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Dowagiac River Watershed

Dowagiac River Studies and Information


Recent News - Pucker Street Dam Removal
The City of Niles is working with partners to restore the Dowagiac River to a free flowing river by removing the Pucker Street Dam.


Partnership for MEANDERS

If you are interested in getting involved in watershed activities, consider attending ameandrs1.jpg meeting of the Partnership for MEANDRS (Meeting Ecological and Agricultural Needs within the Dowagiac River System).  To be added to the MEANDRS email list, contact Marcy Hamilton hamiltonm@swmp.org.  MEANDRS By Laws


About the Dowagiac River Watershed

The Dowagiac River Watershed is about 287 square miles in size with an estimated population of 38,600.  A watershed does not follow political boundaries.  The Dowagiac River Watershed includes all or part of 20 municipalities (16 townships, 2 cities and 2 villages).  The headwaters of the Dowagiac River are located in southern Van Buren County.  The Dowagiac River flows through Cass County and joins the St. Joseph River in Berrien County near Niles.  The largest tributary is the Dowagiac Creek.  Other significant tributaries include McKinzie Creek, Pokagon Creek, Peavine Creek, Silver Creek and Lake of the Woods Drain.   


The Dowagiac River Watershed has a unique hydrology, being one of the most heavily groundwater fed rivers of its size in the state.  This unique hydrology is a result of over 80 percent of the watershed being comprised of highly permeable sandy and sandy loam soils and the amount of open space in the watershed.  The benefits of this hydrological system is that the river exhibits cold-year round temperatures and stable year-round flows.


The hydrology of the watershed and water quality of the ground and surface waters are threatened by growth and development in the watershed that does not protect natural resources and sensitive hydrological areas.  If not planned carefully, growth and development will cause water currently reaching the river through groundwater to be redirected and reach the river through overland flow via runoff from impervious surfaces.  This threatens to increase river water temperatures and disturb its flow regime - creating a flashy river with high flows after storm events and low base flows.  A change in the hydrology of the river would also increase stream bank soil erosion and could result in more pollutants reaching surface waters.


About the Dowagiac River Watershed Project

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) provided grant funds to the Cass County Conservation District (CCCD) to preserve and improve the water quality and hydrology of the Dowagiac River Watershed. A Watershed Management Plan was developed for the Dowagiac River Watershed.  The goal of the plan is to balance economic growth and development with the protection of water quality and natural resources.  The grant funds also helped to provide educational opportunities to local officials and to provide GIS tools and planning assistance to local units of government.


Resources Developed for the DRW

Watershed Planning: Thinking Regionally: Acting Locally Report

           Appendix A - Review of Master Plans and Zoning Ordinances

           Appendix B - List of Watershed Issues/Concerns

           Appendix C - Summary of Adopted Master Plan Language

           Appendix D - Summary of Adopted Regulatory Language (zoning ordinances)



A series of Resource Papers were developed for the DRW.   These resource papers provided background information to the communities in the watershed for planning and zoning to better protect water quality, natural features, open space and rural character.  The Resource Papers identified and described the various techniques available to individual communities to address the issue/concerns in the watershed.

Click on each Resource Paper Topic:

Farmland Preservation

Open Space Protection

Rural Character Preservation

Sensitive Environmental Areas Protection

Water Quality Protection

Sample Site Plan Review Checklist


Building A Better Understanding of the Dowagiac River Watershed - a companion report to the DRW CD-ROM (The DRW CD-ROM and report can be obtained from the Cass County Conservation District  - call 269-445-8643.)

This report and CD-ROM have been developed to increase participation in protecting and improving water quality in the Dowagiac River Watershed.  The report will explain how to use the CD to find useful information, create maps, and assess impacts of land development in the watershed.  Using the CD, maps can be created that display detailed parcel information, soil characteristics, changes in land use and other important topics.  With just a few mouse clicks, you will begin working with the information needed to  develop a community master plan, improve a local zoning ordinance and begin a site plan review.


This page last updated on 4/4/2020.
Southwest Michigan Planning Commission  
376 West Main Street  Suite 130  Benton Harbor, MI 49022-3651
Phone: 269.925.1137  Fax: 269.925.0288  

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