Photo of Detroit River Wildlife and Habitat Restoration Organization

Waterkeeper Alliance and the Detroit Riverkeeper Program

Background

The Waterkeeper concept started in 1966 on the Hudson River, when a group of commercial and recreational fisherman mobilized to fight the effects of pollution that had contaminated the river's fish stocks. They called themselves the Hudson River Fisherman's Association. More specifically, the State of New York placed a ban on the sale of striped bass, which were found to contain high levels of PCBs, and thus threatened a hundred year old way of life.

Their goal was to use any legal means necessary to bring to the attention of the public those entities that were contributing to the pollution of the Hudson River. They constructed a boat to patrol the river, to uncover problems and established a program to deal with water pollution issues. It was the idea of Robert Boyle, a prominent outdoor writer and President of the Fisherman's Association, to establish a Riverkeeper on the Hudson to work in the public's interest as someone who would act as the "eyes and ears" for the public on the river. They modeled this program after the Riverkeepers of the British Isles, who looked after private trout and salmon streams, usually for estates, manors and private clubs.

By 1983, the Riverkeeper concept had spread to surrounding bodies of water and across North America with a number of established Riverkeeper programs. In 1984, Robert Kennedy Jr. was retained to act as chief legal counsel for the organization and while working with John Cronin, the Hudson River's first Riverkeeper, won a number of battles against major polluters along the shores of the Hudson.

In 1992, the existing Waterkeepers founded the National Alliance of Rivers, Sound and Bay Waterkeepers, which was renamed the Waterkeeper Alliance in 1999. The Alliance is based out of New York and oversees the development of new Waterkeeper associations and works on national issues that individual Waterkeeper programs hold in common. There are currently nearly 240 individual Waterkeeper organizations in the United States and internationally, with in excess of 100,000 memberships.

Many of the current Waterkeeper programs have come into existence because of the determination of a small group of dedicated people, and have resulted as an outgrowth of an existing organization. This is certainly the case for the development of the Detroit Riverkeeper program.

In the early spring of 2002, the Friends of the Detroit River (FDR) board was made aware of the existence of the Waterkeeper program and how it reflected many of the same ideals that FDR supported. The board agreed to apply, and submitted an application for a Detroit Riverkeeper program. That fall, in October, FDR hosted a two-day kick-off celebration promoting the inception of this program, with Robert Kennedy Jr. as keynote speaker and Alliance Representative. From this event, FDR received valuable media coverage and commitments from local, state and federal officials.

In November of that year, FDR received its Conditional Licensing Agreement from the Waterkeeper Alliance to form the Detroit Riverkeeper Program and in November of 2003 had fulfilled all of the requirements to become a permanent member of the Waterkeeper Alliance.

What is the Riverkeeper program?

The Detroit Riverkeeper program formally started with its acceptance into the Waterkeeper Alliance in the fall of 2002. The Waterkeeper Alliance, based in New York, was established in the 1960's and currently has over 240 Waterkeeper groups in the United States and around the world.

From the start, the Riverkeeper Committee set out to develop a mission statement to guide the future direction of the Riverkeeper program and the activities that the Riverkeeper was entrusted to implement. Under the committee's guidance and with the approval of the Board of Directors of the Friends of the Detroit River, a mission statement was completed. From this mission statement, a set of goals were created that the Riverkeeper Committee used to develop a definable and measurable set of objectives that would be used to guide the direction of the Riverkeeper's day to day activities.

Detroit Riverkeeper Mission Statement

The Detroit Riverkeeper is a nonprofit citizen action group organized to protect, preserve and restore the ecological integrity of the Detroit River Watershed for current users and future generations through advocacy and citizen action. The Riverkeeper uses education, communication, partnership building, monitoring and research to accomplish its commitment as a protector of the Detroit River Watershed and to build a stronger sense of community stewardship for its waters through these efforts.

Riverkeeper Program Goals and Objectives

As pursuant to the mission statement, the Riverkeeper program, from its inception, has developed a set of goals and objectives that were designed to help the organization gain involvement in the preservation and restoration of the ecological integrity of the Detroit River.

