Current and Past Great Lakes Habitat Restoration Projects
The NOAA Restoration Center works to restore habitat for Great Lakes fish species, helping to support ecosystems, communities, and local economies. These efforts have largely been supported through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.
Since 2010, the NOAA Restoration Center has supported 96 projects through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. These projects have restored more than 4,900 acres of habitat and opened more than 520 miles of stream for fish.
Below are descriptions of projects funded in Fiscal Years 2017 through 2023. Additional projects from prior years can be found in our Restoration Atlas.
Powderhorn Lake Connectivity Project
The Great Lakes Commission received $89,965 in FY2021 and $1,003,654 in 2019 to support reestablishing the hydrologic connection between Lake Michigan and Powderhorn Lake, a freshwater lake located in Chicago, Illinois. Once connected as part of a large collection of marshes, lakes, and rivers, these areas have been isolated by urban and industrial development. This project will hydrologically reconnect Powderhorn and its northern neighbor, Wolf Lake, which connects to Lake Michigan through the Indian Creek pathway to Calumet River. The effort will enhance fish and bird populations and associated recreational activities on publicly accessible land close to a major population center.
Flint River Restoration – Hamilton Dam Removal
Genesee County, Michigan, will be awarded $415,752 in FY2023 as part of a larger restoration effort in the Flint River that is key to the revitalization of the riverfront in downtown Flint, Michigan. The project will open nearly 25 miles of streams to fish passage, improve in-channel habitat, and support spawning runs of lake sturgeon and walleye. Flint River has been degraded by damming, channelization, dredging, and urban development. NOAA funding will contribute to the removal of the Hamilton Dam, the first barrier on the river above Saginaw Bay. The project will also restore disturbed riverbank adjacent to the dam.
Reconnecting the Mona Lake Celery Flats Phase I
The Muskegon County Drain Commissioner received $471,674 in FY2022 to conduct a feasibility study and develop construction designs to reconnect two shallow water lakes, locally known as the Mona Lake Celery Flats, to Black Creek and subsequently Mona Lake, a drowned river mouth that connects directly to Lake Michigan. The proposed project will increase resiliency of aquatic species, such as the Great Lakes spotted muskellunge and other species of concern, that are significant to the Great Lakes ecosystem.
Restoring Fish and Wildlife Habitat to the Dowagiac River
The Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians received $663,650 in FY2022 to restore a section of the Dowagiac River contained within tribal properties upstream of the old Pucker Street Dam location site, which was removed in 2021. Building on a complementary habitat restoration project in the river, this project will restore historic meanders, restore hydrology to wetlands on tribal property, and provide improved habitat for multiple fish species, including smallmouth bass, walleye, and northern pike.
Inner Saginaw Bay Reef Restoration Project
The Great Lakes Fishery Commission will be awarded $1,341,679 in FY2023 and received $329,303 in FY2022 to support planning for a reef restoration project in Saginaw Bay. In the second year of the award, funding will support the design, engineering, and construction of potentially two inner Saginaw Bay reefs, based upon selected alternative designs from stakeholder consultations and feasibility studies initiated earlier in the award. Historically, reef habitats in Saginaw Bay have been degraded by impacts from physical destruction, degradation from shoreline development, sedimentation, chemical contamination, and aquatic invasive species such as dreissenid mussels and rusty crayfish. This project will complement completed and ongoing projects by various agencies to address impairments to Saginaw Bay reefs.
Flat Rock/Huroc Dam Fish Passage Project
The Great Lakes Fishery Commission will be awarded $785,463 in FY2023 and received $774,223 in FY2022 to explore feasibility of enhancing fish passage on the Huron River at the Flat Rock and Huroc dams, which are the first significant fish passage barriers upstream from Lake Erie. These two barriers restrict fish passage and limit production for a number of species including lake sturgeon, walleye, and white bass. They also have downstream impacts to hydraulic connectivity and habitat. This project will explore the feasibility of enhancing fish passage through a number of alternatives, providing access to 16 miles of mainstem habitat on the Huron River and 17 additional miles of tributary habitat, while recognizing the risks associated with sea lamprey colonization in the system.
