New restoration initiative targets Lake St. Clair

Project to focus on coastal habitat 

Ann Arbor, Mich. — Efforts to address the longstanding needs of Lake St. Clair will get another major boost this fall when the Great Lakes Commission begins a two-year project to help restore and protect the lake’s coastal habitat.

The Lake St. Clair Coastal Habitat Restoration and Conservation Project will collect data on the lake’s coastal habitat and use that information to develop a conservation and restoration plan for those areas. The coastal habitat restoration plan will in turn be used in developing a management plan for the entire lake watershed.

The new project is the fourth major Lake St. Clair initiative the Commission has undertaken in recent years, bringing much-needed attention to what has often been described as the “forgotten lake” in the Great Lakes system.

“Lake St. Clair is relatively small compared to the Great Lakes themselves but it’s an essential part of the Great Lakes system,” said Mike Donahue, Commission president/CEO. “Much of the water in lakes Erie and Ontario passes through Lake St. Clair first. It also provides drinking water for 4.5 million people, is the most productive sportfishery in the Great Lakes and is one of the most heavily used portions of the Great Lakes for recreational boating.”

The lake suffers from a variety of woes, including invasive species, beach closings, sewage overflows and toxic contamination. Its coastal wetlands, which are critical to the lake’s water quality and provide habitat for a wide array of waterfowl and other wildlife, are under particular stress from development, agricultural and urban runoff, leaking septic systems and other factors.

The new project will collect data on a variety of ecological and socioeconomic factors related to Lake St. Clair’s coastal habitat. This information will be assembled into a computerized mapping system and database that will enable researchers and resource managers to easily access and interpret the data. The data will also be used to develop a tool for use in evaluating the effects of resource management decisions, as well as in the production of a draft coastal habitat restoration plan.

The project ties into the other major Lake St. Clair initiatives the Commission is pursuing, which include a comprehensive management plan for the lake and St. Clair River watersheds; an inventory of monitoring programs and development of a strategic monitoring plan; and a set of recommendations for a binational management framework for the lake itself. The first two are joint projects with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; the third is funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Great Lakes National Program Office (GLNPO).

“For a long time, Lake St. Clair was overlooked when it came to restoring and protecting the water resources of the Great Lakes,” said Nat Robinson, chairman of the Great Lakes Commission. “These projects are helping to remedy that oversight and ensure that Lake St. Clair is a healthy and productive resource for the millions who live around its shores.”

The Lake St. Clair restoration work is part of a larger suite of projects, undertaken by the Great Lakes Commission with its partner agencies, that have directed approximately $7 million to restoration management work in the Great Lakes basin.

The coastal habitat project is funded by a $270,000 cooperative agreement with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Coastal Services Center. Under the agreement, the Commission and NOAA will each carry out specific project tasks.

The Michigan Natural Features Inventory will be a key partner in collecting data for the project. Other partners include a variety of U.S. and Canadian federal, state, provincial, local, nonprofit and tribal/First Nation entities that participate in management and advisory committees. The project is conducted under NOAA’s Landscape Characterization and Restoration Program.

For immediate release: September 3, 2002
Contact: Victoria Pebbles,, office: 734-971-9135


The Great Lakes Commission, chaired by Nathaniel E. Robinson (Wisconsin), is a nonpartisan, binational compact agency created by state and U.S. federal law and dedicated to promoting a strong economy, healthy environment and high quality of life for the Great Lakes – St. Lawrence region and its residents. The Commission consists of state legislators, agency officials, and governors’ appointees from its eight member states. Associate membership for Ontario and Québec was established through the signing of a “Declaration of Partnership.” The Commission maintains a formal Observer program involving U.S. and Canadian federal agencies, tribal authorities, binational agencies and other regional interests. The Commission offices are located in Ann Arbor, Michigan

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