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NOAA Fisheries Announces $16.7 Million in Funding for Habitat Restoration in the Great Lakes

This is a completed project at the Blausey Tract at Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge in Ohio. Photo credit: The Nature Conservancy

This is a pre-restoration picture of the Howard Farms restoration site outside of Martin, Ohio. Photo credit: NOAA

NOAA Fisheries is making available roughly $16.7 million, through President Obama’s Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, for habitat restoration projects in severely degraded areas of the Great Lakes.

The Great Lakes are one of our most important natural resources—they are the largest freshwater system on earth, and support numerous industries including commercial and recreational fishing, shipping, transportation, and coastal tourism. However, the Great Lakes face many threats including invasive species, oil spills and other pollution, overfishing, and habitat degradation. To date, about 50 percent of the Great Lakes wetlands habitat has been lost. 

“Great Lakes communities deserve a clean and healthy environment,” said Buck Sutter, Director of NOAA’s Office of Habitat Conservation. “We’re excited to support local projects that will help reverse decades of pollution and clear a path for sustainable fishing and other treasured pastimes.”

Funded projects are spread throughout Ohio, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, and New York. They will benefit a variety of important recreational fish species such as lake whitefish, northern pike, and walleye in eight Great Lakes Areas of Concern. This funding builds on years of investment in the Great Lakes to restore waterways threatened by poor water quality, contaminated fish, and other environmental concerns.

The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is a collaborative effort between the Environmental Protection Agency and 15 other federal agencies to build on existing and current work to restore the Great Lakes.

NOAA Fisheries’ investment in the effort to restore aquatic 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. 

Funded Projects 

Lorain, OH ($1,347,644 awarded to the City of Lorain):

Black River Landing and Heron Rookery Restoration Project

The main goal of this project is to restore the physical conditions of the Black River’s riverbank and aquatic habitat to benefit fish and other species by stabilizing the stream bank and restoring in-stream habitat.

Lorain OH ($175,000 awarded to the City of Lorain):

Lower Black River Heron Rookery Restoration Phase II Assessment 

Experts will determine the presence and extent of any subsurface contamination and make recommendations for restoration of a six-acre riverside area to natural conditions. Once restored, this area will be suitable for nesting herons and other birds. In addition, the proposed restoration will expand the floodplain area that is connected to the Black River, providing important water quality benefits to aquatic plants and animals.

Toledo, OH ($1,488,944 awarded to Ducks Unlimited):

The Howard Farms Habitat Restoration Phase II Project in the Maumee AOC

Funding will support the completion of critical infrastructure improvements (e.g. levees, water control structures, pumps, fish passage structure) that were initiated with Phase I of the project. The overall goal of the project is to restore 568 acres of coastal wetlands which will also restore hydrologic exchange, fish access and wetland & upland habitat on the Howard Farms property.

St. Clair, MI ($648,000 awarded to the Huron-Clinton Metropolitan Authority):

Black Creek Marsh Coastal Wetland Restoration Project

This project will reconnect the Black Creek Marsh with Clinton River, restoring marsh habitat and increasing the diversity and abundance of fish species and other wildlife. The project will also increase recreational opportunities within the Lake St. Clair Metropark.

Detroit, MI ($50,000 awarded to the Alliance for the Great Lakes):

Marine Debris Removal and Prevention on Belle Isle

The Alliance will remove 250 tons of debris from the shoreline and will work with over 500 volunteers on local shoreline cleanup efforts. Funding for this project is provided by both GLRI and the National Ocean Service’s Marine Debris Program. 

Detroit, MI ($319,692 awarded to the Friends of the Detroit River):

Hydrological analysis and pre-design of Belle Isle's Lake Okonoka for Habitat Enhancements

A hydrologic analysis, feasibility study and pre-design work will be conducted to complete two important restoration projects: Belle Isle forested wetland restoration and Lake Okonoka reconnection and shoreline restoration. Once implemented, these projects will restore nearly 300 acres of habitat.

Detroit, MI ($2,511,800 awarded to the Macomb County Public Works Office):

Clinton River Spillway Restoration - Phase I Implementation Project

This project will restore four areas within the spillway corridor including replacing an existing concrete rubble shoreline with a living shoreline and addressing invasive species. This project builds off of a previously funded GLRI award that supported the engineering and design of the restoration project.

Muskegon, MI ($5,966,500 awarded to Great Lakes Commission and working with local partners including the West Michigan Shoreline Regional Development Commission):

Muskegon Lake Habitat Restoration Project

This project will remove mill debris from Muskegon Lake, restore open water conditions, and improve fish and wildlife habitat at several sites including the Veterans Memorial Park. The project builds off of a previously funded GLRI award that supported the engineering and design of the restoration needed.

Duluth, MN ($400,000 awarded to Minnesota Department of Natural Resources): 

Chambers Grove Spawning Habitat Enhancement and Shoreline Restoration Project

This project will remove 800 feet of hardened shoreline in a critical spawning area of the St. Louis River estuary. This will help to restore the natural function of the shoreline and to re-establish spawning habitat for lake sturgeon, walleye, and smallmouth bass.

Buffalo, NY ($2,919,053 awarded to the Great Lakes Commission and working with local partners including the Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper):

Buffalo River AOC Habitat Restoration Project 

This project will support the implementation of the Riverfest Park and Blue Tower Turning Basin and support the engineering and design of several additional sites needed to improve habitat in the Buffalo River Area of Concern. 

Milwaukee, WI ($692,626 awarded to Ozaukee County Planning and Parks Department):

Stream and Wetland Restoration in the Ulao Creek Milwaukee Estuary AOC Project

This project will restore high quality spawning, rearing, and nursery habitat for fish and wildlife including important recreational species such as northern pike, walleye and white sucker which have been diminished due to former habitat fragmentation.

Milwaukee, WI ($200,000 awarded to Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District):

Kinnickinnic River Stream and Habitat Rehabilitation Project 

This project will determine the best means to restore lost habitat and improve water quality along nearly 5,000 feet of riverbank on the Lower Kinnickinnic River. Once completed, the restoration will benefit up to 39 species of fish from Lake Michigan and the Milwaukee Estuary Area of Concern.