Newspaper Articles

Newspaper Articles

Great Lakes Cleanup Leads to Community and Economic Revitalization:  August 14th, 2019

Eagles @ DTE Power Plant: February 20th, 2014

State of the Great Lakes 2012:  January 21, 2014

Canal Work Ends for Winter: December 30, 2013

Winged Wonders: December 27, 2013

Pleasant Passageway:  September 27, 2013

DEQ Boss Tours Area Projects: September 7, 2013

BUI Decision Public Comment Period:  August 23rd, 2013

River Improvement Plan Back on Track: August 11th, 2013

Waterloo Dam Bypass Project Moving Ahead: August 1st, 2013

Soaring Again: June 3rd, 2013

Lampreys could Sidetrack Channel Near Dam: June 3rd, 2013

Investing in Ecology: October 27th, 2012

Saving Sterling Island: September 15th, 2012

Trucks Roll in Major Marsh Project: September 8th, 2012

Tackling Pollution: July 11th, 2012

Major River Raisin Projects to Start: June 1st, 2012

Great Lakes Cleanup Leads to Community and Economic Revitalization:  August 14th, 2019

Eagles @ DTE Power Plant: February 20th, 2014

State of the Great Lakes 2012:  January 21, 2014
See Page 17 of the Report Link Below.

Canal Work Ends for Winter:  December 30, 2013
Source: Monroe News
By: Dean Cousino

The project, part of an overall plan to boost recreation opportunities along the river, is about 85 percent done, with remaining work to be done in the spring

Construction of a channel to divert water from the River Raisin around the Waterloo Dam at Veterans Park in Monroe is about 85 percent completed, with the remainder of the work suspended for the winter.

The bulk of the bypass canal at the park off N. Custer Rd. has been finished, with landscaping, seeding and other site cleanup and restoration items to be done in the spring, said Dan Swallow, director of economic and community development for the City of Monroe.

The work could resume in March or April, depending on the weather, Mr. Swallow said.

The contractor is digging a canal through a portion of the park to skirt the higher dam. A gravel access road was built and areas of the park remained cordoned off to the public because of the work.

The canal is an integral part of an overall plan to increase recreational opportunities and bring better fishing, canoeing and kayaking to the river.

All other sections of the plan essentially have been completed, said Barry LaRoy, director of water and wastewater utilities for the city. These include the dams behind the Monroe Post Office and near Virginia Dr. off W. Elm Ave.

“The last portion of the work to make the project fully functional is finishing the channel” at the Waterloo Dam, Mr. LaRoy said.

The contractor planned to set a footbridge and open the channel soon at the dam, according to Scott Dierks, senior engineer for Cardno JF New, an Ann Arbor consulting firm that is working with the city’s engineering department.

The new channel is to include a mechanism allowing it to be closed off as a safeguard to potential migration of the invasive sea lamprey, which preys on fish. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Michigan Department of Environmental Quality requested the controls after studying the channel plan.

The entire project is being paid for mostly with grants from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. It included building rock ramps at the two low-head dams between the Roessler St. bridge and St. Mary’s Park. The aim is to allow for fish migration upstream to points west of the city.

Work finished on the low-head dams and was nearing completion at the Grape Dam and mill race just west of Ida-Maybee Rd., Mr. Dierks said in a recent engineering update on the overall project.

When the Waterloo Dam work is completed, the passage for fish as well as recreational vessels such as kayaks largely will be unimpeded from the dam at the Old Mill in Dundee all the way to Lake Erie, Mr. Swallow said.

Winged Wonders: December 27, 2013
Source: Monroe News

By: Suzanne Nolan Wisler

Most people know what a snowy owl looks like thanks to “Harry Potter.”

The mostly white bird is the young magician’s companion and helper.

But around these parts, they’re not common sights. They generally make their homes north of mid-Michigan and into Canada.

But this year, local birders made what they conside an exciting find — a snowy owl near Ida.

Nick Assenmacher and his family spotted the owl atop a utility pole and lines and in the adjacent field after it caught a mouse, said Jerry Jourdan, who compiles local results for the annual Christmas Bird Count, which was held Dec. 21.

It’s the first snowy owl to be recorded in the local count’s 44-year history, he said.

The veteran birder, however, said he wasn’t surprised at the sighting. Snowy owls are being seen more regularly in the Great Lakes region.

Just as decorating Christmas trees and getting together with family and friends has become a Christmas tradition, the Christmas Bird Count (CBC) is a tradition for bird-watching enthusiasts. The national event sponsored by the National Audubon Society has been taking place since 1900.

Monroe County has been involved for 44 years, said Mr. Jourdan, who’s tabulated local results since 1980.

This year’s Monroe-area count was held on a rainy Dec. 21 with 25 people participating.

Besides the snowy owl, the count officially recorded the area’s first white-winged scoter, rough-legged hawk and red-shouldered hawk, said Mr. Jourdan.

