DRCC w website
December 2014
THE CURRENT
A monthly newsletter to keep you informed about the Detroit River.

Message from the RAP Coordinator
It's my pleasure to welcome Sarah Baldo to the Detroit River Canadian Cleanup as the new Remedial Action Plan Assistant! As a native of Windsor and the Watershed Research Technician for ERCA, there's no doubt Sarah will bring her passion for the health of the Great Lakes and Essex County to this job. She spent 7 years commuting along the shores of the river to the University of Windsor where she obtained her BSc., MSc., and BEd. She is also an avid bird watcher and active member of the Essex County Field Naturalists' Club. Welcome, Sarah!

As always, we love to hear from you. If you have any upcoming events, questions, or feedback, please email postmaster@detroitriver.ca.   

 

Claire Sanders

Remedial Action Plan Coordinator  

Detroit River Canadian Cleanup 

ERCA, DRCC, and Partners Create Shoreline Design Manual

ESSEX (Nov. 14, 2014) - The Essex Region Conservation Authority, together with the Detroit River Cleanup Committee, senior levels of government and other partners have worked together to create a Detroit River Canadian Shore Restoration Alternatives Selection Manual. This will guide design practitioners, contractors and the public when designing shoreline protection along the Detroit River.  

 

In 2011, ERCA undertook a Detroit River Shoreline Assessment, which documented existing shoreline conditions from the perspectives of both flooding and erosion, and fish and aquatic habitat. This study determined that more than 80% of the shoreline length has been developed as a result of urbanization, and that the shorelines fronting the large majority of the developed properties have been artificially hardened. This shoreline hardening has resulted in the direct loss and fragmentation of natural habitat along the Detroit River shoreline. The study also recommended opportunities for fish and aquatic habitat restoration and erosion protection that exist along the shoreline with the intent of strategically prioritizing future Detroit River projects.

 

"The term 'shoreline softening' is actually a bit peculiar - there's nothing soft about armour stone," explains Tim Byrne, ERCA's Director of Watershed Services. "What we're really doing is softening the impacts of coastal processes. When traditional shoreline protection methods like vertical sheet steel and concrete were used over the past decades, there is no way for the energy from waves and ice floes to be absorbed. What happens is that energy actually reverberates along the coast, essentially exacerbating its impact." He goes on to explain that the use of techniques, like selectively placing armour rocks below the surface, or using rocks to create an undulating shoreline, will better protect it from erosion while also providing beneficial habitat for fish.

 

Another option is to create a sand or cobble 'beach'. The concept involves placing ample cobble material of sufficient size to mimic the shoreline armouring function of a natural beach. To be effective in the long term, the 'beach' must be of sufficient width and elevation to buffer the shoreline property from the expected combinations of extreme water levels and wave action. This technique has been effectively implemented between Louis and Marentette Avenues in the City of Windsor. 

 

The report also advocates for retaining existing shoreline vegetation wherever possible, and introducing new plantings where appropriate and cites considerable research that demonstrates the importance of riparian vegetation in freshwater environments.

 

"Practically speaking, this guide is intended to showcase potential solutions to landowners that protect their property from flood and erosion and enhance fish habitat at the same time," Byrne concluded. "It uses an easy to follow decision-making matrix and design cross sections to help landowners, contractors, and agencies visualize and choose the best shoreline solution for a given site, based on common site characteristics." A copy of the Detroit River Canadian Shore Restoration Alternatives Selection Manual can be found online at http://erca.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Detroit-River-Shoreline-Manual24Oct2014.pdf.
Grants Available for Landowners, Environment

ESSEX (Nov. 10, 2014) - The Essex Region Conservation Authority is offering grants to landowners in the Detroit River watershed and surrounding areas who wish to add ecological function and value to their land.

 

"Partnering with landowners is key to achieving a sustainable environment," says Kevin Money, Director of Conservation Services. "We can provide up to 90% grant funding for landowners to undertake projects to improve their property and the environment. We've worked with hundreds of landowners over the years, and they have reported many benefits to their family and their property values by participating in this voluntary program."
 

