River Raisin Dam Remediation Project
The mouth of the River Raisin was once home to abundant lotus beds and sturgeon, among many other native wonders. But the Raisin has also become a major port on the western side of Lake Erie. In Monroe, mills gave way to automobile manufacturing plants and eventually became home to one of the largest energy-generating plants in Michigan. The cost of doing business in the midst of this transformation resulted in some chronic pollution problems, including PCBs in river sediments and an on-going need to dredge the lower channel for ship traffic.
In the 1930s, as a Works Progress Administration (WPA) project, a series of dams were constructed to carry sanitary sewer across the River Raisin’s bedrock bottom (refer to Aerial below). But the dams have blocked boats and fish from travelling back up the Raisin from Lake Erie.
These conditions have degraded the environmental quality and potential of the river in Monroe. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has listed the mouth as an Area of Concern (AOC) with “beneficial use impairments” (BUIs), including degradation of fish and wildlife populations and loss of fish and wildlife habitat (EPA River Raisin AOC Webpage). As part of this listing process, a Remedial Action Plan (2007 Remedial Action Plan Update) has been developed by the EPA, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) and the River Raisin Public Advisory Council to fix or remediate these conditions.
2009 President Obama created the first-ever large scale financial commitment to address persistent environmental problems in the Great Lakes. This program, known as the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) was funded at $475 million in 2010 (Article on original congressional funding authorization for GLRI). The City of Monroe’s dam remediation project competed against 1,000 other applicants to become one of the 270 projects funded under GLRI. When complete, the River Raisin Dam Remediation Project will create fish and small boat passage from Lake Erie to approximately 23 miles of the lower River Raisin. Phase 1 includes the modification of four low head dams in Monroe and will open 3.5 miles of river channel for passage. Funding for Phase 1 has been secured through federal grant money and matching funds (approximately $1.3 million and $100,000, respectively. Another approximately $1.6 million has been allocated to Phase 2 which will add 19.5 miles of accessible river channel upstream to downtown Dundee. Aerial image of Monroe – Low head dams are numbered 1 through 6. By reclaiming the River Raisin for free passage of fish and small boats, we hope to play our role in the extensive effort to restore, preserve, and enhance the natural environments vital to our community. Please stay connected as we inform you of our progress!