Grant for Clinton River Spillway to pay for improvements

Sep 23, 2011 Issues: Environment

Two miles of waterway cleanup to reduce bank erosion, sedimentation

A two-mile cleanup of the Clinton River Spillway, made possible by a $339,000 federal grant, will improve fish migration for dozens of species in the river.

The project is designed to reduce bank erosion and sediment along the channel that interfere with the habitat for yellow perch, lake sturgeon, rainbow smelt and many other fish. The grant, awarded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, will be matched by $100,000 from the county Public Works Commissioner’s Office.

The shoreline of the spillway will be stabilized, vegetation will be added as a buffer and the phragmites — an invasive species of tall plants similar to “cat tails” — will be replaced with plants that are natural to Michigan.

The work may also include a reconfiguration of the weir — an adjustable dam located where the river meets the spillway in Mount Clemens. The spillway, which provides a straight water diversion to Lake St. Clair in Harrison Township, was constructed in the 1950s to alleviate seasonal flooding in Mount Clemens.

By the 1990s, the spillway was working too well, diverting so much water that the river became nearly stagnant in the area near Shadyside Park in Mount Clemens. As a result, the weir was built so that the water flow can be adjusted based on the weather.

Now, officials are concerned that the weir may be contributing to the erosion problem.

“One of the issues we will look at is the impact the spillway weir has on fish passage, and the impact the weir has on sediment and erosion,” Marrocco said. “There’s a lot of bank erosion so we want to find out if the weir is exacerbating the situation.”

“This is another example of how the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is making a real difference in our communities,” said U.S. Rep. Sander Levin, a Royal Oak Democrat who represents most of Macomb County, including much of the lakeshore.

NOAA officials said the project will benefit 45 fish species and will bolster populations of native freshwater mussels in the river, which depend on fish to carry their larval stages upstream.

The Macomb County grant is part of a $5 million effort, associated with the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which is restoring environmentally degraded areas within the Great Lakes basin. NOAA provides financial and technical assistance to remove dams and barriers, construct fish passage, clean up marine debris, restore coastal wetlands and remove invasive species in the Great Lakes region.