The CBC is the “largest single citizen science event in the world,” said the Erie Shores Birding Association, longtime local count sponsors.

“Participation helps contribute to the most comprehensive, longest-running database in ornithology, which provides valuable information regarding the distribution and abundance of early winter bird populations all over the Western Hemisphere,” the association said.

It all began as a way to save birds.

That long-ago Christmas Day, ornithologist Frank Chapman proposed the Christmas Bird Census as an alternative to the annual Christmas Side Hunt, which encouraged participants to shoot birds and bring in the largest pile of feathers.

The 1900 count involved 27 birders and 25 circles from Toronto to Pacific Grove, Calif. Participants counted 90 species.

Christmastime was chosen as it marks the end of fall migration.

Today, more than 50,000 birders throughout the Western Hemisphere participate in 1,700 counts. Birds can be counted for two days before and after the count date, said Mr. Jourdan, and counting at all times of day is encouraged.

“Typically we have between 15 to 25 helping to count as many birds and species in the 15-mile radius count circle over a 24-hour period,” said Mr. Jourdan.

He enjoys looking back at the count’s history and sees encouraging news among bird populations.

In 2006, Monroe produced 82 species, the highest in the state.

“The Monroe count consistently places in the top three or four counts in the state in terms of number of species, and most years, No. 1 in terms of total numbers,” said Mr. Jourdan.

This year, participants counted 74 species.

“If you look at the historical data, it is interesting to see how the count has developed over the years. We have early records of such birds as barn owls, snowy owls and rails that have not been seen in the county for over 20 years,” he said.

“We are beginning to record species that are typically wintering in more southern states, like great egrets and northern mockingbirds,” Mr. Jourdan said.

“Bald eagles have made a dramatic recovery the past 10 years, and the Monroe Power Plant and its warm-water discharge has contributed to the recovery by providing wintering grounds for the birds. A few years ago we counted over 200 bald eagles during our Christmas Count.”

This year, they counted 103 eagles.

Pleasant Passageway

September 27th, 2013

Source: Monroe News
By: Charles Slat

Tons of rock and stone are being dumped into the River Raisin in Monroe to sculpt the waterway into a more pleasant passageway for fish and people.
Lee & Ryan, a Greenfield, Ind., contractor, is altering the areas around low dams in the river, creating a better spawning ground for game fish and better fishing grounds for anglers.

“We’re putting little swales in it for the fish and also some sitting stones,” explained Renne Mitchell, site superintendent for Lee & Ryan.
The crew used heavy equipment to ferry in huge boulders, “armor stone” and smaller crushed rock to the dam just south of Roessler St. so fish can make their way upriver to feed and spawn.
It’s another segment of an overall project begun last year to improve habitat and eliminate a series of dams that tend to block fish migration from Lake Erie.

The depth near the dam off W. Elm Ave. across from Norman Towers has been decreased to less than two feet from five feet by filling the downstream side of the dam with rock.
Mr. Mitchell said 2,300 tons of rock are being used to create better fish passage and better protect nearby banks and sewer lines that cross the river in the area.
The work on the dam was expected to be completed by today and the crew will move to a similar dam a bit farther downstream where 2,100 tons of rock are expected to be used in the same fashion.

Barry LaRoy, director of water and wastewater utilities for the City of Monroe, said placing the rocks along the dam above Sister’s Island was a bit complicated.
“The island splits the flow of the river as the flow goes around it,” he said. Placement of the stones had to account for that.

The “sitting stones” — large boulders placed just downstream of the dam — will provide a resting place for migrating fish because they will serve to block the force of the current for the fish before they proceed up over the dam and traverl farther upstream.

The boulders also will be handy perches for anglers who will be able to wade easily into that part of the river on top of the newly placed stone.
Dams removed or lowered last year already have seemed to improve the number of game fish in the river in downtown areas and has increased the number of fishermen in the downtown area.

After work on the two dams south of Roessler St. is completed, Lee & Ryan workers will move on to creating a fish channel through part of Veterans Park to skirt the Waterloo Dam and then will improve fish passages at the dam at Ida-Maybee Rd.

All the work is expected to be completed by the end of November at an expected cost of $1.39 million, mostly paid by federal grants.

DEQ boss tours area projects
September 7th, 2013

Source: Monroe News
By: Charles Slat

Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Director Dan Wyant got a glimpse Friday of local efforts to reclaim old industrial sites.

Work is under way to remove or lower more dams along the River Raisin in Monroe to improve game fish spawning and migration from Lake Erie.

A new building addition has popped up at the area’s sewage treatment plant to reduce the chances of pollution from overflows during rainy weather.

And an abandoned riverfront paper mill building laden with hazards soon will be demolished and the land restored to natural riverbank.

