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Polluted Rouge River Becoming Recreation Destination

August 14, 2017

NOAA participates in the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, launched in 2010 to protect and restore the largest system of fresh surface water in the world — the Great Lakes.



NOAA and partners celebrated the successful conclusion of a dam removal project in Wayne, Michigan. The Wayne Road project moves the Rouge River one step closer to losing its Area of Concern designation. Formerly on the nation’s "Top 10" list of most-polluted rivers, today the Rouge is a popular destination for river recreation.

The City of Wayne hosted the event last week, showcasing the successful conclusion of the Wayne Road Dam Removal and Habitat Improvement Project. NOAA funded the project under the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. The Alliance of Rouge Communities led the project with technical guidance from the NOAA Restoration Center.

Removing the obsolete dam was just the beginning. Citizens and volunteers inspired by the project reclaimed neglected parkland, created and extended bike trails, and held events to inform neighbors about river-keeping.

“What I’ve seen again and again is that GLRI restoration projects create a big return on investment,” noted Julie Sims, NOAA’s Great Lakes Regional Coordinator. “It’s more than just better fishing—habitat restoration projects create local jobs, aid in flood control, improve property values, and improve access to recreation.”

Through a series of restoration projects more than 121 miles of river have been restored. By improving fish passage and eliminating runoff and point source pollution, water quality has steadily improved. Trout, smallmouth bass, northern pike, and walleye now access upriver habitat for the first time in more than a century.


Michigan’s U.S. Senator Stabenow (in red) spoke at the Wayne Road Dam removal celebration, honoring the River Rouge restoration.

Michigan’s U.S. Senator Stabenow spoke on the banks of the Rouge River in downtown Wayne:

“It is more important than ever to continue investing in the health of our Great Lakes and waterways,” said Senator Stabenow, former Michigan governor and co-chair of the bipartisan Senate Great Lakes Task Force. “One in five Michigan jobs are tied to water. This successful project is an excellent example of how Great Lakes funding is helping more Michigan families and visitors who enjoy fishing, kayaking, and canoeing on the Rouge River.”

U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow toured the Wayne Road Dam Removal and Habitat Improvement Project, one of several Detroit-area projects made possible under the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.