MDEQ says it's time to take habitat loss off list of St. Clair River's enviromental problems

May 17, 2017

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality is recommending that loss of fish and wildlife habitat be removed from the list of environmental impairments on the U.S. side of the St. Clair River.

The Removal Recommendation Report is available for public comment until June 14, 2017.

The St. Clair River was designated an "Area of Concern" under the 1987 Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement between the U.S. and Canada because of toxic pollutants and other environmental problems.

According to the MDEQ, 12 restoration projects since 2010 have been successful in providing spawning, nesting, feeding and breeding habitat for a variety of native fish and wildlife species. But the report notes that habitat conditions and populations won't necessarily be fully restored before de-listing because it can take years for that to happen.

Paulette Duhaime is U.S. vice chair for the St. Clair River Binational Public Advisory Council, which advises about clean-up efforts for the river.

"We've not only restored habitat," she said, "we've made it accessible to people to go out and enjoy and learn about it."

Duhaime says these efforts have improved the local economy, not just the environment, by drawing birders and other nature lovers.

Duhaime says the restoration activities have been largely funded by the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. 

The Trump administration's 2018 fiscal year budget plan would eliminate funding for the GLRI.