Current and Past Great Lakes Habitat Restoration Projects
Through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, the NOAA Restoration Center implements habitat restoration projects that benefit native fish and improve toxic “hotspots” known as Areas of Concern that are the most degraded areas in the Great Lakes region.
Since 2010, the NOAA Restoration Center has supported more than 70 projects through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. These projects have restored more than 4,500 acres of habitat and opened almost 500 miles of stream for fish.
Many of these projects improve toxic “hotspots” known as Areas of Concern, which are the most degraded areas in the Great Lakes basin. Our goal is to improve these areas and ultimately contribute to their removal from the list of Areas of Concern. With GLRI funding, the NOAA Restoration Center has also provided technical and financial assistance to restore high-priority habitat benefiting native fish outside of Areas of Concern.
Little Cedar Creek Project
The West Michigan Shoreline Regional Development Commission received $187,207 in FY2020 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.
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. Proposed 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 $12,119,084 between 2013-2017 and an additional $6,652,246 in 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 initial phases of this project. The next phase will lead to the removal of an additional 47,800 cubic yards of sediments 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 $167,313 in FY2018 and $1,540,946 in 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 $1,624,589 in FY2018, $750,091 in FY2019, and $524,181 in FY2020 to implement a diverse suite of coastal restoration projects along the St. Clair-Detroit River System in the coastal counties of southeast Michigan. Two sites, the Lake Erie Metropark restoration project and the Brandenburg Park engineering and design project, were selected for the first year of this multi-year award. Funding was recommended in the second and third years of this award to support construction at both sites. By improving degraded coastal wetlands and nearshore habitats, these projects will restore high quality migration, spawning, nursery, and refuge habitat for native fish species which is limited in the St. Clair Detroit River system.
Reconnecting and Restoring Northern Lower Michigan’s Premier Coldwater River Systems
Huron Pines received $500,000 in FY2018, $94,693 in FY2019, and $734,968 in 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. With this funding, Huron Pines and partners will reconnect 23 upstream miles by removing two fish passage barriers. They will also develop designs, and will remove another two barriers in the same watershed so that brook trout and other native species can access an additional 66 miles of key spawning, growth, forage, and refuge habitat for native brook trout and many other aquatic species within the Thunder Bay River watershed, one of Michigan’s highest-quality coldwater river systems.
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.
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 Great Lakes Restoration Initiative 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 $5,241,970 from FY2014 through FY2020 and 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 in the Detroit River 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, 49.1 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 in FY2013 for a high-priority project within the Muskegon Lake Area of Concern. The goal of the project was to remove mill debris from nearly 20 acres of Muskegon Lake, restore open water conditions, and improve fish and wildlife habitat at several sites within the lake specifically for juvenile Lake Sturgeon. 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 in FY2013 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. Final designs were created for 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 restoring and protecting limited aquatic habitat within the lower part of the Detroit River which supports all life stages of fish native to the Great Lakes.
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 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 $8,607,599 in FY2017 and $611,200 in 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 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 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 $225,000 in FY2017 and $681,185 in 2019 for a feasibility study and final designs and $12,422115 in FY2020 for the restoration of Sugar Island, a 29-acre island in the lower Detroit River at the mouth of Lake Erie. The Sugar Island habitat restoration is being performed in coordination with 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 and overlapping off-shore habitat shoals surrounding the 20-acre shallow area off the southern end of the island.
Hennepin Marsh Restoration
The Friends of the Detroit River received $349,975 in 2018 and $238,390 in 2019 to conduct a feasibility study and develop final designs to restore two sites at Hennepin Marsh. The North Hennepin Marsh restoration project is located in the Trenton Channel, just north of the Grosse Ile Toll Bridge, and borders the shoreline of Grosse Ile at an area known as Hennepin Point. This project will encompass approximately 35 acres of submergent macrophyte beds and emergent coastal shoreline. Being located above the Grosse Ile Toll Bridge causeway, this area of the river is exposed to the full force of the Trenton Channel’s current, boat traffic, wave action, and winter ice flow. To increase the potential for establishment of shoreline emergent wetlands within the north marsh, preliminary design calls for constructing a series of stone shoals that offer habitat structure while providing protection to the shoreline. In addition to this work, the inclusion of spawning habitat, woody debris, and log structures to benefit fish, amphibian, reptile, waterfowl, and shorebird usage is planned.