First and foremost in this endeavor, and the single most important goal of the program, was to create the ability for the organization to get out on the water and see and record firsthand what the problems are, as they are occurring, and bring them to the public's immediate attention. To do this, the program needed the funding, contacts, media resources, personnel and equipment necessary to carry out this task, including a full time Riverkeeper and a capable and dedicated Riverkeeper boat.

The second goal as specified in the mission statement was the development of an educational program designed to enlighten the general public to the problems that exist within the Detroit River Watershed and the value of protecting our remaining natural resources. There was an emphasis on creating an environment that would foster solutions to these issues and build a sense of stewardship amongst its residents, businesses, industries and political representatives as to the economic and ethical value of protecting the river's natural resources. The following is a list of targeted educational goals that were developed:

  • Create a Watershed wide storm drain labeling campaign.
  • Act as FDR liaison to local Watershed group meetings.
  • Create a Marine Pollution Reporting Program "Citizens Guide".
  • Get involved in the steering committee to the Governor's MiCorp Stream Monitoring and Reporting Program.
  • Provide public displays depicting current issues, restoration projects and programs at civic events.
  • Provide a historical presentation on the Detroit River's industrial past.
  • Provide Storm Water/Storm Drain remediation PowerPoint presentations to civic and school groups.
  • Sponsor an annual "FDR Detroit River Cleanup Event".
  • Become directly involved in current legislative and developmental issues impacting the Detroit River.

A third goal derived from our mission statement is the preservation of existing natural resources in the Detroit River Watershed. This objective is carried out through a number of avenues designed to address a multitude of land, water and wetland use issues relevant to the program through the following cooperative efforts:

  • Work with private, public and corporate land owners to create conservation easements, to protect valuable lands and re-develop existing resources to be both ecologically sustainable as well as economically viable.
  • Develop a program to help target sensitive inland wetlands and create a process to ensure their continued protection as vital components for stormwater mitigation and wildlife habitat.
  • Work with local groups on projects that help instill a sense of stewardship utilizing both corporate and private input.
  • Provide a public forum so that individual residents and concerned citizens have the opportunity to speak out for or against issues that are impacting the positive development of the Detroit River area.
  • Work towards the reduction of CSO and SSO discharges to the Detroit River and its connecting tributaries.
  • Work towards the reduction of point, non-point and illicit discharges to the river and its connecting tributaries.
  • Work with local business and industrial concerns along the river to work towards ways to reduce their impact on the environment, while at the same time working to protect and improve the natural habitats that are contained on their properties.
  • Work with local communities to meet their state mandated Phase II Stormwater requirements through associations and involvement with the Alliance of Downriver Watersheds.
  • Work with local community governments, local conservation groups, state and federal agencies to coordinate efforts to improve and protect the river's resources.
  • Work to implement the Detroit River Remedial Action Plan through the support of the Detroit Public Advisory Council.

Finally, a fourth goal important to the development of the Riverkeeper Program was the establishment of cooperative monitoring and research programs. This task will be accomplished by creating associations with existing local NGO groups, state and federal agencies that have the capacity and willingness to set up programs to monitor and make observation on water quality parameters on the many creek, streams and connecting rivers in the Detroit River. Such cooperative data gathering programs have been essential in determining a water quality baseline for the area and help to pinpoint specific trouble spots now and in the future.

From these goals, derived from the mission statement, a list of objectives was created to guide the Riverkeeper in developing a work plan to guide his day to day activities, and is as follows:

Who is the Detroit Riverkeeper?

Robert Burns, a lifelong resident living along the Detroit River, was appointed as the first Detroit Riverkeeper in the spring of 2003. Mr. Burns, a graduate of Grosse Ile High School and Kalamazoo College, grew up on the river hunting, fishing, camping and exploring the many islands, marshlands and man-made dikes that make up the lower Detroit River. As an adult, he undertook a career in marine construction and engineering and has been involved in many projects up and down the river, as well as other waters of the Great Lakes.

In his many years on the water, he has developed a good understanding and appreciation for not only the natural diversity and beauty found along the river but also an understanding of many of the area's problems that have led to its degradation. "I accepted this position because I felt that I could take my experience and commitment and put it to work to help address some of these problems and, at the same time, work to support those types of actions that would promote sustainable economic growth, promote stewardship of the river and that make environmental and economic sense."

