Saving Sterling Island

A $500,000 federal grant is being used to prevent further erosion of the small man-made island near Hellenberg Park.

In a classic battle between man and nature, workers are using big machines and tons of rock to restore the shoreline and prevent more erosion of man-made Sterling Island in the River Raisin near Hellenberg Park.

Work is under way on a $500,000 grant-funded project to preserve and contour the deteriorating banks of the island, which is connected to the park by an arched footbridge.
The project is using a federal Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grant to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and it could be completed within a month, officials said.
When finished, a “rock vane,” or stony barrier, will jut into the river from the western tip of the island in an effort to keep debris and ice floes from further eroding the shoreline and depositing silt along the downstream riverbed. A stony barrier also will line portions of the riverside shoreline to guard against further erosion caused by waves. Erosion already has undercut some parts of the shoreline by as much as five feet, officials found. A timber stairway and earthen landing also will be created on the island end of the footbridge.

The work is part of a coordinated series of projects to get the lower River Raisin near the Port of Monroe removed from a list of federal “areas of concern” – dozens of sites around the Great Lakes where waters are so polluted that wildlife and recreation uses are impaired.

“It’s a one-man show right now,” said a worker for Michigan Marine Services, a South Rockwood subcontractor for Inland Lakes of Pontiac, who was constructing the stone barrier on Wednesday.
The worker, who declined to be identified, was using a massive backhoe to load tons of rock onto a barge at the shoreline of the park, then periodically ferrying it to the island’s shoreline, gradually building the barrier out into the river from the tip of the island.

“We put about 120 to 140 tons of rock on each barge load,” he said.

Once the barge is full, a portable engine jacks up two anchoring pilings and the barge is positioned by boat at the project site and the backhoe is used to build the barrier in the water, bucketful by bucketful.

Part of the project will include gradual sloping of badly eroded island shoreline and creating a shallower area near the banks to create a better habitat for fish and vegetation. Early in June, state surveyors found 29 species of fish near the island, including bass, walleye and pike.

The area is cordoned off while construction continues and the entry to the footbridge is blocked. The work has been continuing for almost two weeks, although availability or rock and theft and vandalism to the machines have hampered efforts, the worker said. Vandals smashed out the rear window of a small earth-mover, damaged the controls and have stolen batteries.

by Charles Slat
source: Monroe Evening News