History of the River Raisin

The mouth of the River Raisin hosts the only Michigan port on Lake Erie and was onceRiver Raisin Dam home to abundant lotus beds and sturgeon. The cost of doing business on the River Raisin in Monroe has included some chronic pollution problems, such as PCBs in river sediments and an ongoing need to dredge the lower channel for ship traffic.  In the 1930s, as a Works Progress Administration (WPA) project, a series of dams was constructed to carry sanitary sewer across the River Raisin’s bedrock bottom, but the dams ultimately blocked boats and fish from traveling back up the river from Lake Erie.

These conditions have degraded the environmental quality and potential of the river. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) has listed the river mouth as an Area of Concern (AOC), with “beneficial use impairments” (BUIs) including Degradation and Loss of Fish and Wildlife Populations and Habitat.  As part of this listing process, a Remedial Action Plan (RAP) has been developed by the USEPA, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) and the River Raisin Public Advisory Council to fix or remediate these conditions. Starting in summer of 2012, an initiative now known as the River Raisin Legacy Project commenced to invest more than $23 million to enhance the environmental and recreational opportunities in the River Raisin and nearby Sterling State Park.  Some of the funding will come from a federally-funded program called the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI).

The City of Monroe’s dam remediation project competed against 1,000 other applicants to become one of 270 projects funded under GLRI. When complete, the River Raisin Dam Remediation Project will create gently sloping fish ladders and small boat access passage from Lake Erie to approximately 23 miles of the lower river. Phase I includes the modification of the four low head dams downstream in Monroe and will open 3.5 miles of river channel for passage. Funding for Phase I has been secured through federal grant money and matching funds (approximately $1.27 million and $100,000 respectively). Another approximately $1.6 million has been allocated to Phase II which will add 19.5 miles of accessible river channel upstream to Dundee.

River Raisin Damn RemovalBy reclaiming the River Raisin for free passage of fish and small boats, we hope this project will play a role in the extensive effort to restore, preserve and enhance the natural environments vital to this community. This project will have a cascading effect on wildlife, bringing fish to spawn, freshwater mussels, aquatic insects, waterfowl, and other wetland-dependent fauna back to the area. Fishing, wildlife viewing, bird watching, canoeing and kayaking will soon be available as never before in our lifetime.

To date, four projects have been developed and funded through the USEPA, MDEQ and GLRI grants to the City of Monroe to accomplish the delisting of the AOC.

Timeline of Industry