Senator Stabenow Highlights Great Lakes Restoration Success Stories Across Michigan, Importance of Federal Funding

Friday, August 04, 2017

This month, U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow is highlighting Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) success stories throughout Michigan and the importance of federal funding to protect our lakes and waterways. Stabenow today joined the Alliance of Rouge Communities, the City of Wayne, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) on the Rouge River to see the completed Wayne Road Dam Removal and Habitat Improvement Project. Stabenow authored the GLRI in 2010 and is leading the bipartisan effort to stop proposals to eliminate funding for the Initiative next year.


The Wayne Road Dam Removal and Habitat Improvement Project was completed in 2013 and received over $1 million in GLRI funding through NOAA. The project reconnected approximately 121 miles of river and tributaries to the Great Lakes system for the first time in over a century. The dam removal opened up new opportunities for canoeing and kayaking and restored passage for a variety of fish including trout, smallmouth bass, northern pike, and walleye.


“One in five Michigan jobs are tied to water. It is more important than ever to continue investing in the health of our Great Lakes and waterways,” said Senator Stabenow, Co-Chair of the bipartisan Senate Great Lakes Task Force. “This successful project is an excellent example of how Great Lakes funding is helping more Michigan families and visitors enjoy fishing, kayaking, and canoeing in the Rouge River.”


“The Alliance for Rouge Communities and its 41 members truly appreciate the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and Senator Stabenow’s continued support. GLRI funding provided through EPA and NOAA allowed us to restore the habitat in six areas within the Rouge River,” said John O’Meara, Principal Engineer, Alliance of Rouge Communities.  “The Wayne Road Dam Removal and Habitat Improvement project is an excellent example of river restoration when federal, state, and local communities work together. ARC communities have worked together for over 20 years to restore the Rouge River. Senator Stabenow, EPA, NOAA, and the GLRI allow us to build upon our successes and improve the quality of life throughout Southeast Michigan.”

“Habitat restoration creates a big return on investment,” said Julie Sims, Great Lakes Regional Coordinator, NOAA Restoration Center. “It’s more than just better fishing—restoration projects can improve local property values, aid in flood control, improve access for recreation and add jobs to the economy.”

According to the University Research Corridor, more than 700,000 Michigan jobs, one in five in the state, are tied to water. GLRI is critical to cleaning up our Great Lakes, beaches, and waterways for swimming, boating, and fishing; fighting invasive species like Asian carp, and protecting our Michigan way of life. Michigan projects have received more than $400 million in funding from the GLRI since its establishment. Michigan has an estimated 2,850 miles of coastal water trails as well as an estimated 1,280 miles of inland water trails. Our canoe and kayak industry annually contributes $140 million to our state’s economy.


Wayne Road Dam Project Background


The Wayne Road Dam was built in the early 1900s along the Lower Branch of the Rouge River in the City of Wayne to provide water for firefighting. The 3-foot-high Wayne Road Dam no longer served a public purpose and acted as a barrier to fish and promoted the accumulation of sediment and debris behind the dam.


Removal of the Wayne Road Dam was a priority project for the Rouge River Advisory Council, which is committed to restoring the Rouge River. The Rouge River is one of 14 “Areas of Concern” in Michigan that were identified in the 1980s by the United States and Canadian governments as having severe, long-term environmental problems. Since the establishment of the GLRI, two Areas of Concern in Michigan have been given a clean bill of health or “de-listed” – Deer Lake and White Lake. 


The design was completed under a $57,500 Wayne County Rouge Program Office grant and construction and monitoring of the project was completed under GLRI funding through a NOAA grant of $1,033,536. The project also restored the river’s natural channel and river banks.


Great Lakes Aquatic Connectivity and Infrastructure Program


In addition to leading the effort in the Senate on fully funding the GLRI, Senator Stabenow is also championing legislation to protect and restore our recreational fisheries. In June, she introduced the Great Lakes Aquatic Connectivity and Infrastructure Program Act (S. 1332) to improve Great Lakes fisheries and encourage habitat restoration by repairing and replacing aging damsculverts, and roads.  There are thousands of these structures across the Great Lakes Basin that currently inhibit the movement of fish populations. Great Lakes states and tribal governments will be able to recommend grant projects to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to expand fish access to waterways and work to prevent the spread of invasive species when addressing aging infrastructure.