There is a misconception that the needs of industry, community and the environment are incompatible. Industry has been an integral factor in the development and livelihood of this region for well over a hundred years. In one way or another, most residents of the Detroit River Watershed owe their livelihood to one of these major concerns and our local economy is dependent on their continued success. Although there have been many abuses in the past, we are starting to see a change in the philosophy of how a number of these major corporations view environmental concerns. Many are realizing that most employees prefer to live close to their jobs, but at the same time these employees expect that the communities that surround their place of employment can provide good schools, safe streets and a healthy environment to raise their families. Many of these organizations are currently involved in projects and programs to address these issues.

We are seeing positive changes being made to reverse decades of abuse. Many of the more responsible companies and communities are making great strides in reducing their pollution emissions and are directly involved in environmentally and economically sustainable reclamation projects. Old industrial sites and brownfield areas along the river are being redeveloped into parks, greenways and golf courses, allowing more public access. New residential and commercial developments have also taken advantage of these sites, providing upscale housing and new jobs, and local companies are investing in ways to produce their products with more efficiency and fewer emissions.

With the resulting cleaner air and water conditions that have evolved over the last four decades, due to stricter pollution regulations, recreational activities have also flourished. Boating, hunting, sport fishing, as well as other recreational activities, contribute millions of dollars to the local economy each year and are growing in popularity. Property values in these riverfront communities are increasing because of this change and are providing valuable and needed tax revenue. People are once again realizing that the river is more that just a mode of transportation and a cheap source to dispose of waste. We see positive changes taking place because the people who live, work and enjoy recreational activities on its waters are demanding accountability for the use of their resource and expect their community and corporate leaders to support positive sustainable growth. The job of Riverkeeper is to support those who are working to make the Detroit River a better place to live, protect and improve our natural resources and to bring those who are harming the river to task.

What does the Riverkeeper do?

Simply defined, the Riverkeeper works on any issue that negatively impacts the river's water quality or natural habitats. In turn, the Riverkeeper is also dedicated to supporting any project, research or educational programs that provide positive impact to the river's ecology and results in economically sustainable development.

The Riverkeeper uses the above defined objectives to accomplish this mission. The following are some examples of the many different duties and accomplishments of the Riverkeeper since the inception of this program in the spring of 2003, as they fall under the five guidance objectives.

Education - One of the key duties of the Riverkeeper is to work on educational programs that will alert the general public to issues and problems that are currently impacting the river's water quality and habitat areas. Additional programs will be designed to enlighten surrounding community governments and residents of the valuable natural resources that can be found on and around its waters, with the purpose of instilling a sense of stewardship in all.

Towards this effort, the Riverkeeper has developed several PowerPoint presentations, talks and displays that are used for the various programs that are given to local schools, civic groups and at area conferences. Since the inception of this program, he has given dozens of presentations. Some of the key topics that are covered in these presentations include a history of the evolution of water quality problems on the Detroit River, impacts of human activities on the river's habitats and updates on the various projects that FDR is currently working on to improve the river and its habitats.

Another key educational program was the development of a stormwater and storm drain awareness program. This program was developed in conjunction with work being done in the local watersheds to promote the understanding of the cause of stormwater problems and how people can reduce this problem on a community level as well as in their own back yards. This program has been given to groups that range from elementary students to senior citizen groups. Another goal of the Riverkeeper program is to foster a sense of stewardship of the river by people who live in and around the Detroit River area. Each year the Riverkeeper helps to organize an annual spring FDR Lower Detroit River Cleanup. Volunteers gather at a local boat ramp and are ferried out to some of the islands and dike areas around the lower river to spend a morning picking up debris and litter. The river not only gets a little clean up, but people who otherwise might not be able to get out on the river get the opportunity to see just how fortunate we are to have access to the natural open areas that we do. Activities like these encourage people to take a greater interest in what is going on with the river.

Another very important duty that the Riverkeeper is responsible for is to keep up to date on current issues, policies and impending legislation that can impact the Detroit River. To do this, the Riverkeeper has been involved in a broad range of issues from the International Bridge crossings, to oil spill legislation, to invasive species and VHS viruses that had killed some species of fish in the river.