In addition to traditional tree planting and reforestation projects, ERCA can also help provide grants for soil erosion control structures such as rock chutes to help to keep soil on fields, reducing fertilizer run off into local rivers and lakes, and hedgerows along farm fields. Homeowners within the Detroit River system who are interested in upgrading their septic system may also qualify to receive up to $5000.
 

Recently, ERCA has implemented some innovative wetland creation projects which provide excellent habitat for amphibians and reptiles - including the construction of protected turtle and snake nests and snake hibernation sites. ERCA has also undertaken several prairie planting projects to enhance habitat for wildlife such as grassland birds and beneficial pollinators like bees and butterflies.

 

A native meadow habitat planted in partnership with a private landowner blooms this past summer (courtesy of Essex Region Conservation Authority).


"ERCA offers a wide variety of options that land owners can take advantage of when restoring their property," explains Kathryn Arthur, restoration biologist. "From wetlands to prairie to forests we can work with landowners to achieve a project that meets their needs as well as the needs of our local environment. Many of our landowners are interested in forest restoration; however there are also options to incorporate meadow or prairie into projects that result in beautiful flowers, butterflies and bees. The important thing is to contact us now so we can develop a restoration plan with you for next spring." 
To qualify for our restoration grant program, landowners need to restore a minimum of one acre of land. If you are interested in learning more,

ERCA encourages you to contact them at any time to investigate the possibilities. 
For more information about any of these opportunities, visit www.erca.org or contact ERCA at 519-776-5209 extension 310.

The Return of Detroit River's Charismatic Megafauna

JOHN H. HARTIG, www.humansandnature.org (Nov. 17, 2014) What comes to mind when someone mentions Detroit? Is it automobiles, the Rust Belt, Motown, or professional sports? Each of these is accurate. However, there is another aspect of metropolitan Detroit that is not well known by most people. Most people know that Detroit's mighty Detroit River is a shared resource between the United States and Canada, and through it the entire upper Great Lakes flow on their way to the St. Lawrence River and the Atlantic Ocean. However, most people don't know that the Detroit River is quietly undergoing one of the most remarkable ecological recoveries in North America. Yes, Detroit River's charismatic megafauna are returning!

 

The Detroit River has a long and much publicized history of pollution and natural resource degradation due to human development, dating back to European settlement in 1701 and persisting through the legacy of industrial manufacturing. For example, the Detroit River experienced massive winter duck kills due to oil pollution in the 1940s-1960s when tens of thousands of waterfowl would die in a season. In fact, from 1946-1948, the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare estimated that 5.9 million gallons of oil and other petroleum products were released annually into the Detroit River. This shocking statistic becomes still more troubling when one considers that a single gallon of oil can contaminate one million gallons of water. That means there was enough oil being discharged into the Detroit River each year between 1946-1948 to pollute virtually the entire western basin of Lake Erie, including all Michigan, Ohio, and Ontario waters.

 

Water pollution of the Detroit River, 1966 (photo credit: Michigan Department of Natural Resources).

 

During the 1960s, the Federal Water Pollution Control Administration (the predecessor of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) characterized the Detroit River as one of the most polluted rivers in the United States. The impact of this water pollution was not confined to the river proper. The Detroit River flows into Lake Erie, which was declared "dead" in a 1965 Time magazine article because of massive, phosphorus-induced algal blooms that were depleting oxygen and, as a result, killing the fish. During the 1960s, bulldozers had to be brought in to remove decomposing algae and dead fish from Lake Erie beaches. In 1970, the entire fishery of the St. Clair River, Lake St. Clair, Detroit River, and western Lake Erie had to be closed due to the "Mercury Crisis" when mercury discharges from chemical industries in Sarnia, Ontario, and Wyandotte, Michigan, contaminated this ecosystem.