The South Hennepin Marsh is in the Trenton Channel, just south of the Grosse Ile Toll Bridge along the Grosse Ile shoreline. The project site encompasses approximately 25 acres of island shoals and emergent wetlands. The protective perimeter of barrier shoal islands are currently submerged 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 populated the north and south marshes. To prevent further erosion to the shoal islands in the south marsh, preliminary plans call for using dredged material adjacent to the existing island shoals to rebuild the islands, installing erosion matting and plant materials to stabilize the remediated areas and protect against future erosion, and adding submergent and emergent woody debris, log structures/bundles, stone spawning beds, and stone to create habitat for native fish.
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 and construct in-stream habitat 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.
Buffalo River Habitat Restoration Projects
The Great Lakes Commission received $6,306,229 in FY2013-2015 to conduct restoration at eight sites along the Buffalo River. These included: Riverbend (Phases I and II), Toe of Katherine St. Peninsula, Blue Tower Turning Basin, Buffalo Motor & Generator Corp., Buffalo Color Peninsula, Old Bailey Woods, and Ohio St. Boat Launch. In total, restoration activities within the Buffalo AOC encompassed approximately 22 acres of riparian and upland habitat and approximately 10,000 linear feet of shoreline and/or in-water habitat. Restoration of these areas brings the Buffalo River significantly closer to being delisted as an Area of Concern.
Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Centennial Park Shoreline and Aquatic Habitat Project
In FY2020, the Great Lakes Commission will use $1,056,914 to develop design plans to create coastal wetland habitat in a predominantly hardened shoreline area of the Niagara River in the City of Buffalo, New York. 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.
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. Little Portage is a popular public use area and managed to provide habitat for wildlife and outdoor recreation. Currently, it is not possible to manage water levels and aquatic vegetation in the wetlands because the water control structures and pump are completely non-functional, resulting in a significant decline in the quality of the habitat. With this funding, Ducks Unlimited will develop design plans to restore hydrologic exchange, fish access, and management capability to at least 225 acres of coastal wetland habitat.
Toussaint Wildlife Area Coastal Wetland Restoration Project
Ducks Unlimited received $600,000 in FY2016 and $723,698 in FY2018 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, $160,000 in FY2017, and $1,556,290 in 2020 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.
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, 1,544 feet of 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 area. 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 I Project in the Maumee Area Of Concern
Ducks Unlimited received $2,838,944 in FY2013-2014 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. In addition to habitat restoration achieved through conversion of the large agricultural field back to its historic wetland condition, project goals included enhanced water quality and improved recreation opportunities. Overall, achieved metrics include: 571 acres of new restored coastal wetlands, 116 acres of new upland habitat (including 7,500 new trees), 6 miles of deep water channels for boating and fish habitat, and 6.6 miles of new hiking trails and boardwalks.
Howard Marsh Phase II Restoration
Ducks Unlimited received $211,060 in FY2018 for design and $4,022,639 in 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 $535,074 in FY2018 and $3,307,838 in 2019 to develop designs and restore habitat in the main stem of the Cuyahoga River and its associated floodplain. Berm removal and floodplain excavation along a 5,000-foot stretch of the Cuyahoga River will double river capacity and restore floodplain function. Furthermore, installation of in-stream habitat features including root wads and rock-riffle structures will improve habitat and spawning conditions for native Great Lakes fish. In total, nearly 60 acres of floodplain on the Cuyahoga River will be restored through this project and 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.
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 habitat 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.