A History of Fishes in the Detroit River at Historic Belle Isle
The Friends of the Detroit River received $12,000 in FY2022 through the NOAA Heritage Program to support an outreach project to highlight the significance of restoration work that has been completed by NOAA and partners on Belle Isle in the Detroit River. Through several awards, Friends of the Detroit River worked with NOAA on a suite of habitat restoration projects within the Detroit River Area of Concern, creating and protecting important nursery and spawning wetland habitat and enhancing ecological corridors for migrating fish. In the fourth year of this partnership, NOAA Restoration Center and the Friends of the Detroit River will work with multiple partners to develop interpretive information about historic fish habitat loss and subsequent recently-constructed fish spawning habitat.
YMCA Shoreline Restoration Project
The Great Lakes Commission received $453,506 in FY2021 to restore fish and wetland habitat in the Muskegon Lake Area of Concern, building on past NOAA investments in the area. Unnatural debris at the site, including foundry fill, sand, slag, metal scrap, and broken bricks, will be replaced with wetland plants to enhance habitat for Great Lakes native species, including northern pike, largemouth and smallmouth bass, bluegill, walleye, and others.
White River Restoration Project
The West Michigan Shoreline Regional Development Commission received $1,389,964 in FY2021 to restore habitat in two high quality, cold-water tributaries to the White River, which is a Country Scenic River under Michigan’s Natural River Act. These streams are designated trout streams and support self-sustaining populations of native brook trout. Funding will support the design and removal of four undersized, damaged culverts, providing more than 7 miles of unobstructed fish passage from Lake Michigan. In-stream and stream bank habitat improvements will restore more than 7 acres of wetland floodplain habitat and 1,000 feet of in-stream habitat.
Stoney Creek Marshville Dam Project
The West Michigan Shoreline Regional Development Commission received $1,210,707 in FY2021 to design and remove a remnant of the Marshville Dam, which was constructed on Stony Creek in the early 1800s. Stony Creek provides high-quality cold water habitat for brook trout. Through this project, an open span timber bridge will be installed to replace three culverts and the dam remnant obstructing fish passage and 500 lineal feet of in-stream habitat will be restored. This will open 6.5 miles of stream and allow fish to access 18.0 acres of adjacent wetlands.
Little Cedar Creek Project
The West Michigan Shoreline Regional Development Commission received $967,905 in FY2021 for restoration work in Little Cedar Creek, the longest tributary of Cedar Creek and a high-quality cold water tributary to the Muskegon River. The project will restore 3.5 miles of fish passage, restore 500 feet of in-stream fish habitat, and reconnect 12 acres of wetland habitat and essential spawning and nursery habitat for lake-run and resident fish species such as brook trout, brown trout, and sculpin. This project was previously supported through the NOAA- West Michigan Shoreline Regional Development Commission partnership.
Detroit and Rouge River Restoration and Revitalization
The Cooperative Institute for Great Lakes Research and the University of Michigan received $93,635 in FY2021 to engage with local and regional parties in the Detroit and Rouge River watersheds to establish a path for supporting non-federal match for sediment remediation. The Detroit River and Rouge River comprise two of the Great Lakes region’s Areas of Concern with a complex legacy of sediment contamination. While significant work has been completed by the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and the Great Lakes Legacy Act, considerable work in these two urban watersheds remain. Work will continue and expand on activities previously funded by NOAA. Outcomes of the project include a comprehensive, community-based strategy and innovative approaches to build cost sharing partnerships for sediment remediation in the Detroit and Rouge River AOC systems.
Ford’s Cove Shoreline and Coastal Wetland Restoration Project
The Great Lakes Commission received $264,514 in FY2020 for a feasibility study to evaluate and plan for the restoration of degraded coastal wetland, nearshore, and shoreline habitat in a heavily developed section of Lake St. Clair. Project activities will benefit a wide diversity of species by reducing high-energy wave impacts and improving nursery habitat, cover, and forage for fish and other wildlife.
Manistique River Sediment Remediation
The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality received $18,771,330 between FY2013 and FY2019 to remove contaminated sediments from the Manistique River Area of Concern in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Several planning and remedial actions were carried out through the various phases of this project. This work led to the removal of over 50,000 cubic yards of sediment containing polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) from the river, which are known to cause elevated concentrations of PCBs in fish and present a human health consumption risk.