They are a few of the City of Monroe’s environmental projects that led Michigan’s environmental chief to embark on a day-long tour of the community Friday.

Dan Wyant, director of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, met with community leaders and then went on a bus tour of area environmental projects, many of which used brownfield grants and loans to turn old or contaminated industrial buildings and land into new industrial sites, houses and even a national park.

Mr. Wyant said his visit to Monroe was part of a goal to visit 60 communities within the next year to familiarize himself with the challenges and successes they have experienced and how the DEQ might assist them better.

“The highlight today is brownfield development, and we got a nice list today of how we could make the program better. That was the big take-away for me,” he said.

“We’ve undersold and underperformed on brownfield redevelopment recently,” he said. “What I heard here today is that jobs are fundamental and bringing back the tax base is key. We have a role in protecting the public health and the environment, but we also want to balance that with a focus on brownfield development.”

Earlier, Mr. Wyant told community leaders and regulatory partners attending a tour kickoff at the Port of Monroe office that Monroe’s track record in reclaiming brownfields “could be the model for other communities.”

While reflecting on the area’s successes, Port Commission Chairman Thomas Krzyston said he felt the next big redevelopment challenge in the area will be the former Ford Motor Co. plant in Monroe, once the area’s biggest employer.

The aged and sprawling industrial plant, part of which still is used for parts warehousing, is on a 500-acre site where industrial poisons were entombed during a previous environmental clean-up.
He said demolition of the obsolete plant might cost from $8 million to $16 million, but would provide potential sites for several new smaller manufacturing facilities, especially because the site already is served by water, electricity, sewer, rail, roads and natural gas.

Mike Gifford, regional brownfield coordinator for the Environmental Protection Agency, said reclaiming old industrial sites is a good investment.
“For every dollar we invest in a project, it leverages another $17 in public and private investment,” he said.

Among the sites Mr. Wyant toured by bus Friday were DTE Energy’s Monroe Power Plant; the Gerdau steel plant; Ventower, the wind-tower manufacturer; former Consolidated Paper Co. property; water and wastewater treatment plants; the River Raisin dam projects; River Raisin National Battlefield Park; Mason Run housing community; Townes on Front Street condominiums; River Bend Commons, and the La-Z-Boy Incorporated headquarters construction site.

BUI Decision Public Comment Period
August 23rd, 2013

The Public Comment Period for the BUI permits is now open. If you have an interest in the BUI process, please follow the links below for more information.

You can view the meeting calendar at:,1607,7-135-3308_3325—,00.html

The draft removal documentation is available at:

The public comment period ends on September 9th, so please take care to have your comments in before that time.

River improvement plan back on track
August 11th, 2013

Source: Monroe News

Did the Waterloo Dam canal project just dodge a bullet?

A years-long plan to bring better fishing, canoeing and kayaking to the River Raisin seemed to be in jeopardy just as it was gaining steam. The improved recreational opportunities depended substantially on building a channel to divert water around the Waterloo Dam at Veterans Park on N. Custer Rd.

The idea was to entice more fish from Lake Erie into the river while also making it possible to canoe the 23 miles between Dundee and Lake Erie. Work already has been done on some of the other dams in the river.

Enter the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, which heard about the project from a fishing blog.

The 11th-hour concern: Proposed changes also might invite the dreaded sea lamprey to move up the river, spawn and multiply.
It isn’t a frivolous concern. The lamprey is deadly, preying on all species of Great Lakes fish, including our prized walleye. They attach themselves to fish and suck out fluids until the host is destroyed.

Dale Burkett, director of the sea lamprey control project for the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, explained recently that about $20 million is spent on the lakes each year to keep the lamprey under control. But new projects such as the Waterloo channel can threaten a delicate balance.

Thankfully the City of Monroe heard last week that the work can continue if some modifications are made. Dan Stefanski, a member of the city’s Committee on the Environment, will propose a closeable gate that could be shut if lamprey seemed to be on the way.

The next step will be to get final approval of that contingency so that the work can be completed and the public can start enjoying the results of years of dreams, plans and finding funding.
When completed, it will mean small watercraft can get through downtown Monroe’s portion of the river and out to the lake for the first time in 70 years.

It means another enhancement that supports other relatively recent changes: a multi-million-dollar effort to remove toxic sediment from the river, a riverwalk that spans long stretches along the south side, park and riverfront development, and the creation and growth of the Detroit International Wildlife Refuge.

Jon Allan, director of the Michigan Office of the Great Lakes, was in Monroe recently to check up on grant-funded environmental projects. He was pleased and impressed with the thoughtful approach to the local initiatives, bringing environmental improvements, recreation potential and the public together.

Like those who plant trees, the believers who have envisioned the River Raisin as it could be are people who mark the future by years and even decades, not in months or a few seasons.
The river, marshes, wildlife and lake are priceless natural resources that have been neglected and abused too often in the past. They cannot be returned to pristine condition, but they can be improved, appreciated and protected from here on.

