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Great Lakes Watershed
PROBLEM INVESTIGATED: This extensive long-term project investigated the effects of contaminants on major parts of the Great Lakes ecosystem. Initially, the project documented differences in reproductive success between bald eagles nesting along Great Lakes shorelines and those nesting inland.
RESULTS: The project found that eagle reproduction along the Great Lakes, as well as along those tributary streams influenced by anadramous fish runs, is significantly impaired due to the presence of PCBs, DDE, and dieldrin in the environment.
MANAGEMENT RECOMMENDATIONS: Based on this data, the East Lansing Field Office recommended that the Service reserve its right to prescribe fish passage along Great Lakes tributaries during Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) hydropower relicensing procedures until such contamination was remediated and Great Lakes eagle nesting success improved to sustain healthy populations. In conjunction with other investigations coordinated by the East Lansing Field Office, project data also indicated that a Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) should proceed for the Saginaw River and Bay NRDA to address a long-standing contaminant problem in Saginaw Bay.
MANAGEMENT OUTCOME/STATUS: This project specifically contributed to the FERC relicensing decision that the lowermost dams in 11 Michigan hydroelectric projects would maintain their status as barriers to fish passage to prevent contamination of inland eagle foraging areas. This project increased awareness of the fish passage issue within Michigan, and set a precedent that is now being considered in Wisconsin and other Great Lakes states for FERC relicensing. The Service worked with the State of Michigan and the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan to complete a Saginaw River and Bay NRDA. The NRDA settlement resulted in remediation of sediments contaminated with PCBs, restoration and protection of habitat around Saginaw Bay, and improved recreational and environmental education opportunities in the area. The East Lansing Field Office is coordinating this NRDA for the Service, in conjunction with the State of Michigan.