Waterloo Dam bypass project moving ahead

Source: Monroe News
By: Charles Slat

Concerns about the potential for sea lamprey infestations will not dash a plan to build a canal around the Waterloo Dam at Veterans Park.
A plan to build a canal that will skirt the Waterloo Dam at Veterans Park on the River Raisin apparently is a step closer to reality with conditional approval from federal wildlife officials.
The project, part of an effort to improve fish habitat in the river by removing dams along the waterway, was in question due to concerns that such a canal would provide passage for invasive and parasitic sea lampreys as well as game fish.
The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service did not want to see the Waterloo Dam canal project begin until it took surveys for lamprey larvae and did other studies of the proposal.
“We just got a report on it,” said Dan Stefanski, a member of the City of Monroe’s Committee on the Environment. “They want us to build a safeguard in just in case we get infested with the lamprey, but they’re going to support our request.”
“We’re going to have to develop something to submit. I’m going to suggest a slide gate,” he said.
Mr. Stefanski, who also serves on a citizen advisory panel on cleaning up the river, was part of a contingent of local officials and state Department of Natural Resources officials who hosted Jon Allan, director of the Michigan Office of the Great Lakes, on a tour of grant-funded environmental project in the Monroe area.
Mr. Allan wanted to see first-hand progress made on river-related projects that will get the River Raisin taken off a federal list of highly contaminated sites around the Great Lakes.
Mr. Allan said he was impressed with what he saw. “There’s been spectacular progress on the river and the dams to improve habitat and reconnect people to that water body,” he said.
The tour included visits to the Port of Monroe, other sites along the river where low dams were removed and replaced with rock arches last year, Sterling State Park and the Waterloo Dam.
Dr. John Hartig, manager of the Detroit International Wildlife Refuge, also provided an overview on the growth of the refuge, which now includes 5,800 acres from the River Rouge down to the Michigan-Ohio line.
He also said refuge officials will be celebrating memos of understanding with Canadian officials to solidify their international cooperation on conservation during ceremonies Aug. 17 at the Erie State Game Area.
Mr. Stefanski said it is likely that a closeable gate will be incorporated into the canal to shut if off if lamprey seem to be migrating upstream.
He was unsure if the $1.5 million canal project could be started this year, although a contract for the work, including two other downstream dams, is expected to be awarded soon.
Mr. Allan said the projects were impressive, but so was the citizen participation.
“It’s pretty spectacular. The level of engagement in the community has been so phenomenal,” he said.
His office coordinates state agency input and works with federal agencies on projects “to try to prioritize them so we get most bang for the buck for these federal dollars,” he said.
“This is a very holistic viewpoint about the river,” Mr. Allan added. “It shows how we’re thinking about the health of the whole river and how to connect people to the river.”