The individuals and agencies involved deserve the thanks of the entire community for bringing the pieces together to start realizing results. It is exhilarating to think about the future and the exciting advancements still to come.

Waterloo Dam bypass project moving ahead
August 1st, 2013

Source: Monroe News
By: Charles Slat

Concerns about the potential for sea lamprey infestations will not dash a plan to build a canal around the Waterloo Dam at Veterans Park.
A plan to build a canal that will skirt the Waterloo Dam at Veterans Park on the River Raisin apparently is a step closer to reality with conditional approval from federal wildlife officials.

The project, part of an effort to improve fish habitat in the river by removing dams along the waterway, was in question due to concerns that such a canal would provide passage for invasive and parasitic sea lampreys as well as game fish.

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service did not want to see the Waterloo Dam canal project begin until it took surveys for lamprey larvae and did other studies of the proposal.

“We just got a report on it,” said Dan Stefanski, a member of the City of Monroe’s Committee on the Environment. “They want us to build a safeguard in just in case we get infested with the lamprey, but they’re going to support our request.”

“We’re going to have to develop something to submit. I’m going to suggest a slide gate,” he said.

Mr. Stefanski, who also serves on a citizen advisory panel on cleaning up the river, was part of a contingent of local officials and state Department of Natural Resources officials who hosted Jon Allan, director of the Michigan Office of the Great Lakes, on a tour of grant-funded environmental project in the Monroe area.

Mr. Allan wanted to see first-hand progress made on river-related projects that will get the River Raisin taken off a federal list of highly contaminated sites around the Great Lakes.
Mr. Allan said he was impressed with what he saw. “There’s been spectacular progress on the river and the dams to improve habitat and reconnect people to that water body,” he said.

The tour included visits to the Port of Monroe, other sites along the river where low dams were removed and replaced with rock arches last year, Sterling State Park and the Waterloo Dam.

Dr. John Hartig, manager of the Detroit International Wildlife Refuge, also provided an overview on the growth of the refuge, which now includes 5,800 acres from the River Rouge down to the Michigan-Ohio line.

He also said refuge officials will be celebrating memos of understanding with Canadian officials to solidify their international cooperation on conservation during ceremonies Aug. 17 at the Erie State Game Area.

Mr. Stefanski said it is likely that a closeable gate will be incorporated into the canal to shut if off if lamprey seem to be migrating upstream.

He was unsure if the $1.5 million canal project could be started this year, although a contract for the work, including two other downstream dams, is expected to be awarded soon.

Mr. Allan said the projects were impressive, but so was the citizen participation.
“It’s pretty spectacular. The level of engagement in the community has been so phenomenal,” he said.

His office coordinates state agency input and works with federal agencies on projects “to try to prioritize them so we get most bang for the buck for these federal dollars,” he said.
“This is a very holistic viewpoint about the river,” Mr. Allan added. “It shows how we’re thinking about the health of the whole river and how to connect people to the river.”

Soaring Again
June 3rd, 2013

There are more eagles in Monroe County today than there were 200 years ago during the early years of the French Town settlement.

“We’re seeing more bald eagles than the settlers would have seen,” said Gerry Wykes, a retired interpreter for the Huron-Clinton Metroparks and Frenchtown Township resident. Mr. Wykes remembers taking a class of students to a bald eagle’s nest in a woodlot near Swan Creek off Port Sunlight Rd. near Estral Beach in the late 1980s. “It was one of the first nests built in Monroe County at the time,” he recalled last week. “It got to be well known. The nest was so big, you could see it from” U.S. Turnpike. The fact the nest is still around today is a testament to the comeback the predator bird has made in the region in the past 25 years.

Thanks to a ban on the pesticide DDT, pollution-control measures and legislation, the bald eagle is no longer on the endangered and threatened species list as it was in the 1960s and ’70s. Instead, the national symbol for freedom and democracy is thriving along the Lake Erie shoreline and its numbers continue to grow rapidly.

“It’s amazing what conservation can do,” Mr. Wykes said. “That’s our national symbol. It’s one thing that most people are aware of and concerned about that it (won’t) go extinct. It scared everybody to the point where they said we can’t let it go.”

Almost extinct

Yet they almost did become extinct. A study of nests that existed from 1961 to 1987 showed no bald eagle young were produced in Michigan during that time. The eagle, which has been protected by federal laws from hunters since the early 1900s, saw its numbers drop to almost zero in Michigan. Mr. Wykes cited several reasons why their numbers decreased.

