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NOAA Fisheries Announces $15.8 Million in Funding for Habitat Restoration in the Great Lakes

October 22, 2013

NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries) has announced roughly $15.8 million in funding for habitat restoration projects in degraded areas of the Great Lakes to restore nearly 1,000 acres of marsh and wetland habitat, and open more than 34 stream miles for fish passage. These projects will benefit more than 40 species of fish, including lake whitefish, northern pike, and walleye.

“We’ve experienced decades of pollution and damage from industrial activity in the Great Lakes,” said Buck Sutter, Director of NOAA’s Office of Habitat Conservation. “We’re excited to invest in projects that will help return our environment to a healthy state.  We want to secure a future in which fishing, boating, and other pastimes remain a treasured part of life throughout the region.”

The economic implications of these kinds of projects are significant. Researchers at Grand Valley State University demonstrated that habitat restoration in the Muskegon Lake Area of Concern in Michigan yielded an increase in economic value to the local economy that was worth six times the value of the original investment. More information on the economic benefits of habitat restoration can be found at NOAA’s Restoration Jobs Portal or by watching the short video Habitat Restoration: An Economic Engine.

In 2013, NOAA’s Restoration Center is funding a number of restoration efforts in Areas of Concern by partnering with various organizations. Through these partnerships, we assist with restoration project design and engineering, on-the-ground restoration work, and project evaluation to inform future restoration efforts. Projects are being funded through both project specific awards and newly established multi-year regional partnerships. The new regional partnerships will provide a mechanism for future years to target priority habitat restoration projects in Areas of Concern.

All projects are supported by the NOAA Restoration Center with funding provided by the U.S. EPA via President Obama’s Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is a collaborative effort between the EPA and 15 other federal agencies to build on existing and current work to restore the Great Lakes.

Restoration efforts will include:

  • Menomonee River Fish Barrier Removal Project, Milwaukee, WI ($142,100): Working with the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District, this project will create engineering and design plans to remove five fish passage barriers along the Menomonee River. The barrier removals will open 34 miles of river habitat to 39 species of fish from Lake Michigan and the Milwaukee Estuary Area of Concern.
  • Stony and Celeron Island Habitat Restoration Design Project, Detroit, MI ($480,620): Working with the Friends of the Detroit River, engineering and design plans will be developed to determine the appropriate restoration techniques to restore wetland and submerged habitat within the degraded and eroded areas adjacent to Stony and Celeron Islands in the Detroit River Area of Concern. Once implemented, we expect to create and protect at least 10,000 linear feet of coastal shoreline and more than 100 acres of marsh and submerged habitat.
  • Rouge River AOC Oxbow Restoration Project - Phase III Design, Dearborn, MI ($256,272): Working with the Alliance of Rouge Communities, this project will evaluate and design the restoration that will be used to reconnect the Oxbow to the Rouge River. Once implemented, this project will improve warm water fisheries, aesthetics, and fish and wildlife populations in the Rouge River Area of Concern.
  • St. Marys River Little Rapids Habitat Restoration Project, Sault St. Marie, MI ($5.9 million): Through a regional partnership with the Great Lakes Commission, this project will restore water flow to historic rapids habitat in the St. Mary’s River. Implementation of this project is the last remaining restoration action needed to remove the AOC’s habitat-related beneficial use impairments (BUIs) and is an important step in delisting the AOC.  This project builds off of a previously funded GLRI award that supported the engineering and design of the restoration project.
  • The Howard Farms Habitat Restoration Project in the Maumee AOC, Toledo, OH ($1,350,000): Through a regional partnership with Ducks Unlimited, this project will restore coastal wetland habitat in Ohio’s western Lake Erie basin and is the largest farmland-to-coastal wetland restoration in the western Lake Erie watershed in many decades. This project will be funded over multiple years, and once fully implemented, at least 2,500 feet of natural stream channel and 980 acres of associated wetland and upland habitats will be restored to the historic Cedar Creek riverbed.  More than 28 fish species will benefit from restoring and reconnecting these coastal marshes to Lake Erie. 
  • Restoration of Radio Tower Bay St. Louis River AOC, Duluth, MN ($1.5 million): Through a regional partnership with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources), Fisheries Division, we will remove approximately 117,000 cubic yards of wood waste, restore historic water depths, and re-establish aquatic vegetation in Radio Tower Bay. The St. Louis River estuary is the largest coastal freshwater wetland ecosystem on Lake Superior and is the most significant source of biological productivity for the western half of the lake, providing critical habitat for fish and wildlife communities. This project builds off of a previously funded GLRI award that supported the initial removal of 215 pilings totaling over 146 metric tons of debris.
  • Remediation of Contaminated Sediment within the Manistique River Great Lakes Area of Concern, Manistique, MI ($6.2 million): Through a multi-year award with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, Water Resources Division, this award provides an initial investment to address contaminated sediments causing fish consumption advisories and restrictions on dredging in the Manistique River Great Lakes Area of Concern.  Polycholorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, are the major pollutants of concern in this AOC and despite previous remedial efforts, still remain at concentrations that restrict fish consumption and dredging. Additionally, large quantities of debris and sawdust that remain in the river from a century’s worth of logging and milling complicate removal. This project will be funded over multiple years and will complete the last remaining actions needed to delist the Manistique River AOC.

NOAA Fisheries’ investment in habitat is part of a long-term effort to rebuild fisheries, many of which have declined from habitat loss, over-fishing and climate change. Recent successes show that restoring habitat is a way not only to stop the decline of fish populations, but also to regrow them to historic high numbers.  For more information on the Initiative and Action Plan, go to:

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