge River in the first half of the twentieth century and the rapid residential and commercial growth in the last half of the century in the upper portions of the watershed created serious pollution problems. Despite pollution control efforts as early as the 1940s, when the Detroit wastewater treatment facility was built to serve southeast Michigan including many of the Rouge River watershed communities, pollution problems increased in the river. It has only been in the last decade that significant restoration of water quality has begun to be documented as a result of over one billion dollars of investments by area residents for pollution control. Cooperative efforts at the local level to restore the Rouge River began in early 1980s. At the urging of local citizens and organizations the State of Michigan adopted the Rouge River Basin Strategy in 1985.

The Alliance of Rouge Communities (ARC), a 501(c)(3) Non-profit Organization, is a voluntary public watershed entity currently comprised of 35 municipal governments (i.e., cities, townships, and villages), 3 counties (Oakland, Wayne, and Washtenaw), 3 educational institutions (Henry Ford College, Schoolcraft College and University of Michigan-Dearborn) and the Wayne County Airport Authority as authorized by Part 312 (Watershed Alliances) of the Michigan Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act (MCL 324.101 to 324.90106) as amended by Act No. 517, Public Acts of 2004.

Officially formed in January of 2006, the ARC members represent public agencies with water management responsibilities whose jurisdictional boundaries are totally or in part located within the Rouge River watershed located in southeast Michigan . The state law authorizing the formation of watershed alliances throughout Michigan was modeled after a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) adopted by the Rouge River watershed communities and counties in August of 2003, which successfully guided a regional effort over a three year period to address watershed-wide water quality and water quantity issues.

The 2003 MOA was developed by the communities and the three counties to respond to declining federal grant funds to Wayne County for the Rouge River National Wet Weather Demonstration Project that had supported watershed-wide management efforts since 1993. During the three years of operation under the MOA, the Rouge River watershed communities voluntarily contributed nearly $900,000 to match available federal funding for cooperative watershed management activities. The first year budget for the ARC (2006) is approximately $600,000 with fifty percent local and fifty percent federal funding.

Under the 2005 ARC bylaws all cities, townships and villages as well as the counties located totally or in part within the Rouge River watershed are eligible for membership. Over 95 percent of the eligible communities and counties have adopted the bylaws through formal action of their respective governing authorities. In addition, the bylaws provide for membership of other public entities in the watershed who under state law are required to have a water discharge permit. Several public agencies are still considering membership.


Established a model for cooperative watershed approaches to storm water management that resulted in a new statewide watershed permit option for meeting federal and state storm water discharge requirements Funded technical support and facilitation for seven Subwatershed Advisory Groups that developed and implemented individual subwatershed management plans that have become state and national models for cooperative storm water management Prepared and distributed materials/information/ideas among members that have reduced the cost and increased the effectiveness of pollution control efforts Reduced the cost of compliance with storm water permits through the development of templates for required reports, and support of joint activities including the development and distribution of informational and educational materials Supported extensive cooperative river monitoring to determine the effectiveness of various pollution control activities (the river monitoring program is the most extensive in the state and perhaps one of the most extensive in the nation) Completed three comprehensive surveys of watershed residents to evaluate the effectiveness of public information and education efforts Organized and presented workshops for elected and appointed officials and the general public Provided training for agency employees on required illicit discharge detection and elimination efforts Advocated on behalf on members in support of passage of Watershed Alliance legislation and in discussions with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to improve the efficiency of permit requirements and increase the effectiveness of storm water discharge permit requirements Addressed the concerns of the U.S. District Court that has overseen the pollution control efforts in the Rouge River since the early 1970s Documented measurable improvements in the Rouge River and restoration of beneficial uses Formed the first Michigan Watershed Alliance under a state law developed and modeled after the cooperative agreement designed by Rouge watershed communities On April 12, 2011 the ARC received its 501(c)(3) designation letter (effective April 2009) from the IRS Rouge River Watershed Management Plan prepared (Final - June 21, 2012) Revised the ARC's Bylaws and they were adopted by the Full ARC on November 7, 2012 and Ratified by ARC Membership in April 2013 Developed Collaborative Plans for PPP, PEP, IDEP and TMDL to meet community MS4 Permits Successfully completed more than 25 federally-funded habitat restoration projects totalling more than $18 million in the Rouge River watershed


