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Binational group says it has a plan to fund clean-up of Detroit and Rouge rivers

Lester Graham
Michigan Radio
Heavy industry lines the bank of the Detroit River downstream from Detroit's downtown.

A report from a U.S.-Canadian group is calling on Michigan to make clean-up of the Detroit and Rouge rivers possible.

Canada has completed cleaning up polluted sediment on its side of the Detroit River. The U.S. has not.

The State of the Strait group says America's federal Great Lakes Legacy Act could pay 65% of the cost of removing up to 5.1 million cubic meters of contaminated sediment from the Detroit River and also clean up the lower Rouge River.

Since before World War II, the rivers have been lined by heavy industry. The Rouge River even caught fire just as the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland did. Those events led to such a public outcry that the Clean Water Act was passed a few years later. But the legacy pollution remains in the Rouge and the Detroit rivers.

Lester Graham
Michigan Radio
Members of Friends of the Rouge paddle along the lower river before it reaches the Detroit River.

John Hartig with State of the Strait said the Great Lakes Legacy Act requires a non-federal match, but he’s got a suggestion for that.

“In Michigan we have the Renew Michigan Fund that could help with this, and they have helped in other places. But it’s underfunded.”

Hartig noted Michigan’s budget has billions of dollars in surplus.

“Could they give some additional funding to the Renew Michigan Fund to help make the match to capture this moment, to rise to this challenge?” he asked.

Hartig said the Great Lakes Legacy Act has about four to five years of funding left, and Michigan should do something before that window closes.

He pointed to the Detroit River Walk as an example of the kind of greenspace that be restored along some parts of both rivers.

Lester Graham reports for The Environment Report. He has reported on public policy, politics, and issues regarding race and gender inequity. He was previously with The Environment Report at Michigan Radio from 1998-2010.
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