Dam Remediation on the River Raisin: A Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Project

The River Raisin (http://www.epa.gov/glnpo/aoc/rvraisin.html) in southeastern Michigan suffers from a long legacy of degradation. From contamination to fragmentation, the river has seen years of environmental problems, and is officially designated as a Great Lakes Area of Concern. The fish and wildlife habitat loss and fish and wildlife population degradation are included in the river’s Beneficial Use Impairments – a list of the prioritized issues preventing the river from optimal use.

A partnership among both public and private entities recognized that a series of dams were preventing fish passage and recreation through the River Raisin. They applied for and received a grant under the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, and are moving forward with their plans to remove the dam and restore fish populations, improve river conditions

This project is an essential step to delisting the River Raison from the Areas of Concern list. By removing 6 dams along the river, 24 miles of the river will be reconnected and have fish passage access all the way from Lake Erie to Dundee, Michigan. This will be the first time that there will be fish passage this far up the river since the 1930s.

The project has varied plans for each site to handle the change in river elevation once the dam is removed. Some will have a simple rock rapids, while others will have more complex arrays enormous boulders that will allow water flow and fish passage while preserving the integrity of the river banks and water levels and helping to prevent flooding.

The project team had other considerations besides fish passage and recreational boating access. They had to address sediment issues, hydraulics, invasive species, and public perception and outreach. They also had to begin the long process of applying for and receiving permits from the State of Michigan for dam removals. The project will be worth all this hard work in the end, however – it will lead to improved drinking water quality, healthier fish populations, and better communities along the River Raisin and Lake Erie.

This project is one critical piece of many initiatives going forward under the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. For more information on this project, visit the City of Monroe’s project webiste at: http://ci.monroe.mi.us/rrp_description.cfm

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