Removal of Abandoned Boats, Marine Debris Sets Stage for Further Restoration at Fordson Island

Project Summary: Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funds are helping to clean up marine debris and abandoned boats to increase recreational opportunities on island.

Project name: Fordson Island Oxbow Restoration and Marine Debris
Removal Project

Location: The Rouge River in Dearborn, a suburb of Detroit

Description: In 1917, Fordson Island was created when the Rouge River was dredged and channelled to create a deeper channel to and from Ford Motor Company’s Rouge Plant. The deeper channel allowed Ford to transport Eagle Boats, submarine chasers during World War II, from the Rouge River to the deeper water of the Detroit River. Over time, debris from commercial, industrial,

These boats littered the shores of Fordson Island, which had become a dumping ground. Photo courtesy of the Friends of the Rouge.

These boats littered the shores of Fordson Island, which had become a dumping ground. Photo courtesy of the Friends of the Rouge.

and recreational use of the island and surrounding waterway accumulated in the shallow river west of the island. The cleanup project removed 18 abandoned boats and tons of other debris from the shoreline and river. The project will include ecological and habitat surveys, which could lead to the 8.5-acre island becoming a park amid a heavily industrialized area.

Approximate cost of project: $150,000.

Resource challenge addressed: The use of Fordson Island as a makeshift dump for boats left an unsightly mess that degraded fish and wildlife habitat on the island. The abandoned boats likely contributed to soil and water contamination in the lower Rouge River.

Key partners (public and private): U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Detroit/Wayne County Port Authority, Friends of the Rouge, Southwest Detroit Environmental Vision, Detroit Riverkeeper, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Wayne County, City of Detroit Department of Environmental Affairs, Gateway Community Development Collaborative, Detroit Riverfront Conservancy, Marine Pollution Control, Waste Management, Friends of the Detroit River, University of Michigan- Dearborn and AKT Peerless Environmental Services.

Types of jobs created: Backhoe operators, barge operators, truck drivers, environmental scientists, chemists, biologists and zoologists.

Results and accomplishments: Crews removed 18 abandoned boats from the island. Studies are planned to determine the biological health of the island and nearshore areas, and what could be done to make the site a more attractive recreational area.

Web site:

Originally Published: October 10, 2011