Photo of United States Steel water front on the Detroit River

Detroit River AOC Habitat Restoration - United States Steel Site

Funded by: Environmental Protection Agency GLRI

Grant Amount: $670,000

Start/End Date: September 2010/December 2013

The USS project site is located in a highly industrialized part of the Detroit River in the City of Ecorse, where much of the shoreline has been hardened with steel and concrete seawalls. Because this site still retained some natural shoreline features, which would lend well to habitat restoration, it was selected for a habitat restoration project. The goal of this project was to restore over 1,100 feet of emergent shoreline and 4.6 acres of upland habitat in partnership with the United States Steel Corporation.

In the spring of 2010, The Friends of the Detroit River received notice from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that it would receive Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) funding to do a habitat restoration project on the United States Steel (USS) site in Ecorse, along the Detroit River shoreline just below USS's 80" rolling mill complex.

The proposed project was identified as a key restoration priority for advancing restoration and delisting of the Detroit River Area of Concern (AOC). Specifically, the recently completed Delisting Targets for the Fish and Wildlife Habitat Beneficial Use Impairments (BUIs) for Detroit River Area of Concern identified specific sites with potential to restore high value habitat in the AOC and incorporated them into the strategy for removing of the loss of fish and wildlife habitat/populations, and degradation of benthos BUIs. The USS site is among the identified sites; thus, its restoration will advance progress toward removing these BUIs for the AOC.

The location of this project site, in the mid part of the river, is primarily designated as an industrial zone. Much of the original shoreline habitat that once existed has been replaced with hardened shorelines. However, there are small sections of shoreline in this area that still retain some of their natural features and have been listed as possible restoration sites. Representatives from the USS Ecorse facility, prior to the proposal of this project, had already been developing plans to do restoration work on areas of their facility that were not currently being used for production activities. Having an interest in partnering with FDR on a joint restoration plan helped tremendously in getting funding approval for this project.

Starting in the fall of 2013, after project plans were developed and approved, several habitat restoration design features were implemented to benefit reptiles, mammals, amphibians, waterfowl, local and migratory birds. Along the 1,100 foot shoreline, bank stabilization was completed by the installation of a series of 2-3 foot limestone boulders that were supplemented with over 200 live stake plantings. In several locations along the shoreline, sand ramps were created to allow for an area that turtles could exit the river and have a place to lay their eggs.

Another aspect of the project, in the 4.6 acre upland area of the site, was the installation of several large snake hibernaculums. Dubbed "Snake Condos," these rock mounds, that were partially covered with soil, provide places that snake species such as the Eastern Fox snake and Common Garter snake could use for cover and to hibernate in over the winter.

Along with the removal of several species of invasive trees, bushes and plants, new indigenous plants, trees and shrubs were planted throughout the upland area. Wildflower seed and other forbs were planted around the upland area to provide soil stabilization and to improve the upland habitat around this site. In addition to the planting, bird nesting boxes were installed across the area to provide additional nesting sites for local bird populations.

This project was completed in partnership with the United States Steel Corporation and consulting services provided by Environmental Consulting & Technologies, Inc., and with the support of the Detroit River Public Advisory Council.

Project Update: Since the completion of this project in the fall of 2013, personnel from USS continue to monitor and maintain this site. In 2014, additional work was also done in a continued effort to control the spread of invasive species on this site.

US Steel Restoration

United States Steel Site

United States Steel Restoration

United States Steel Shoreline