1987 – The International Joint Commission designated the Rouge River as one of the 43 most polluted areas in the Great Lakes 1989 – The first Rouge River Remedial Action Plan (RAP) was completed and endorsed by a majority of the watershed communities that has been updated periodically (2005 RAP Update) 1991 – The United States District Court, at the urging of local communities, facilitated a phased process for correcting combined sewer overflows (CSOs) affecting the river 1992 – With the bipartisan assistance of the Michigan congressional delegation Wayne County received the first U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grant for the Rouge River National Wet Weather Demonstration Project (Rouge Project) 1994 – The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan strongly urged the 48 local public agencies within the Rouge River watershed to adopt a more comprehensive approach to control pollution from sources other than CSOs under the authority of the Michigan Drain Code 1994 – As an alternative to the Michigan Drain Code Inter-County Drain Authority proposed by the U.S. District Court, and to comply with the pending U.S. EPA storm water regulations, a group of local agencies and communities within the Rouge River watershed proposed a watershed-based approach to the control of pollution sources related to storm water discharges 1997 – The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality adopted the unique watershed approach to storm water management developed and proposed by local agencies participating in the Rouge Project that would subsequently become a statewide alternative for meeting Phase II federal storm water discharge requirements 2001 – A drafting committee, representing watershed communities and the three counties in the Rouge River watershed developed the framework for a new watershed organization that would assist the local governments meet the requirements of their watershed-based, storm water NPDES discharge permits 2003 – Thirty-eight cities, townships and villages and three counties within the Rouge River watershed formed a partnership to address their storm water permit requirements under the terms of a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) establishing the Rouge River Watershed Local Management Assembly 2005 – The Rouge River Watershed Local Management Assembly supported the passage of state legislation to authorize local governments to form watershed alliances that was subsequently signed into law January 3, 2005 as Act No. 517, Public Acts of 2004 2006 – The Alliance of Rouge Communities was formed under the new state laws and held its first meeting in January 2011 - The Alliance of Rouge Communities received IRS 501(3)(c) designation. (effective April 2009) 2012/2013 - Updated Bylaws adopted by the Full ARC on November 7, 2012 and Ratified by ARC Membership in April 2013. Future revisions were done in 2014 and 2020.

The Preamble to the 2005 Alliance of Rouge Communities Bylaws provides a narrative description of the events leading to the formation of the Rouge River Watershed Local Government Assembly and its transition into the ARC.

Funding for these activities as well as for the staff support of the ARC and its committees is raised through assessments to members based upon an allocation formula that gives equal weight to the population and land area for community contributions and a similar weighted assessment for non-community, public agency members. Local contributions are used to match grant dollars that currently represent nearly fifty percent of the annual ARC budget.

By of August 2007, 40 communities, three counties and the Wayne County Airport Authority had adopted the ARC bylaws. Today, in 2020, 35 communities are members along with three counties (Wayne, Oakland and Washtenaw), the Wayne County Airport Authority and 3 educational institutions (Henry Ford College, Schoolcraft College and the University of Michigan-Dearborn). The ARC also includes several Cooperating Partners including Cranbrook Institute of Science, Friends of the Rouge, Great Lakes Water Authority, Rouge River Advisory Council, SEMCOG. Southeastern Oakland County Water Authority and The Henry Ford.

This web site serves as the primary tool for disseminating information about the ARC. The web site is intended to provide information to all members on the status of activities and actions, provide interested citizens and organizations the ability to monitor progress of the ARC, learn more about the Rouge River Watershed and identify meetings they may like to attend.

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Phone | 734-768-2180

46036 Michigan Ave., Suite 126 | Canton, Michigan 48188