In order to keep up with the many issues that impact our area, it required the Riverkeeper to make contact and establish relationships with both state and federal legislators, local, state and federal agencies as well as gaining knowledge on current research programs being done on the Detroit River and around the Great Lakes.

Communication - Another important function of the Riverkeeper program is to keep its members, local residents, peers and the general community up to date on current issues, projects and programs that are being addressed. To do this, the Riverkeeper and the Riverkeeper Committee uses a number of avenues to provide information to the public. Each quarter, the Friends of the Detroit River publishes its newsletter called the River Current. In this newsletter, there are articles and a calendar of events to keep our membership current on issues, points of interest and upcoming events. The Riverkeeper also has a dedicated column called the "Keeper's Korner", where he addresses specific things that had been done over the previous quarter and what activities are planned for the next. The Riverkeeper also contributes additional articles to the newsletter to provide information in greater detail about upcoming events or about current issues that might be of interest to the reader.

Along with the use of the newsletter, the organization has developed a very broad email list of current members and members of the general public who take an interest in the organization's activities. With this list, we can contact hundreds of individuals at once to alert them of important developments and upcoming activities.

To inform the broader general public, the Riverkeeper continues to contribute a number of editorials and articles for the local news media. Since the inception of this program, he has written many articles and editorials on issues, programs and events connected with the Detroit River. Many of his editorials question the handling of CSO discharges, oil spills and the reporting of large fish kills on the Detroit River.

The Riverkeeper has also appeared on several local cable and radio talk shows to discuss the Riverkeeper program and the Detroit River. And, as part of a public outreach program, the Riverkeeper has provided guided tours to groups on the history and ecology of the Detroit River, aboard several of the charter tour boats that run the river.

Partnership Building - Another key component of the Riverkeeper program is the building of partnerships with local units of governments, state and federal agencies, other like minded organizations, local residents and civic organizations. To this end, the Riverkeeper has becomes actively involved with a number of local, state and federally run programs. Since the inception of the program, he has made an effort to develop good working relationships with many individuals from local community governments, state and federal legislators, the MDEQ, the EPA, USFWS, and USGS, to name a few. With all of these contacts, he has opened up very important lines of communication that allows him to keep informed of issues, policies, and pending legislation that could impact the Detroit River area.

One important relationship that has been developed is the work that is being done with the local watershed groups in the Detroit River area. Working with the Alliance of Downriver Watersheds, the Riverkeeper has developed a very strong working relationship with over twenty different communities working to meet the requirements of the state Phase II Stormwater permit requirements.

As a listed partner to the group, the Riverkeeper also served on the Alliance's Technical and Public Education Committees. In 2005, he developed and rolled out a Storm Drain Labeling and Educational program where over 12,000 storm drain labels were purchased and affixed to participating community storm drains.

This program was part of a larger educational process to inform local residents about storm drain issues and how they can help to reduce the problem within their own respective communities.

The Riverkeeper also serves as technical advisor to the Detroit River Public Advisory Council, which oversees the implementation of the Remedial Action Plan (RAP). The RAP is a federally mandated plan to address beneficial use impairments (BUIs) which are impacting the health of the Detroit River. As a member of the PAC, the Riverkeeper is working to help improve the river's fish, animal and bird populations as well as contribute to the completion of the PAC's habitat restoration projects.

In a broader program, the Riverkeeper participates in the yearly meeting of the St. Clair-Detroit River System Initiative (SCDRS). The SCDRS is a partnership created for the effective use of science and management of our natural resources. The goal of this organization is to assist resource managers in making decisions on how best to manage habitats and create restoration projects through sound science. The organization meets once a year to discuss and coordinate research work that is being done between the southern end of Lake Huron to the western end of Lake Erie.

Locally, the Riverkeeper has worked to build a relationship with the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge, and has served on the Education and Habitat Committees, working to improve the habitats within the refuge and bring awareness to the community of the benefits and accessibility that the refuge system will bring to residents, sportsmen and conservationist alike.