 

These long-standing pollution problems in the Detroit River and the resultant public outcry over them catalyzed many pollution prevention and control efforts (including the establishment of the 1972 Clean Water Act, the 1972 Canada-United States Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, and the 1973 Endangered Species Act), as well as many governmental, university, and nongovernmental monitoring programs. Collectively, these monitoring programs have documented substantial improvements since the 1960s, including:

  • over 97% reduction in oil releases;
  • 90% decrease in phosphorus discharges;
  • 4,600 tons/day decrease in chloride discharges;
  • upgrading of all municipal wastewater treatment plants from primary to secondary treatment with phosphorus removal;
  • 80% reduction in untreated waste from combined sewer overflow discharges;
  • 85% reduction in mercury in fish;
  • 90% reduction in PCBs in herring gull eggs; and
  • remediation of one million cubic yards of contaminated sediment.

This environmental improvement by itself is heartening, but the resultant ecological recovery is amazing, including an increase in sentinel species like bald eagles, peregrine falcons, osprey, lake sturgeon, lake whitefish, walleye, and even beaver. For twenty-five years, no bald eagles produced young because of pesticide pollution. Today, we have twenty-two active bald eagle nests in the watershed. The peregrine falcon population was similarly decimated in the 1950s due to pesticide pollution. Reintroduction efforts were initiated in Detroit in 1987. Today, ten or more young are fledged each year. In 2009, a pair of osprey built a nest in a cell phone tower along the lower Detroit River, representing the first time that osprey successfully nested in Wayne County since the 1890s. In 2001, lake sturgeon reproduction was documented in the Detroit River for the first time in thirty years. In 2006, lake whitefish reproduction was documented in the river for the first time since 1916. During the 1970s, the walleye population was considered in "crisis" and today, along with Lake Erie, the Detroit River is considered part of the "Walleye Capital of the World," hosting annual walleye tournaments that offer $500,000 in prize money. Beaver were hunted to extinction during the fur trade and could not have survived during the height of oil pollution; however, as of 2013 they are present in six watershed locations.

 

This ecological recovery is truly remarkable, but monitoring programs also document many environmental and natural resource challenges. The six most pressing ones include: population growth, transportation expansion, and land use changes; nonpoint source pollution; toxic substances contamination; habitat loss and degradation; introduction of exotic species; and greenhouse gases and global warming. Clearly, more needs to be done to fully realize long-term goals of restoring the physical, chemical, and biological integrity of the Detroit River. However, the progress achieved to date, the informed, engaged, and vocal stakeholders and nongovernmental organizations involved, and the broad-based desire to create a sense of place in this watershed bodes well for further improvement.

 

There is no doubt that this ecological recovery has enhanced outdoor recreation and ecotourism. As a result, the Detroit River is now a major source of community pride and has become the only river system in North America to receive both American and Canadian Heritage River designations, as well as the only international wildlife refuge to be so designated in North America-Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge.

 

Given that 80% of all Americans now live in urban areas, such revitalization of urban places and watersheds is critically important. After all, such places are where the next generation of conservationists will come from. If you are interested, I explore this story of how Detroiters are trying to make nature part of everyday urban life in a new book titled Bringing Conservation to Cities: Lessons from Building the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge.

 

Peregrine falcon overlooking Detroit skyline (photo credit: DTE Energy).

 

You may even want to experience the Detroit River watershed yourself-by birding at one of the 27 exceptional birding sites along our Byways to Flyways Bird Driving Tour in southeast Michigan and southwest Ontario; visiting our Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge; going kayaking on our Detroit River Heritage Water Trail; fishing for a trophy walleye; exploring our new Detroit RiverWalk that was recently named by USA Today readers as one of America's 10 best riverfronts; hunting in what Ducks Unlimited considers one of the top ten metropolitan areas for waterfowl hunting in the U.S.; or bicycling along our regional greenway trail system. The next time you think about Detroit, perhaps you will have a new perception of the city and its river: as one of the most remarkable ecological recovery stories in North America.

EPA Announces Removal of Two Toxic Hotspots on Lake Superior and Lake Michigan from Binational List

CHICAGO (Oct. 30, 2014) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced that two U.S. Areas of Concern, Deer Lake in the Lake Superior basin and White Lake in the Lake Michigan basin, have been removed from the binational list of toxic hotspots that were targeted for cleanup in the U.S.-Canada Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement.