First, at one time in the 1900s, farmers shot them in their fields and many of the eagle eggs were collected and sold for money.
Thieves would take the eggs from their nests and blow the yoke out and decorate the shells, Mr. Wykes said.
The biggest reason they almost disappeared was the lack of laws to protect the birds, their food and habitat.
“The bottom fell out in the late 1950s when DDT was sprayed in fields and it got into the food chain when it drained into rivers and streams,” Mr. Wykes said. “DDT was a real nasty thing after World War II. It didn’t kill them, but had a big impact on their eggs.” Eagles eat both live and dead fish and ducks in the lakes and other dead animals. Eagles are at the end of the food chain. With the DDT chemical in their digestive systems, some eaglets were born with malformed beaks or their egg shells were “super thin,” he said. When the mother eagle sat on them, they broke, killing the young. “Around 1969, at the height of the DDT scare, only 38 percent of bald eagle nests were able to produce any young,” Mr. Wykes said. “The rest all failed.”

DDT was banned for most uses in 1972, but it has long-lasting effects. Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and other heavy metals used in Monroe’s paper mills and other industries also threatened the eagles and other natural predators like ospreys by seeping into their food chain.

Numbers Rise

Eventually, with new federal laws being enacted in the 1970s and ’80s to protect the eagles, the tide began to change and more eaglets survived. A Michigan bald eagle survey started in 1986 found 86 pairs of eagles nesting in the state. The large birds require a large body of water nearby like the western basin of Lake Erie to sustain nests. By 2011, their number had grown to 700 nesting pairs.

“That’s a very healthy population and a dramatic change from what had been,” he said. “All it took was preservation. The DDT ban and pollution-control measures made a difference.”

Employees for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service monitored eagles in the mid-1980s to gather data on the birds. They placed metal or plastic bands on the legs of the young and also took blood samples to check for body weight and to determine the amount of mercury and other pollution in the birds. Annual bird counts by organizations like the Erie Shores Birding Association also produced evidence of the eagles’ rebound. In the Christmas Bird Count last December, 83 bald eagles were found in the area of DTE’s Monroe Power Plant. The survey showed 46 adults plus 37 young birds with dark heads and that were younger than 5.

The survey also counted 46 red-tailed hawks and almost 40 Downy woodpeckers, another positive sign for the environment.

“Bob Pettit (a member of of the Erie Shores Birding Association) told me they saw so many eagles it was almost not eventful to find one, Mr. Wykes said. “That’s how far we’ve come.”

Around 1987, the first pair of eaglets produced in Wayne County in 100 years were found in Pointe Mouillee and banded by the FWS. That marked another breakthrough in the birds’ comeback, as food sources for the birds like Walleye and Perch began to rebound.

“They are a great feeder fish,” he said about the eagles. “The walleye and perch are important for their survival. There’s an important economic reason to keep them here” as well.

Work Not Done

But despite the rising number of eagles in the area, there remains some doubts about their future, Mr. Wykes said. Eaglets being sampled are still showing traces of PCBs in their system or some malformations are still being found, so there are still some dangers out there.

“We should be constantly vigilant,” he said. “We’re happy that they’re back, but the work isn’t done yet. Their presence is a sign of a healthy ecosystem. But like salamanders and fresh-water clams, they could soon disappear if pollution continues and their habitat is destroyed.”

Lampreys could Sidetrack Channel Near Dam
June 3rd, 2013

Fears of a sea lamprey invasion might scuttle a plan to create a channel this summer that would allow the River Raisin to bypass the Waterloo Dam near Veterans Park. The project is part of a continuing effort to improve fish migration upriver from Lake Erie and provide better opportunities for anglers, canoeists and kayakers, but some are worred it could lead to a sea lamprey infestation in the river. Four dams on the river were altered last year; two dams were removed and arched rock ramps were installed at two others, creating mini-rapids and freshets.

The second phase of the project would modify two more dams just east of the Roessler St. bridge and slightly downstream east of Sister’s Island, according to Patrick M. Lewis, director of engineering and public services for the City of Monroe, and permits have been issued for the work. Rock arches and rapids will be created at those dams, similar to what was done at dams near the water treatment plant and Winchester St. bridge last year. But a plan to develop a channel through Veterans Park that will divert the river’s flow around the Waterloo Dam awaits approval due to questions about whether it will increase the chances of parasitic sea lamprey invading the river. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Michigan Department of Environmental Quality are studying the issue and whether the bypass channel would allow sea lamprey to migrate up the river from Lake Erie.

“We’re currently in the process of going out and doing barrier inspections and larval assessment surveys,” said Jessica Barber, a fish biologist with the USFWS. “We’re hoping to get all field work completed by the middle of June, but that’s really dependent on water levels.”

She said the federal agency learned about the channel project through a fishing blog.

Sea lampreys are a parasitic invasive species that attach themselves to adult fish and use a sucker-like mouth to grind wounds into the side of the fish and suck out body fluids, often killing the host fish.

