Current and Past Great Lakes Habitat Restoration Projects

Since 2010, NOAA has worked with the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative to implement habitat restoration. These projects improve toxic “hotspots” (known as Areas of Concern), which are the most degraded areas in the Great Lakes basin. NOAA has supported more than 50 projects through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. These projects have restored more than 3,500 acres of habitat and opened almost 500 miles of stream for fish to access their habitat. Our goal is to improve these areas and ultimately remove them from our priority list.

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Clinton River Spillway Restoration – Phase I Implementation Project

The Macomb County Public Works Office received $2,511,800 in FY2014 to restore a river that was degraded by a spillway created to alleviate flooding in the Clinton River Watershed. Restoring the Clinton River Spillway, by replacing an existing concrete rubble shoreline with a living shoreline and addressing invasive species, will ultimately improve habitat conditions in an area with one of the most diverse fish populations in the Great Lakes.  This project builds off of a previously funded NOAA GLRI award that supported the engineering and design of the restoration project. 


Belle Isle's Lake Okonoka Habitat Restoration

The Friends of the Detroit River received a total of $4,975,520 from FY2014-2017 for a feasibility study, design plans, and construction of the Lake Okonoka reconnection and shoreline restoration project on Belle Isle in Michigan. This project will greatly improve water quality conditions in the lake, ultimately providing fish access to historic spawning and nursery habitat and countless benefits for reptiles, amphibians, and migratory birds. Once implemented, the project will restore nearly 300 acres of habitat.


Lower Muskegon River Hydrological Reconnection and Wetland Restoration

The Great Lakes Commission received $7,913,200 in FY2016 for wetland restoration within the Lower Muskegon River, which is a Habitat Focus Area under NOAA’s Habitat Blueprint. This project is one of the final habitat restoration actions needed to delist Muskegon Lake as an Area of Concern. Through this effort, 53.5 acres of emergent wetlands and 2,739 feet of shoreline will be restored. This project will reconnect the former floodplain wetlands with the Muskegon River and restore fish passage and habitat for a variety of native fish and wildlife.


Muskegon Lake Mill Debris Restoration Project

The Great Lakes Commission received $2,963,413 for a high-priority project within the Muskegon Lake Area of Concern. The goal of the project is to remove mill debris from nearly 20 acres of 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 NOAA award that supported the engineering and design for the restoration project.


Veterans Memorial Park Restoration Project

The Great Lakes Commission received $3,351,087 to complete construction at a habitat restoration site on the Muskegon River. The goals of this project are to restore 15.4 acres of degraded wetland habitat and 3,645 linear feet of shoreline that were previously excavated, straightened and filled. Specifically this funding will support dredging and disposal of excavated soils, a water control structure at the site, dewatering and revegetation that will lead to improved fish passage and recreational opportunities for the local community.


Rouge River – Henry Ford Estate Dam Fish Passage and Habitat Restoration Design Project

Alliance of Rouge Communities received $350,000 in FY2015 to develop designs that would allow fish to bypass the Henry Ford Estate Dam upstream of the Rouge River’s confluence with the Detroit River, and  hydrologically reconnect 50 miles of the Rouge River and 108 additional miles of its tributaries to the Great Lakes system. Based on final design and hydraulic modeling, a fishway capable of passing important migratory and resident fish species known to occur in Lake Erie and the Rouge and Detroit Rivers.


Detroit River – Stony Island Habitat Restoration Project

Friends of the Detroit River received $7,206,466 in FY2015 for the restoration of approximately 3,000 linear feet of habitat shoals, and the creation and protection of 50 acres of backwater habitat within Stony Island. This implementation project is a major step in completing habitat restoration among the islands in the lower part of the Detroit River.


Black Creek Marsh Coastal Wetland Restoration Project

The Huron-Clinton Metropolitan Authority received $648,000 in FY2014 and $215,000 in 2017 to construct a series of shallow open water channels and small ponds through part of the Black Creek Marsh within the Lake St. Clair Metropark. This project will create channels and ponds that will provide fish spawning and rearing habitat even during periods of low Great Lakes water levels.Ultimately, this will increase the diversity and abundance of fish species in the Clinton River Area of Concern.  The project will also increase recreational opportunities within the Metropark.


Celeron Island Habitat Restoration

The Friends of Detroit River received $8,607,599 in FY2017 to restore Celeron Island, a 68-acre island in the lower Detroit River at the mouth of Lake Erie. Emergent and offshore shoals will be constructed to prevent erosion of the island’s southern end and northeast side. These structures will protect the island from strong lake-driven waves and will allow for the regeneration of wetlands in the quiet water formed behind the shoals. NOAA previously funded the feasibility, design, and engineering phases. This phase of the restoration project is a major step in completing habitat re-construction among the islands in the lower part of the Detroit River.