Kids Creek Stream Corridor Restoration Project
The Grand Traverse Bay Watershed Initiative received $1,708,529 between FY2018 and FY2020 to improve habitat on a 3,000-foot section of Kids Creek in the Grand Traverse Bay watershed of Michigan's northwest Lower Peninsula, and to replace three undersized culverts that are restricting hydrologic flow. Once implemented, this project will improve in-stream habitat, reduce scouring and sedimentation, and provide a stable environment for macroinvertebrate species as well as native fish species such as brook trout.
St. Clair-Detroit River System Coastal Restoration Initiative
The Great Lakes Commission received $3,332,162 between FY2018 and FY2022 for two coastal restoration projects along the St. Clair-Detroit River System in the coastal counties of southeast Michigan. These projects, the Lake Erie Metropark restoration project and the Brandenburg Park Shoreline Restoration project will restore high quality migration, spawning, nursery, and refuge habitat for native fish species in the St. Clair Detroit River system by improving degraded coastal wetlands and nearshore habitats.
Reconnecting and Restoring Northern Lower Michigan’s Premier Coldwater River Systems
Huron Pines received $1,329,661 between FY2018 and FY2020 to remove several high-priority fish passage barriers that were identified as priorities for restoration across the Northern Lower Michigan region. Restoration efforts will address one of the most significant issues threatening Great Lakes fisheries, habitat fragmentation in coldwater river systems. Huron Pines and partners will reconnect 23 upstream miles by removing two fish passage barriers. They will also develop designs and remove another two barriers in the same watershed so that brook trout and other native species can access an additional 66 miles of key habitat within the Thunder Bay River watershed.
Muskegon Lake – Design, Restoration, Monitoring, and Planning
The Great Lakes Commission received $819,926 in FY2018 for engineering and design, restoration, ecological monitoring, and long-term planning within the Muskegon Lake Area of Concern. This work includes the design of restoration projects at two shoreline properties along Muskegon Lake, post-restoration management of a restoration site at Heritage Landing, ecological monitoring and long-term maintenance planning for NOAA-funded restoration projects within the Muskegon Lake Area of Concern.
Lake Okonoka Habitat Restoration
The Friends of the Detroit River received $5,299,631 between 2014 and FY2021 to support the Lake Okonoka Habitat Restoration project on Belle Isle, through the NOAA-Friends of the Detroit River partnership. Belle Isle is positioned at the “gateway” to the Detroit River. This project reconnected Belle Isle’s internal waterways and wetlands to the River, providing additional spawning habitat and nursery areas for juvenile fish immediately downstream from a successful spawning shoal at the eastern tip of Belle Isle. The project reconnected Lake Okonoka in two places. A connection to the Blue Heron Lagoon under Lakeside Drive was created via a constructed channel and bridge. Lake Okonoka now directly connects to the Detroit River under The Strand via a large box culvert on the southern side of Lake Okonoka, west of the end of the South Fishing Pier. NOAA/GLRI funds have contributed to a hydrologic assessment and pre-design of Belle Isle’s waterways and wet-mesic flatwoods forest; development of final engineering bid documents for the bridge and culvert connections; habitat enhancements in Lake Okonoka and along Belle Isle’s south shore adjacent to the South Fishing Pier structures; and project construction. This project greatly improved water quality conditions in the lake, ultimately providing fish in the Detroit River access to historic spawning and nursery habitat and countless benefits for reptiles, amphibians, and migratory birds.
Black Creek Marsh Coastal Wetland Restoration Project
The Huron-Clinton Metropolitan Authority received $863,000 between FY2014 and FY2017 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 created 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 the Detroit River received $9,218,799 between FY2017 and FY2019 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 funded the feasibility, design, engineering and construction 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 to provide spawning, nursery and feeding habitat for Great Lakes native fish and wildlife.
Sugar Island Habitat Restoration
The Friends of the Detroit River received $19,677,622 between 2016 and 2021 for the design and restoration of Sugar Island, a 34-acre island in the lower Detroit River at the mouth of Lake Erie. Multiple partners have been involved in developing the Sugar Island habitat restoration project including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, who owns and manages the island as part of the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge. The area of the Detroit River where the island is located serves as one of the most important spawning areas for western Lake Erie. However, fish populations surrounding Sugar Island are relatively low due to sediment disturbance originating from the eroding, south-facing cliff. Funding will support restoration of the island’s south end and nearshore area, including a series of curvilinear off-shore habitat shoals surrounding 20-acres of shallow calm, backwater fish nursery and spawning habitat off the southern end of the island.