A single lamprey can destroy 40 pounds of fish and they target the largest adult fish, explained Dale Burkett, director of the sea lamprey control project for the Ann Arbor-based Great Lakes Fishery Commission. Lampreys prey on all species of large Great Lakes fish, including lake trout, whitefish, walleye, catfish, and sturgeon. Removing the dams on the river in Monroe is part of a plan to make it easier for game fish to migrate from Lake Erie up the river, but the concern is that lamprey also will travel upstream, spawn and multiply.

Officials are expected to decide by Aug. 1 whether to allow the Waterloo Dam work or nix the plan. Mr. Barber said it might be allowed, but require application of a lamprey-killing chemical treatment.

“The underlying issue is whether or not that would allow adult lamprey to access an area suitable for spawning,” Mr. Burkett said. “That would be the threat to Lake Erie.”

The work on the dams is expected to cost about $1.5 million, mostly paid from federal Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grants. The Waterloo Dam project, which would include a footbridge over the new canal, is expected to represent about a third of the cost of the dam work this year, Mr. Lewis said. He said the two smaller dams in Monroe, plus a dam on the river near Ida-Maybee Rd., probably would see work this year and contracts would be sought within about a month.

“As far as we’re concerned, this project is going to happen,” Mr. Lewis said. “The only hiccup is what will happen at the Waterloo Dam.”

Mr. Burkett said the lamprey problem has been under reasonable control since the late 1960s, largely because about $18 million to $20 million is spent annually on sea lamprey control throughout the Great Lakes region. But the critters can devastate the fishery if they get out of hand.

“Individual projects like this need to be evaluated for their threat potential,” he said. “The River Raisin is kind of a microcosm of the larger issue.”

Investing in ecology
October 27th, 2012

An earthen mound at the state park is being restored to prairie, and dirt is being used to build a dike for better fish and plant habitat.

It is a recycling project on a grand scale that ultimately might please flora and fauna as well as nature-lovers near Sterling State Park.

Contractors have constructed an earthen dike off E. Elm Ave. east of I-75 into the marshlands of the state park to help regulate water levels within the marshy areas.

“The dike will include a water-control structure — a pump and box culvert with gates — near Elm Avenue that will allow us to flood or de-water the marsh within the diked area to provide seasonal habitat for migratory shorebirds and allow for better vegetation management, including phragmites control in the marsh,” explained Glenn Palmgren, an ecologist with the stewardship unit of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ Parks and Recreation Division. The structure will be left open to allow fish passage into and out of the marsh whenever it is not being specifically flooded or de-watered for birds or invasive plant control.

The dike was being built with dirt from the long-time giant mound in the park that has been known for years as “the volcano” and that mound is being flattened and restored to lakeplain prairie.
The work is part of $3.42 million in projects at Sterling funded by federal Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grants. About $2.8 million is being spent directly on construction-related costs and the rest is being used for the annual phragmites control work and fish/wildlife/wetlands monitoring.

Mr. Palmgren reports that there are no plans for a formal trail or road on the new dike, but it will be walkable by the public for fishing, bird-watching or other activities once complete.
The dike will be accessible only from the nearby River Raisin Heritage Trail, which runs from E. Elm into the park.

“Although there are currently no plans for a designated or improved trail on the new dike, pedestrians may wander off the Heritage Trail onto the dike at their leisure, if they wish, for fishing, wildlife observation, or just walking around once it is completed,” Mr. Palmgren explained.

The Sterling projects are on schedule and are expected to be substantially complete by the end of the year, assuming no significant problems arise in the months ahead, he said.

by Charles Slat
source: Monroe Evening News

Saving Sterling Island
September 15th, 2012

A $500,000 federal grant is being used to prevent further erosion of the small man-made island near Hellenberg Park.

In a classic battle between man and nature, workers are using big machines and tons of rock to restore the shoreline and prevent more erosion of man-made Sterling Island in the River Raisin near Hellenberg Park.

Work is under way on a $500,000 grant-funded project to preserve and contour the deteriorating banks of the island, which is connected to the park by an arched footbridge.
The project is using a federal Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grant to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and it could be completed within a month, officials said.
When finished, a “rock vane,” or stony barrier, will jut into the river from the western tip of the island in an effort to keep debris and ice floes from further eroding the shoreline and depositing silt along the downstream riverbed. A stony barrier also will line portions of the riverside shoreline to guard against further erosion caused by waves. Erosion already has undercut some parts of the shoreline by as much as five feet, officials found. A timber stairway and earthen landing also will be created on the island end of the footbridge.

The work is part of a coordinated series of projects to get the lower River Raisin near the Port of Monroe removed from a list of federal “areas of concern” – dozens of sites around the Great Lakes where waters are so polluted that wildlife and recreation uses are impaired.