 

After decades during which only one U.S. Area of Concern was delisted, federal agencies have accelerated cleanup actions during the past five years by using Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funding. Three Areas of Concern - including Deer Lake and White Lake - have been delisted since the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative was launched by the Obama Administration in 2010. The United States and Canada designated 43 Areas of Concern under the 1987 Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, in an effort to target sites contaminated primarily by industrial activity that occurred before modern environmental laws were enacted.

 "I couldn't be prouder of the work we have done to significantly reduce threats to public health, enhance recreational opportunities and benefit local economies and that now, today, Deer Lake and White Lake have been delisted as Areas of Concern," said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. "The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is accelerating cleanup work in the remaining Areas of Concern, which will bring new economic opportunities to communities all around the Great Lakes."

 

"Today's announcement is fantastic news for the communities involved, and for all of us who care about the Great Lakes," said Sen. Carl Levin. "The restoration of these two areas of concern shows what we can accomplish with the focus and funding that the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative provides, and it should inspire us to redouble our efforts to restore other contaminated areas in the Great Lakes."

"Today's historic announcement is a major achievement that reflects the decades of hard work by local communities in the U.P. and West Michigan and the importance of federal funding from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative," said U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow. "Deer Lake and White Lake are the first areas in Michigan to get a clean bill of health thanks to this federal partnership, which invests in the health of our Great Lakes and waterways. Today's announcement shows once again the urgent need to invest in partnerships that clean up, restore, and protect our Great Lakes for generations to come."
 
"The delisting of the Deer Lake Area of Concern and the White Lake Area of Concern is great news for Northern Michigan," said Rep. Dan Benishek. "As a member of the Great Lakes Task Force, I've been a strong advocate for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which has made today's news possible. Northern Michiganders, and all who live and work in the Great Lakes, understand why efforts like the GLRI are so important to preserving the Great Lakes for future generations."

 

"This announcement is the capstone on years of work to clean up our Great Lakes shorelines," said Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Director Dan Wyant. "We appreciate the support from federal partners through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative to make this happen, and we appreciate the continued support and hard work of local groups to restore Michigan's natural resources in our Areas of Concern. We look forward to more good news from this program in the years ahead."

 

The Deer Lake Area of Concern was located along the southern shore of Lake Superior in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. This Area of Concern was contaminated by mercury that leached into water flowing through an abandoned iron mine and by other sources of pollution. High levels of mercury contamination in fish and reproductive problems in bald eagles were documented. A Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grant ($8 million) was used to complete the final work required for delisting: a project that diverted water from the underground mine to the surface, where it was redirected to restore a trout stream known as Partridge Creek. The White Lake Area of Concern was located on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan in Muskegon County, Mich. This Area of Concern was contaminated by decades of pollution from tannery operations, chemical manufacturing and other sources. Over 100,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment was removed during the White Lake Area of Concern clean up. Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funding ($2.1 million) was used to complete the final work required for delisting: a project to restore shoreline and over 40 acres of degraded fish and wildlife habitat.

 

Last summer, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality formally requested that EPA start the process to delist the Deer Lake and White Lake Areas of Concern. EPA reviewed the environmental monitoring data submitted with MDEQ's requests and determined that both Areas of Concern were eligible to be delisted. EPA provided notice of intent to delist the two Areas of Concern to the government of Canada, tribal nations, the International Joint Commission and the general public. MDEQ will continue to monitor ecological conditions in the delisted Areas of Concern, with support from EPA.