Hennepin Marsh Restoration
The Friends of the Detroit River received $4,904,206 between 2016 and 2021 for the restoration of Hennepin Marsh that borders the shoreline of Grosse Ile in the Trenton Channel, just south of the Grosse Ile Toll Bridge. The project site encompasses approximately 25 acres of island shoals and emergent wetlands. The protective perimeter of barrier shoal islands are eroding, and the wetlands behind them are therefore potentially threatened by current, wave, and ice actions of the Trenton Channel. Historically, lake sturgeon, lake whitefish, white bass, smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, walleye, northern pike, muskellunge, rock bass, sunfish, and many other fish species could be found at the project site. To prevent further erosion to the shoal islands in the south marsh, the islands will be rebuilt and protected from future erosion. Woody debris, log structures, stone spawning beds, and stone will also be added to recreate robust habitat for native fish.
Salmon River Phase 3 Projects
The Great Lakes Fishery Commission will be awarded $306,476 in FY2023 to restore habitat in the Lower Salmon River. This project site, along with other sites identified in the Lower Salmon River Restoration and Recreation Enhancement Plan, is an area where degraded riparian and stream conditions are contributing to unsuitable habitat for Atlantic salmon. Historic hydroelectric generation operations have created an unstable channel, which interrupted natural sediment transport, degraded instream habitat, and induced excessive streambank erosion. Restoration of natural erosion, sedimentation processes, and reconnection to the floodplain will improve Salmon River habitats for Atlantic salmon and other native species.
Salmon River Trestle Pool Project
The Great Lakes Fishery Commission received $418,625 in FY2022 to reconnect 150 linear feet of the Salmon River to its floodplain, while reducing erosion through installation of in-stream structures and toe-wood bank stabilization structures to 600 linear feet of stream bank. The Trestle Pool restoration site consists of an abandoned railroad trestle and associated abutments that back up water during high flow events, inhibit sediment transport, increase upstream sedimentation, and induce streambank erosion in the downstream reaches. Restoration of natural erosion and deposition processes from this project will improve habitats for Atlantic salmon and other native species.
Lakeview Wildlife Management Area: Hemi-Marsh Habitat Restoration Project
The Great Lakes Commission received $645,255 in FY2021 to support the design and construction of marsh habitat in Lakeview Wildlife Management Area. Lakeview WMA contains five large coastal ponds that are connected by numerous natural and manmade built channels. The habitat is currently thick with mats of dense cattails and encroachment of invasive species. This project will utilize a wetland enhancement technique known as “channeling and potholing” to improve coastal marsh habitat to restore historic conditions prior to cattail invasion. The restoration will improve the hydrology and habitat connectivity to benefit spawning northern pike and other fish as well as create breeding habitat for nesting Black Terns and migrating marsh birds and waterfowl.
Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Centennial Park Shoreline and Aquatic Habitat Project
The Great Lakes Commission will be awarded $14,503 in FY2023 to complete production of outreach materials highlighting the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Centennial Park in the Niagara River Area of Concern in Buffalo, New York. GLC previously received $10,000,000 in FY2022 to support construction of coastal wetland habitat and $962,800 in FY2021 to support pre-construction activities for the project. The project will restore up to 5 acres of submerged and emergent wetlands, including 2,500 feet of shoreline, deepwater channels, and fish enhancement structures. The newly created wetland ecosystem will directly contribute to the Niagara River Area of Concern’s delisting and will serve a critical coastal resiliency function for the Western New York region. NOAA previously supported planning activities at the site through the NOAA-Great Lakes Commission partnership. This project is part of a larger transformative effort to redesign and re-construct LaSalle Park into the new Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Centennial Park.
Connected Wetlands and Fish Passage at Camp Sabroske in the Maumee Area of Concern
Ducks Unlimited will be awarded $374,687 in FY2023 to restore Camp Sabroske, a former muskrat farm. Restoration is expected to include the removal of sections of the internal levees, the renovation and armoring of the exterior river levee, and the installation of a pump and water control structures. This new infrastructure will connect the wetlands and Toussaint River (or Packer Creek) to restore fish passage for spawning and rearing and allow for precise management of water levels and aquatic vegetation, leading to restored and sustainably productive coastal wetland habitat.