“It’s a one-man show right now,” said a worker for Michigan Marine Services, a South Rockwood subcontractor for Inland Lakes of Pontiac, who was constructing the stone barrier on Wednesday.
The worker, who declined to be identified, was using a massive backhoe to load tons of rock onto a barge at the shoreline of the park, then periodically ferrying it to the island’s shoreline, gradually building the barrier out into the river from the tip of the island.

“We put about 120 to 140 tons of rock on each barge load,” he said.

Once the barge is full, a portable engine jacks up two anchoring pilings and the barge is positioned by boat at the project site and the backhoe is used to build the barrier in the water, bucketful by bucketful.

Part of the project will include gradual sloping of badly eroded island shoreline and creating a shallower area near the banks to create a better habitat for fish and vegetation. Early in June, state surveyors found 29 species of fish near the island, including bass, walleye and pike.

The area is cordoned off while construction continues and the entry to the footbridge is blocked. The work has been continuing for almost two weeks, although availability or rock and theft and vandalism to the machines have hampered efforts, the worker said. Vandals smashed out the rear window of a small earth-mover, damaged the controls and have stolen batteries.

by Charles Slat
source: Monroe Evening News

Trucks roll in major marsh project
September 8th, 2012

When the work is completed at year-end, prairie and marshland will be restored and fish habitat enhanced, officials say.

Crews have begun a wetland restoration project at Sterling State Park that will improve fish habitat and make part of the lagoon system shallower.

Construction of a temporary earthen causeway/dam has begun that will stretch across the northernmost portion of the lagoon system not far from the park’s entry road, just south of the existing paved causeway.

Once the temporary dam is completed, water will be pumped out and soil added, reducing the depth from about nine feet to create a 3 to 3½-foot contour in an area of about 17 acres, said Ray Fahlsing, stewardship unit manager for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ parks and recreation division. “It will be contoured to eliminate the deeper water closer to the shoreline,” he said.

The area then will be refilled with water, submerged plants cultivated and the earthen dam then removed. “The project is slated to be completed by the end of the year,” Mr. Fahlsing said.

When the project is done, the area will not appear much different to the casual observer, but below the surface the difference will be dramatic.

He noted that the lagoons initially were created decades ago when original marshland areas were excavated to create the park.

Mr. Fahlsing said the effort is to restore wetlands, improve fish habitat and improve shore-fishing opportunities in that area. The $1.5 million project is funded through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grant and is part of a larger $3.4 million program to restore wetland areas, prairieland, control invasive species in the park and improve dikes.

by Charles Slat
source: Monroe Evening News

Tackling pollution
July 11th, 2012

Massive cleanup of River Raisin under way

Boaters on the River Raisin are being urged to use caution in an area from the Port of Monroe turning basin to the river’s mouth at the Monroe Power Plant due to a massive environmental cleanup of river sediment that began Monday and will continue for months.

Dredges, a survey vessel, floating and submerged pipelines and a number of small utility vessels are dotting the area as part of a $13.7 million effort to clear pollution sediment from the depths of the waterway.

“Our goal is to keep this channel 100 percent safe,” said Loren Anderson, safety manager for J.F. Brennan Co. of LaCrosse, Wis., a federal contractor tasked with removing polluted and toxic sediment from portions of the riverbed closest to its banks.

Mr. Anderson was piloting a utility boat up and down the lower reach of the river in Monroe on Tuesday, pointing out the array of barges, pumps and other equipment that is part of the clean up process.

Signs saying “Danger: Submerged Pipeline” dot the watercourse and orange, heavy plastic piping can be see floating or partially submerged here and there.

Boaters should travel at no-wake speeds and stay within the red and green channel buoys in order not to run afoul of the operation.

The company began on Monday dredging areas where bottom sediment remains laden with high concentrations of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), a now-banned fire retardant with cancer-causing properties that has been found in the fatty tissues of river fish.

The presence of the pollutant, likely from unknown industrial discharges, led to the stretch of river being listed among the Environmental Protection Agency’s areas of concern around the Great Lakes, where pollution problems make conditions unsafe for people and wildlife.

A Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grant is being used to try to rid the river of the remaining pollution.

A mechanical dredge, which has a front-end loader type of scoop on the front covered with a moveable lid, will scoop the most toxic sediment and load it into hoppers. The hoppers then will be lifted from the barge onto an asphalt pad specially constructed to process the waste. The water will be drained from the sediment and treated in a small on-site treatment plant, and the sediment will be mixed with a cement-like powder to thicken it. It then will be trucked to a hazardous waste landfill for disposal.

Tyler Lee, Brennan’s project manager, said an estimated 2,500 cubic yards of the hazardous sediment will be removed in a two- to three-week process. At the same time, about 105,000 cubic yards of less polluted sediment is being vacuumed from the bottom with hydraulic dredges and pumped through a two-mile long plastic pipe down to the river mouth and north to an Army Corps of Engineers disposal facility just north of Sterling State Park.

