Detroit Embraces Great Lakes Restoration

Communities across metropolitan Detroit have made huge strides in cleaning up rivers, restoring fish and wildlife habitat, developing greenways and preserving natural features that make the Detroit River and western Lake Erie one of the most ecologically vibrant regions in North America. Consider: 

  • Detroit River system has made a dramatic recovery over the past two decades, the result of tougher environmental policies and the federal government’s investment of more than $150 million for toxic cleanups and habitat restoration in the Detroit, Rouge and other nearby rivers.
  • Whitefish, sturgeon and walleye are thriving in the Detroit River, which for decades was too polluted to support desirable species. The river is now the site of an annual walleye fishing tournament that attract pro anglers from across the country and pumps more than $1 million into the local economy.
  • Bald eagles and osprey are reproducing in the area for the first time in decades.
  • The Rouge River, which skirts Detroit’s south side, was so polluted in the 1960s it caught fire. Today, the river supports a burgeoning fishery.
  • The volume of oil and grease, phosphorus and chlorides discharged to the Detroit and Rouge rivers has been reduced dramatically, leading to better water quality.
  • Raw sewage discharges from Detroit’s massive sewer system have been reduced by more than half.

Below are restoration success stories that will showcase how restoration projects are delivering results for the people of Detroit.

Project Helping to Restore Habitat, Clean up Detroit River Area of Concern
Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funds are helping to restore natural shoreline along the Detroit River to improve coastal habitat, respond to climate change and changing water levels in the Great Lakes and advance efforts to eliminate beneficial use impairments in the Detroit River Area of Concern.

Removal of Abandoned Boats, Marine Debris Sets Stage for Further Restoration at Fordson Island
Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funds are helping to clean up marine debris and abandoned boats to increase recreational opportunities on island.

Projects Working to Improve Fish, Bird Habitat on Detroit’s Belle Isle Park
Great Lakes Restoration Initiative projects are helping to restore fish and wildlife habitat on Belle Isle, a city-owned park in the Detroit River.  Belle Isle, which spans 985 acres, is the nation’s largest island park.

Efforts Help Restore Iconic Rouge River
Two upcoming Great Lakes Restoration Initiative projects in the Rouge River will restore damaged stream banks, restore wetlands, reduce stormwater runoff, decrease flooding and create fish and wildlife habitat.

Preserving Humbug Marsh, Centerpiece of Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge, Receives Global Recognition
Preservation of the Humbug Marsh protected the last mile of natural shoreline on the U.S. side of the Detroit River. The largely pristine, 410-acre marsh is home to numerous fish and wildlife species and stands of old-growth white oaks.

Ford Motor Co.’s Green Roof: Saving Money While Protecting the Environment
A vegetated, living roof installed atop Ford Motor Co.’s massive Rouge plant, in suburban Detroit, was the largest project of its kind when completed in 2003. The living roof conserves energy and reduces stormwater runoff, which is a major problem for the nearby Rouge River.

Removing Toxic Mud in Newburgh Lake in Livonia, Mich., Paves Way for Healthy Fishery
A 1998 sediment cleanup in Newburgh Lake, an impoundment in the Rouge River, removed 544,000 tons of toxic mud and restored a healthy fishery.

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