The Riverkeeper has also served on the local Sector Detroit U.S Coast Guard's Southeast Michigan Area Committee. This is a group represented by area emergency responders as well as representatives of many of the local industries that have facilities along the Detroit River. The principal goal of this committee is to ensure that hazardous response measures are understood and implemented in the case of emergency oil or hazardous materials spills into the Detroit River. The Riverkeeper became involved in this committee shortly after the 2002 Detroit River oil spill.

As an effort to promote a better understanding of what monitoring programs are being done by other like minded organizations and to get involved with water quality monitoring on a state level, the Riverkeeper began to get involved with several state wide organizations. The goal was to find out what types of water quality assessments were being done statewide and, as a result, try to get additional assessments done in the Detroit River. In the spring of 2005, the Riverkeeper was appointed by the Governor to serve on the steering committee of the Michigan Clean Water Corps (MiCorps). This organization was created by executive order to assist the MDEQ in collecting standardized high quality water monitoring data from local organizations and use it to add to the State's monitoring database. This organization is working to provide the training and funding necessary to get additional organizations qualified so they can submit their data to the state. Given the shortfalls in MDEQ resources, these additional private organizations are a way to expand the MDEQ data gathering capabilities so essential in gauging how our state's water resources are faring.

One of the most important cooperative efforts that the Riverkeeper has been pursuing is the development of open lines of communication with major industries along the Detroit River. Given the river's industrial past and the large number of active industrial concerns that own property along the river, it is imperative that good working relationships are developed. With these efforts, the Riverkeeper has worked to address localized problems and work towards solutions that allow for their continued prosperity, while at the same time reduce the impact that they are having on the environment. These contacts have also fostered projects that have helped to improve the natural habitats that exist on their properties.

Our organization is proud to say that through this effort of cooperation, we have worked though a number of issues with several of the large industries along the river. These efforts have led to or are leading to improvements that will directly benefit the river's shoreline habits and water quality in the future.

Monitoring - The understanding of past and current habitat and river water quality conditions is essential in understanding how human intervention has altered the ecology of the Detroit River. Without proper baseline monitoring information, it is impossible to gauge the impacts of current activities and the benefits of future restoration projects. Given the multitude of local, state and federal agencies that are entrusted with the protection of our natural resources, there are at any one time a number of monitoring projects going on in the Detroit River area.

After the 2002 Rouge River oil spill that allowed tens of thousands of gallons of waste oil to flow into the Detroit River and out into Western Lake Erie, the Detroit Riverkeeper program realized the need for a pollution observation and reporting program geared toward the many boaters, sportsman and shoreline residents that live and recreate around the Detroit River. As it turned out during the 2002 oil spill, the true extent of this spill wasn't realized until the flood of reports started coming in from fishermen miles downriver from the initial spill. Earlier reporting, directly to agency officials, might have allowed for the containment of the spill in the narrow confines of the Rouge River before it was allowed to spill out into the Detroit River.

As a result of this incident and the lack of knowledge that the general boating public has as to exactly to whom to report spills and unusual discharges, the "Marine Pollution Reporting Sign Campaign" was developed with the U.S. Coast Guard. FDR has produced several dozen signs with the Coast Guard's toll free National Response Center's phone number, which is the national clearinghouse for reporting such incidents. From there, they direct the necessary response depending on the nature of the incident. These signs have been placed at area marinas, yacht clubs and public boat launches. In conjunction with this program, the Riverkeeper program also developed a "Citizens Reporting Guide" to reporting marine pollution. This guide gives all the information necessary to be able to know how to make spill observations and to whom to report the problem.

One of the key components that make our Riverkeeper program different from other conservation minded groups in the area is the fact that we have a full time dedicated Riverkeeper boat that is used to do regular patrols along the entire 32 mile length of the Detroit River. During these patrols, we are constantly monitoring known problem areas as well as assessing changes to local habitats, bird and animal populations. Along with our own work, our boat makes it possible for us to get others out on the water as well. Over the past decade that we have had the boat, we have been able to assist representatives from the USFWS, EPA, MDEQ, Environment Canada, local government officials, high school and university programs as well as local industry representatives onto the river to make observation, do research and see the river from our prospective. This part of our program has become an essential component in our monitoring, partnership building and cooperative effort building objective.