 

In 2013, the Presque Isle Bay Area of Concern (Lake Erie, Pa.) was delisted, the first since GLRI was launched in 2010. Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funding has been used to complete all necessary remediation and restoration actions at three additional Areas of Concern: Waukegan Harbor (Lake Michigan, Ill.), Sheboygan Harbor (Lake Michigan, Wis.), and Ashtabula River (Lake Erie, Ohio). Environmental monitoring is ongoing at those Areas of Concern to assess their eligibility for delisting. Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funding is also being used to accelerate cleanup work in all of the other remaining Areas of Concern on the U.S. side of the border.
Extra! Extra! Read all about it!
The Detroit River in the news....here are some relevant, external links to news articles that may pique your interest. Click on the link to read on.
Upcoming Events
Save the date for these great local events! Please ensure you contact the organizer for more information.
SOS: RESTORING OUR RIVER TOGETHER

June 1-January 31, 2015

 

Windsor's Community Museum, 254 Pitt Street West, Windsor  

Windsor's Community Museum's exhibit explores the environmental state of our river over the last 50 years and the restoration efforts of the DRCC and its partners to improve it. Time is running out to see this exh
ibit. Make sure to make a visit before it's gone at the end of January!

 

   

CHRISTMAS BIRD COUNTS 

 

Birds are indicators of the overall health of our environment. Christmas Bird Count (CBC) data over time in any given area can provide valuable insight into the long-term health of bird populations and the environment.The CBC is the longest running ornithological database and is used to monitor the status of resident and migratory bird populations across North America. The +360 Canadian Christmas Bird Counts are co-ordinated by Bird Studies Canada, and locally by the Ojibway Nature Centre.The CBC is a great way to become a "citizen scientist" and get outside to enjoy nature. 

 

Lakeshore - Dec. 18 (contact Glenn at eaglecoach@cogeco.ca)  

Cedar Creek - Dec. 20 

Rondeau - Dec. 21
Point Pelee - Dec. 22
Holiday Beach - Dec. 27 
Detroit River - Jan. 1, 2015
 

 

Find out how you can help by calling the Ojibway Nature Centre - 519-966-5852.

AMHERSTBURG WINTER LIGHTS RIVER FESTIVAL

November 15-December 31, 2014

Kings Navy Yard Park, 270 Dalhousie St, Amherstburg


Something for everyone...Costumed carolers and dancers, hot chocolate, classic holiday films, carriage rides, gingerbread warming house. Heritage packages, trolley tours, canon firing, live theatre, holiday high tea and wine tasting. Free admission. For more information: 519-736-4642 or www.riverlights.ca.

ESSEX COUNTY FIELD NATURALISTS' CLUB MEETING

December 10, 2014: 7:30pm  

Ojibway Nature Centre, 5200 Matchette Road, Windsor

 

It's our annual year in review! Bring your best photos from nature hikes and adventures from anywhere on our planet and get the chance to see others' photos. If possible, bring your photos on a USB stick so that they can be shared using the projector. There will be light refreshments and a silent auction will follow the meeting. Everyone is welcome. For more information, contact the club:  www.essexcountynature.com/contact-us/.

FROZEN IN TIME

December 14, 2014: 12:00pm  

John R. Park Homestead Conservation Area, Harrow

 

Visit the Homestead on this special day to examine the origins of the popular 'Frozen' theme - learn about Hans Christian Andersen's Snow Queen story in the house parlour; meet the Norwegian Fjord horses; Scandinavian paper craft making for children, blacksmithing and ice house demonstrations too. The Homestead will be decorated with all natural materials gathered from the forest and farm, and visitors can see the Christmas tree complete with beeswax candles (a Scandinavian tradition)! Special appearance, photo opportunities and musical performance by Elsa & Anna from 1:00pm-3:00pm. For more information, contact the Homestead at: 519-738-2029 or jrph@erca.org.
Job Postings
These postings are for jobs at various locations with varying deadlines. Please click on the job title to view job details. Contact the listed agency in the job ad for more information.Note: the links will expire after the deadline has passed.    
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311-360 Fairview Avenue West, Essex, ONĚ 519-92-3722
postmaster@detroitriver.ca
www.detroitriver.ca

The DRCC initiative is a partnership between government, industry, academics, as well as environmental and community organizations that work together to improve the Detroit River ecosystem through a Remedial Action Plan. Our main goal is to
remove the River from the list of Great Lakes Areas of Concern.