Sugar Island Habitat Restoration – Analysis and Pre-Design

The Friends of Detroit River received $225,000 in FY2017 to conduct a feasibility study for restoration on Sugar Island, a 29-acre island in the lower Detroit River also at the mouth of Lake Erie. This project will explore the ecological value and feasibility of controlling shoreline erosion and simultaneously enhancing fish and wildlife habitat. The study will establish practical limits of upland, wetland, and underwater habitat that could be restored within the degraded and eroded areas on and adjacent to Sugar Island.


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Chambers Grove Spawning Habitat Enhancement and Shoreline Restoration Project

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources received $400,000 in FY2014 to remove 800 feet of hardened shoreline in a critical spawning area of the St. Louis River estuary,  which is a Habitat Focus Area under NOAA’s Habitat Blueprint. This project will help restore the natural function of the shoreline and to re-establish spawning habitat for lake sturgeon, walleye, and smallmouth bass.


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New York


Buffalo River  Habitat Restoration Project

The Great Lakes Commission received $6,306,229 in FY2013 - 2015 to implement the Riverfest Park and Blue Tower Turning Basin restoration projects. The Riverfest site is a former brownfield which runs the length of the Buffalo River for approximately 580 linear feet. The goal of this project is to re-establish emergent and submerged aquatic vegetation in a section of river that is almost entirely hardened with rip-rap and sheet pile. The Blue Tower Turning Basin site is located approximately 3.1 miles upstream of the mouth of the Buffalo River. Similar to the Riverfest site, this project will restore approximately 1,632 linear emergent and submerged aquatic vegetation. Once implemented, the restoration of these sites will bring the Buffalo River significantly closer to being delisted as an Area of Concern. This funding award also supports the engineering and design of several additional sites needed to improve habitat in the Buffalo River Area of Concern. 


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Toussaint Wildlife Area Coastal Wetland Restoration Project

Ducks Unlimited received $600,000 in FY2016 for restoration at the Toussaint Wildlife Area, a 231-acre coastal wetland complex located in a bend of the Toussaint River in Ottawa County, Ohio. The project will restore fish access into the wetlands and remove levees and water control structures to restore water flow and improve the condition of the marsh.


Maumee River Wetland Restoration at Penn 7 Project

The City of Toledo received $175,000 in FY2015 and $160,000 in FY 2017 to complete a feasibility study and designs for 15.2 acres of emergent coastal/floodplain wetland habitat on the lower Maumee River. This restoration effort will result in improved rearing habitat for juvenile migratory fish and restored upland and aquatic habitat for other fish, reptiles, amphibians, and mammals  in the Maumee Area of Concern.


Black River Landing and Heron Rookery Restoration Project

The City of Lorain was awarded $1,347,644 in FY2014 to restore the Black River’s riverbank to benefit high priority fish and other species. Specifically, 1544 feet Black River stream habitat has been restored through riparian plantings, streambank stabilization measures and the creation of a shallow, underwater ledge incorporating restored aquatic vegetation to provide habitat for fish and other aquatic organisms. This effort has brought the Black River closer to being delisted as an Area of Concern and complements previous and ongoing restoration projects conducted by the City under Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.


Lower Black River Heron Rookery Restoration Phase II Assessment

The City of Lorain received $175,000 in FY2014 to determine the presence and extent of any subsurface contamination and develop recommendations for restoration of a six-acre riverside areas. The potential restoration project will expand the floodplain area that is connected to the Black River, providing important water quality benefits to aquatic plants and animals.


Howard Farms Habitat Restoration Phase II Project in the Maumee Area Of Concern

Ducks Unlimited received $2,838,944 in FY2013 and 2014 to implement critical infrastructure improvements (e.g. levees, water control structures, pumps, fish passage structure) within the Maumee Area of Concern that were initiated in an early phase 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 and upland habitat on the Howard Farms property.



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Ulao Creek Stream and Wetland Restoration in the Milwaukee Estuary Area Of Concern

The Ozaukee County Planning and Parks Department received $692,626 in FY2014 to restore high-quality spawning, rearing, and nursery habitat for fish and wildlife in Ulao Creek within the Milwaukee Estuary Area of Concern. Specifically, the county will restore multiple stream stretches through a combination of channel remeandering, floodplain reconnection, wetland creation and enhancement, and installation of instream structures.  These efforts will provide habitat for important recreational species, such as northern pike, walleye and white sucker which have been diminished due to former habitat fragmentation.


Kinnickinnic River Stream and Habitat Rehabilitation Project

The Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District received $200,000 in FY2014 to complete a feasibility study that 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 nearly 40 species of fish from Lake Michigan and the Milwaukee Estuary Area of Concern.

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