Meanwhile, a mountain of old dredgings from the disposal area has been trucked in and deposited on the grounds of Ford Motor Co’s River Raisin Warehouse — the former Monroe Stamping Plant — where it is being stored temporarily. The material is being removed to provide room for the sediment being dredged at the Corps’ disposal facility.

Mr. Lee said the dredging operation will last until at least October and will eventually run 24 hours a day, six days a week. So far, 23 workers are being assigned to the job. Some are staying at the River Raisin Marina & Campground adjacent to the company’s temporary base of operations.

by Charles Slat
source: Monroe Evening News

Major River Raisin projects to start
June 1st, 2012

Dams will be altered, poisoned sediment exhumed, and island and marsh areas restored as part of more than $23 million in grant-funded projects planned for the River Raisin this year.

When the work is completed by the end of this year, at least six river dams from near Winchester St. in Monroe to Ida-Maybee Rd. in Raisinville Township will be altered to increase fish passage and recreational uses, toxins in the riverbed near the Port of Monroe will be removed, the banks of Sterling Island will be improved, and canals and marshes in Sterling State Park will be restored.
It ultimately is expected to enhance recreational opportunities in the area and eliminate environmental hazards that have been around for more than a generation.

State agencies are conducting final reviews of the dam project, which will be done in two phases using federal Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grants.

In a project estimated to cost $1.3 million, cuts will be made through the dams near the rail trestle at Winchester St. and at the dam near the city’s water treatment plant. “Those two need to be addressed first to get the fish coming up,” said Daniel Stefanski, head of the city’s Commission on Environment and Water Quality.

Although there once was talk of removing all dams completely and putting in arched rows of rocks to create passageways and little rapids, the current project involves removing only the dams near the S. Macomb St. bridge and the Martin Luther King Jr. pedestrian bridge, while cutting notches into each of the other dams that will allow fish to travel upstream from Lake Erie and canoeists and kayakers to travel downstream easier.

At the dams being removed, some rocks and rubble will be left behind to provide pools, ponds and eddys to provide a natural look.

Some of the dams simply cannot be removed because sewage and other utility lines are encased within them.

The second phase of the project, expected to cost $1.5 million, will involve modification of the dam near River Park Plaza east of S. Roessler St. and at the Waterloo dam near Veterans Park. It also is hoped to provide passage at the dam west of Ida-Maybee Rd.

“The goal is to get it open all the way to Dundee,” explained Barry LaRoy, a member of the city committee.

Meanwhile, bank improvements will be conducted at Sterling Island near Hellenberg Park across the river from the River Raisin Battlefield National Park. The goal is to preserve the island, control erosion and sediment and improve fish habitat, Mr. LaRoy said. A $500,000 Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grant will pay for it and the project is expected to be complete by September.

The biggest project is a $17.3 million effort to remove all the contaminated sediment from the River Raisin near the Port of Monroe. Dredging is expected to start July 9. “Three months later, we hope to be done dredging the river,” said Scott Cieniawski, project manager for the Environmental Protection Agency. About $11.2 million is coming from the federal Great Lakes Legacy Act and $6.1 million from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

About 109,000 cubic yards of sediment will be removed using hydraulic and mechanical dredging. Much of it is tainted with polychlorinated biphenyls, a toxin once widely used as a fire retardant and believed to have found its way into the river from industries that once operated in the area.

The most concentrated poisons will be trucked to a Wayne County landfill. Less hazardous materials will be pumped through a 2-mile underwater pipe stretching from the river and up the coast, about 1,000 feet offshore of the Sterling State Park beach to a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers disposal facility at the state park.

In order to use the Corps’ facility, an equal amount of material has to be removed to maintain capacity for Corps dredged material. The plan is to dig the old dredged material out of the disposal facility and truck it out of the park via N. Dixie Hwy. to E. Elm Ave. and east to the former Monroe Ford plant property, where it will be stored for future uses. The material has been tested and determined to be inert, officials said.

But the trucking operation will involve 40 to 50 trucks a day leaving the park and going to the old Ford plant, or about four per hour over a 12-hour period beginning at 7 a.m. and ending at 6 p.m. Excavation is expected to start Monday and might last into January.

When the project is over, it might lead to removing the river at Monroe as a federal Area of Concern (AOC), a pollution site that has major environmental impacts. “There will be monitoring for a number of years to make sure we got it all,” Mr. Stefanski said.

The River Raisin AOC had nine environmental impacts. One, involving aesthetics, already has been eliminated and the planned dredging project could remove at least three more, including restrictions on eating fish or wildlife from the area, wildlife deformities and restrictions on future dredging.

Another $2.8 million in Great Lakes Restoration Initiative money will involve marsh and prairie restoration work at Sterling State Park, including reducing the depth of a 20-foot deep canal system to improve fish habitat.

by Charles Slat
source: Monroe Evening News