Rouge River Area of Concern
The oldest and most heavily populated and industrialized area in southeast Michigan is located within the Rouge River Watershed. The Rouge River has four main branches totaling 125 miles of waterways primarily flowing through Wayne and Oakland counties, with some headwaters in Washtenaw County. The Rouge drains a 438 square mile area that includes more than 400 lakes and ponds, and more than 50 miles of parkland along its banks. The river winds its way through 48 communities and provides recreational opportunities for more than a million people. The lower four miles of the river are maintained as a shipping channel from the turning basin to the river's mouth at the south end of Zug Island.
Aerial view shows how the Rouge has been channelized and paved -- presenting a number of fisheries and wildlife habitat issues and challenges.
Rouge River Remedial Action Plan (RAP) priorities include the elimination of combined sewer overflows (CSOs) and sanitary sewer overflows (SSOs), nonpoint source pollution control, industrial discharge pretreatment, peak storm water discharge reductions and contaminated site restoration.
Rouge River Beneficial Use Impairments|
Of the 14 beneficial uses , these are impaired for Rouge River:
- Restrictions on fish and wildlife consumption
- Eutrophication or undesirable algae
- Degradation of fish and wildlife populations
- Beach closings
- Fish tumors or other deformities
- Degradation of aesthetics
- Degradation of benthos
- Restriction on dredging activities
- Loss of fish and wildlife habitat
The Rouge River Watershed covers 1,210 km2 in southeastern Michigan. It includes sections of three counties and encompasses 48 municipalities with a population of 1.5 million people. Degradation of the Rouge River is representative of that found in many urbanized and industrialized areas within the Great Lakes Basin. Over 50% of the land-use is residential, commercial, or industrial, with increasing development pressures in the headwaters. Despite the urbanized and industrial areas within the watershed, there are over 80 km of publicly-owned riparian (i.e., land/bank adjacent to a watercourse) parklands within the northern and western portions of the watershed consisting mainly of suburban and rural land uses. Urban storm water discharges, CSOs, nonpoint source pollution, and municipal and industrial discharges all contribute to the Rouge River Area of Concern (AOC) beneficial use impairments (BUIs).
For further information on Rouge River BUIs, see the RAP
documents listed in the Significant
RAP Milestones section below.
|Oil and gas slicks, debris
and other pollutants are some of the causes of several beneficial
use impairments in the Rouge River Area of Concern.
Rouge River RAP Revision (PDF 388Kb 153 page) includes initial delisting criteria for several
of the identified BUIs, some of which may be ready for formal delisting
in the near future. The Rouge River RAP Advisory Council (RRAC) has received
funding from the Great Lakes Commission
to refine delisting criteria to reflect knowledge of the BUIs. The Michigan
Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) is working with the RRAC to
evaluate the current delisting criteria for consistency with Michigan's
statewide delisting guidance (PDF 508Kb 61 page) .
The Rouge River RAP was completed in 1989 and has been heralded as a model for
community involvement and public support. The RAP was updated in 1994 and
1998, and revised in 2004. Since 1999, the RRAC has also been using a progress
report card as a mechanism to help celebrate implementation of remedial
projects, make mid-course corrections, provide public accountability, and
further develop the RAP. The RRAC released the 2005 Rouge River Report Card
in October 2005.
Landscape view of the mouth of the Rouge River, with the Ford Rouge plant on the left.
- 2004: Rouge River RAP Revision (PDF 3880Kb 153 page) completed.
- 1998: Rouge River RAP Progress Report (PDF 712Kb 120 page) completed.
- 1994: Rouge River RAP Update (PDF 8370Kb 156 page) completed.
- 1992: Rouge River RAP Progress Report (PDF 1480Kb 33 page) completed.
- 1990: Remedial Action Plan for the Rouge River Basin (PDF 4950Kb 146 page) completed.
Recent Progress and Achievements
- In 2004, the Rouge River RAP was updated. The plan defined an ambitious
20-year program of actions needed to realize the vision of: “A Rouge
River that is aesthetically pleasing, clean and safe, that supports
a healthy, diverse fish and wildlife community, and that provides an
enriching variety of recreational experiences.”
- Rouge River monitoring has continued to show improved water quality
and overall ecosystem health. Dissolved oxygen levels are higher at
most monitoring stations compared to five years ago. Bacteria counts
are declining. There have been numerous habitat restoration and streambank
stabilization projects conducted throughout the watershed.
- All 10 of the CSO retention/ treatment basins planned under Phase
1 of the Rouge watershed CSOs control program are in operation and are
removing a significant source of untreated sewage overflow to the Rouge
River. A total of 77 of the 83 Phase I CSO outfalls are now under control
or have been eliminated by sewer separation. The City of Dearborn also
continued work on its CSO control program by initiating construction
of innovative deep shaft storage and treatment facilities in the West
Dearborn area (Phase A) and continuing design of projects in the West
Dearborn Phase B and East Dearborn areas. The City of Detroit Upper
Rouge Tunnel is under design.
- Thirty-six new grant-funded community projects were awarded in 2004,
32 of which were completed, and all are consistent with the seven Rouge
subwatershed management plans.
- More than 120 illegal sanitary sewer connections to storm drainage
systems and other illicit discharges have been identified and eliminated
in the watershed.
|There are still fragments
of viable habitat remaining in the Rouge River watershed.
Current Projects and Outlook
In 2005, the Friends of the Rouge (FOTR) received a U.S. EPA Great Lakes National Program Office grant to develop a comprehensive Geographic Information System (GIS) database of critical habitat areas to use as a tool to set measurable restoration and delisting goals for habitat.
The FOTR received a MDEQ volunteer monitoring grant in 2004 to continue its Rouge River Benthic Monitoring and Frog and Toad Survey programs; this work is ongoing.
The Rouge River RAP is a watershed-wide effort that is led by the MDEQ in partnership
with other stakeholders. The institutional structure includes: MDEQ staff
with responsibilities to implement the RAP and assess restoration progress;
a Rouge Program Office created for the Rouge River National Wet Weather
Demonstration Project; technical advisory groups; a Rouge River Steering
Committee to oversee implementation activities with the Voluntary Stormwater
Permit; and the RRAC to advise the MDEQ and assist in updating and implementing
the RAP. The RRAC includes representatives of industry, environmental interests,
citizens, universities, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, local
and county governments, and parks and health departments.
The Habitat Committee of the Rouge RAP Advisory Council selects exceptional people and projects that have preserved, protected or restored habitat in the Rouge River watershed and presents awards to them at an annual December celebration.
U.S. EPA RAP Liaison:
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Region 5 Water Division
77 W. Jackson Blvd. (WN-16J)
Chicago, IL 60604-3507
State RAP Contact:
Michigan Department of Environmental Quality – Water Bureau
525 W. Allegan Street
PO Box 30273
Lansing, MI 48909
Rouge RAP Advisory Council Chair:
Livonia, MI 48152
Michigan Statewide Public Advisory Council Representative
5611 Wagoneer Ct.
Ann Arbor, MI 48103
Lakes Areas of Concern