Another aspect that makes the work the Riverkeeper does unique from the work done by other organizations in the area is not only our ability to monitor the river from the water surface in our Riverkeeper boat, but also our ability to take regular reconnaissance flights by airplane up and down the river from Lake St. Clair to well out into the western basin of Lake Erie. This ability gives us a bird's eye view of the river's water quality with real time information. When new problems are detected or chronic problems are being monitored, such information can then be passed on to the proper state or federal agency for their review. This ability to obtain and pass on such information and visually document it over a period of time has aided in our efforts to pinpoint problem areas and to work towards solutions to some of the river's water quality problems.

Research and Data gathering - The final cornerstone of the Detroit Riverkeeper program is the emphasis on being able to do independent research on water quality and habitat issues impacting the Detroit River as well as coordinate efforts with ongoing work that is being performed by other NGO's and governmental agencies. Over the last decade, the Riverkeeper program has helped numerous groups get out on the water and collect data.

One research project was completed with EPA grant funding and focused on finding, observing and logging the sources of as many of the stormwater and wastewater outfalls that could be located along the Detroit River and its connecting tributaries. In all, over 340 separate outfalls were documented on the American side of the Detroit River.

With a second MDEQ Coastal Management grant, we were able to take the previously gathered outfall data and create a GIS mapping system, plotting each of these locations by GPS coordinates. In addition to this work, we were also able to document all of the important aquatic weed beds and many important fish breeding areas in the river as well. To date, both of these projects have been used in current efforts that are assessing local water quality issues and potential fish habitat and spawning restoration sites. Along with our own independent research, the Riverkeeper program has built an excellent working relationship with researchers from MDEQ Fisheries, USGS and USFWS fisheries biologists, working with them on a number of cooperative efforts within the Detroit River.

Most recently, the Riverkeeper has served as technical advisor to the PAC working on projects to gather data and historical information on contaminated sediment locations in the Detroit River and provide technical input for the development of habitat restoration plans. Information compiled in the contaminated sediment project is currently being used by EPA to do additional sediment assessments along the Detroit River.

These cooperative research efforts have been mutually beneficial to both the Detroit Riverkeeper program as well as to the agencies with which we have worked. With the Riverkeeper being able supply decades of experience with Detroit River issues, geography and a good working knowledge of the sport fisheries and habitat areas, he has been able to guide researchers to important areas of interest.

Current Riverkeeper Programs and Activities

The following is a list of a few of the programs, projects and activities that the Riverkeeper Program has been involved in since its inception in 2003.

  • Round Island Development Meeting
  • Huron River Watershed meetings
  • DTE Wood Duck Box Project
  • Downriver Greenways meetings
  • EPA Seminar on Oil Containment Regulations
  • RTRR Issue
  • Sugar Island Development Issue
  • Rouge Waterfest Presentation
  • Annual Detroit River Cleanup
  • County Bridge Tern Habitat Project
  • Grosse Ile Days Display
  • Meeting with Lt. Governor
  • Oil Spill Conference
  • Annual Riverkeeper Conference
  • International Joint Commission meetings
  • Rouge Watershed meetings
  • RTRR Hearing Testimony
  • Clinton River Boat Tour
  • Combined Downriver Watershed Meetings
  • DRCC Canadian RAP Meetings
  • Great Lakes Fisheries Conferences
  • DWSD Waterfest presentation
  • Gibraltar Duck Hunters Meetings
  • Detroit River RAP Meetings
  • Congressman John Conyers forum
  • Belle Isle Sturgeon Spawning Project
  • Testified at Countywide Landfill Hearing
  • Mallard nests- Boy Scout Project
  • Army Corps of Engineers Meetings
  • Great Lakes Legacy Funding Meetings
  • Taylor Stream Bank Restoration Seminar
  • GLRI Habitat Restoration projects
  • Ecorse Creek Watershed Meetings
  • Wayne County IDEP Training
  • Report Marine Pollution Sign Campaign
  • Storm Drain Labeling Project
  • Wild Rice Planting Study
  • Alliance of Downriver Watershed Meetings
  • Taylor Environmental Fair
  • US Coast Guard Contingency Meetings
  • MDEQ Fisheries "Fish Kill Surveys"
  • Annual Trenton Street Fair displays
  • Sea Grant Fish and Wildlife Conference
  • SPAC and Detroit River RAP Meetings
  • Mercury Fish Sampling Project
  • Riparian Corridor Meetings
  • Sibley Prairie Issue
  • Periodic Pollution and oil spill reports to MDEQ and EPA
  • Rouge River, Wayne State Sediment Study
  • Pt. Mouillee Duck Hunters Tournament display
  • Water Use Legislation Meetings
  • Grosse Ile Nature and Land Conservancy Meetings
  • Gilbert Cable show interview
  • MiCorps Meetings
  • Frank and Poet Creek Development Meetings
  • DRIWR Meetings
  • County Storm Drain Forums
  • Great Lakes Restorations Meetings
  • Detroit Riverfront Planning Meetings
  • Black Lagoon Restoration Project
  • Grassy Island Forums

