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Environment & Climate Change

Efforts are being made to boost native fish in St. Clair River

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Wikimedia Commons

Fish populations native to Michigan such as lake sturgeon, walleye, and lake whitefish have been declining in recent years.

As a result, the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative has built spawning reefs in rivers around Michigan, including the St. Clair River.

A spawning reef is a crevice-filled rock bed designed to mimic the natural limestone reefs that previously existed.

In the St. Clair River, the limestone reefs were damaged due to the blasting of shipping canals in rivers connected to lakes Huron and Erie, and from an increased flow of sediments into the system from agricultural and urban runoff.

Jennifer Read is the project manager and the Deputy Director at the University of Michigan Water Center.

“We are not just dumping the rock in and it’s being swirled away in the current,” Read said. “It’s being placed very specifically in very specific locations in the bottom of the river.”

The project will cost $3.5 million.

Construction of the two new fish-spawning reefs is about to begin in the St. Clair River northeast of Detroit, the latest chapter in a decade-plus effort to restore native species. The new reefs will be built this summer and fall at two different locations along the St. Clair. Similar efforts to build fish-spawning reefs have taken place on Belle Isle and the Fighting Islands.

Partners on the project include the U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, The University of Michigan, SmithGroup JJR, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, the Michigan Wildlife Conservancy, Faust Corporation, the Michigan Sea Grant, and the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

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