Detroit River: Canadian cleanup

Detroit River Pathway to Delisting.

Photo: Paul Santos.

2014-2015 Funding: $160,000, including $80,000 provided by the Great Lakes Sustainability Fund

Other Project Contributors: Brighton Beach Power, Canadian Auto Workers, Citizens Environmental Alliance, City of Windsor, Detroit River Canadian Public Advisory Council, Environment and Climate Change Canada, Essex County Field Naturalists’ Club, Essex Region Conservation Authority, Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research, Little River Enhancement Group, Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, Town of Amherstburg, Town of LaSalle, United States Environmental Protection Agency, University of Windsor, Windsor and District Labour Council, and Windsor Port Authority.

The community-based partnership established in 1998 to cleanup, restore and sustain the Canadian side of the Detroit River ecosystem has set out a clear blueprint for completing the challenging job within the next five years.

The Detroit River is one of five Areas of Concern shared between Canada and the United States. The 51-kilometre long river continues to be used intensively for international shipping, industrial and agricultural development, and recreation, and as a source of drinking water. There are serious concerns regarding water quality and fish and wildlife habitat in the Area of Concern as a result of sewer overflows, municipal and industrial discharges, and runoff from rural areas. 

Over the years, important progress has been made in addressing these environmental concerns. The Detroit River Pathway to Delisting identifies the remaining actions necessary to delist the Canadian side of the Detroit River as an Area of Concern. The five-year plan is the work of the Detroit River Canadian Cleanup, an alliance of federal, provincial and municipal governments, local industries, scientific researchers, and community environmental organizations. The partnership is responsible for coordinating the planning and implementation of measures to address the range of environmental challenges in the river and its watershed.

A Remedial Action Plan coordinator provides ongoing support to the group and its technical committees, and works with partners and other interested groups to promote awareness of the cleanup efforts within the Area of Concern. Recent and ongoing projects include:

  • working with landowners in rural areas to reduce the runoff of nutrients, suspended solids and bacteria through the implementation of best management practices, such as upgrading septic systems and installing erosion control structures;
  • restoring more than 12 hectares of fish and wildlife habitat at five sites in rare Carolinian upland forest and tallgrass prairie ecosystems;
  • preparing a shoreline design manual describing options for shoreline restoration to help prevent erosion while supporting habitat diversity along the shoreline; and,
  • undertaking community outreach and education initiatives, including annual Detroit River Evenings, volunteer cleanups and tree plantings along the watershed, and an exhibit at Windsor’s Community Museum that highlighted the Detroit River’s history and the positive international attention the river has received as a result of the cleanup effort.

In May 2014, the partnership celebrated a major accomplishment with its American counterpart in the Area of Concern: the first ever bi-national declaration of a successful restoration of a “beneficial use” in the Great Lakes Areas of Concern, with both sides removing the impairment that had been identified regarding the flavour of fish caught in the river.

For more information on the Detroit River Area of Concern, please visit: Detroit River Canadian Cleanup.

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