The Detroit Riverkeeper program wishes to thank the support that it receives from the Friends of the Detroit River, its board, its committees, members and the public. Funds used to support the Riverkeeper and Riverkeeper Committee come primarily from grants, FDR support, and foundation funding. The day to day operations of the Riverkeeper boat are supported primarily by donations from members and supporters at the annual Detroit Riverkeeper fundraising dinner.

If you have any questions about the Riverkeeper Program, are looking for a speaker, would like to take part in any of our events, attend one of our monthly Riverkeeper Committee meetings or serve on our committee, please contact us.

The Lower Detroit River

The Lower Detroit River

Detroit Riverkeeper giving his “History of the Detroit River” presentation to a group of high school students.

Detroit Riverkeeper giving his "History of the Detroit River" presentation to a group of high school students.

Volunteers clean up one of the island shorelines in the Lower Detroit River.

FDR information booth set up at a local street  fair.

FDR information booth set up at a local street fair.

The Detroit Riverkeeper gives testimony at a Senate Natural Resources Committee meeting, in Lansing, regarding the need for stricter enforcement against those who wantonly violate state pollution laws, following the massive 2002 Detroit River oil spill.

The Detroit Riverkeeper gives testimony at a Senate Natural Resources Committee meeting, in Lansing, regarding the need for stricter enforcement against those who wantonly violate state pollution laws, following the massive 2002 Detroit River oil spill.

Riverkeeper questions state official’s explanation of local fish kill with editorial, months before VHS fish virus is confirmed in the Detroit River and Western Lake Erie.

Riverkeeper questions state official's explanation of local fish kill with editorial, months before VHS fish virus is confirmed in the Detroit River and Western Lake Erie.

Over 12,000 “No Dumping Drains to River” storm drain labels have been provided to area watershed communities, with the help of our program.

Over 12,000 "No Dumping Drains to River" storm drain labels have been provided to area watershed communities, with the help of our program.

Riverkeeper standing next to one of the Pollution Reporting signs at an area boat launch.

Riverkeeper standing next to one of the Pollution Reporting signs at an area boat launch.

Local high school students get out on the Riverkeeper boat to do some dissolved oxygen and temperature studies.

Local high school students get out on the Riverkeeper boat to do some dissolved oxygen and temperature studies.

A contract worker for the MDEQ takes water samples off the Riverkeeper boat for an E. coli Total Maximum Daily Loading study that MDEQ was doing on the Detroit River and Ecorse Creek

A contract worker for the MDEQ takes water samples off the Riverkeeper boat for an E. coli Total Maximum Daily Loading study that MDEQ was doing on the Detroit River and Ecorse Creek.

Detroit Riverkeeper and pilot John Covert prepare for take-off on a photo reconnaissance flight along the river.

An aerial view of the Lower River from 1000 feet

An aerial view of the Lower River from 1000 feet.

USGS and USFW researchers and the Detroit Riverkeeper out on the river in the spring of 2007; catching, tagging and releasing sturgeon for a program to access the fish's population density and spawning preferences. Data from this study has helped researchers determine the health of the population and the best locations for future fish spawning restoration projects.

Riverkeeper and crew helped MDEQ fisheries track dead muskie “kills” from the VHS virus in the Spring of 2006.

Riverkeeper and crew helped MDEQ fisheries track dead muskie "kills" from the VHS virus in the Spring of 2006.