WESPEN Online Order Form print this page
US Fish & Wildlife Service FieldNotes

Habitat Enhancement Projects in the St. Clair/Detroit River System

Region 3, December 5, 2012
Fish biologist Eric Stadig holding a lake whitefish captured in the Detroit River near the future Fort Wayne Reef location.
Fish biologist Eric Stadig holding a lake whitefish captured in the Detroit River near the future Fort Wayne Reef location. - Photo Credit: n/a
A dump barge ready to release rock to create a spawning reef in the Detroit River.
A dump barge ready to release rock to create a spawning reef in the Detroit River. - Photo Credit: n/a

This fall, fish biologists from the Alpena Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office (FWCO) have been busy deploying gill nets and bottom trawling in the St. Clair and Detroit Rivers monitoring the fish communities near two habitat enhancement projects. Much of the historic fish spawning habitat in these rivers has been removed as a result of dredging. As a result, the Service and many other partners are in the process of adding rock reefs to remove the “Loss of Fish and Wildlife Habitat” Beneficial Use Impairment in this area.

Construction of the Middle Channel Reef took place in the St. Clair River in the spring of 2012. Even before the final rock could be placed in the river, lake sturgeon, one of the species targeted for restoration where videotaped spawning on the reef by scientists from the USGS Great Lakes Science Center (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g_oXh3306mg). Fish biologists from the Alpena FWCO have been monitoring the adult fish community before and after reef construction to evaluate the success of this new habitat. The Middle Channel Reef project was funded by an $890,323 grant received by the USEPA – Great Lakes Research Initiative in 2010.

The Fort Wayne Reef project is scheduled to be constructed in the fall of 2013. This reef will be placed in the Detroit River, where scientists from the USGS Great Lakes Science Center have predicted a highly suitable area for restoration based on the physical characteristics of the river. It is estimated that nearly 2 acres of rock habitat will be created as a result of this work. The Fort Wayne Reef project is being funded by an $800,000 grant received from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Sustain our Great Lakes Funding Initiative.

Contact Info: Justin Chiotti, (248) 891-0087, Justin_Chiotti@fws.gov