Swan Creek Stream Restoration Project
The Great Lakes Commission received $242,424 in FY2022 to support habitat restoration on Swan Creek, which is located in the Maumee Area of Concern and has been the site of municipal and industrial development for almost 200 years. The project team will stabilize 1,700 linear feet of eroding streambank and install 50 linear feet of riffle habitat. Additional habitat restoration and climate adaptation techniques will be explored during the design phase. This project will build on other complementary efforts in the AOC and address impaired benthic populations and fish habitat throughout the project area.
Collins Park Stream Restoration Feasibility Study
The Great Lakes Commission received $203,116 in FY2022 to support engineering and design of a project to improve biodiversity and create nursery habitat in the Duck Creek watershed, located upstream of Toledo’s highly industrialized waterfront on the Maumee River. GLC previously received $201,035 in FY2021 for a feasibility study to evaluate potential restoration options for the project. The project portion of the creek is very channelized and much of the creek flows through subsurface culverts. Surrounding areas are currently managed as a municipal golf course and maintained parkland. Eventual implementation of this project will address objectives laid out by the Maumee AOC Program to achieve Ohio’s beneficial use restoration targets and provide connectivity between other AOC habitat improvement projects.
Restoration of the Ottawa River in Jermain Park
The Great Lakes Commission received $730,271 in FY2021 to create wetland habitat and stabilize eroding stream banks along the Ottawa River. Over the last century, ditching, tiling, and development have impacted the physical, chemical, and biological properties of the Ottawa River and its tributaries, leading to severely degraded habitat for fish and wildlife. This project will support design and construction activities and directly address GLRI Action Plan III Focus Area I by creating 2.7 acres of wetland habitat, stabilizing 2,300 feet of eroding streambank, and enhancing 750 feet of riparian buffer.
Little Portage Wildlife Area Coastal Wetland Restoration
Ducks Unlimited received $149,924 in FY2018 for restoration at Little Portage Wildlife Area, a 407-acre coastal wetland and upland complex located at the confluence of the Portage and Little Portage Rivers in Ottawa County, Ohio. The area’s water control structures and pump were completely non-functional, making it impossible to manage water levels and aquatic vegetation in the wetlands and resulting in a significant decline in the quality of the habitat. With this funding, Ducks Unlimited developed design plans to restore hydrologic exchange and management capability to at least 225 acres of coastal wetland habitat.
Toussaint Wildlife Area Coastal Wetland Restoration Project
Ducks Unlimited received $1,323,698 between FY2016 and FY2018 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 $1,891,291 between FY2015 and FY2020 to complete a feasibility study and designs, and to construct 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.
Howard Marsh Phase II Restoration
Ducks Unlimited received $4,233,699 between FY2018 and FY2020 for construction to restore approximately 210 acres of emergent coastal wetlands and 25 acres of upland forest and native grass at Howard Marsh Metropark, a 987-acre agricultural property in Lucas County near the shore of Lake Erie and within the Maumee Area of Concern. Once implemented, the project will hydrologically connect the restored wetlands with Lake Erie.
Cuyahoga River Restoration at Cascade Valley View Metropark
The Great Lakes Commission received $3,842,912 between FY2018 and FY2019 to develop designs and restore habitat in the main stem of the Cuyahoga River and its associated floodplain. Nearly 60 acres of floodplain on the Cuyahoga River will be restored through this project to help address several fish and wildlife related Beneficial Use Impairments. Prior restoration activities at the site, funded by a Clean Ohio grant, include the restoration of headwater tributaries via daylighting of culverted streams, wetlands restoration, and reforestation of upland areas.
Nebagamon Creek Culvert Removal Project
The Great Lakes Fishery Commission received $650,306 in FY2022 to remove a concrete culvert and associated portions of an earthen embankment from an abandoned railroad grade on Nebagamon Creek, a tributary to the Bois Brule River that flows into Lake Superior. The embankment impedes fish passage for all life stages of brook trout and other Lake Superior and resident salmonids in the Bois Brule River watershed, and is a high-risk sediment threat to the downstream spawning and rearing areas of these fishes as it continues to erode and destabilize toward complete collapse.