Environmental Results To Date
Wayne County's Rouge Project has been enormously successful in its goal
to restore the Rouge River to its designated uses. At the center of this
effort is the Rouge Project's combined sewer overflow (CSO) control program.
As recently as 1995 the River was suffering from gross pollution with
the water quality standards being violated essentially all of the time
in the main reaches of the River. The Rouge River was designated by the
International Joint Commission as one of the most significant sources
of pollution to the Great Lakes system. There were fish consumption advisories
in place and the county health department had prohibited total body contact.
The citizens and industry had turned their backs, literally and figuratively,
on the River because it was so grossly polluted.
The monitoring program
of the Rouge Project showed that in addition to controlling CSOs,
other sources of pollution, such as storm water, needed
to be controlled before full restoration of the river would be achieved
throughout the watershed. Based upon what was learned, the focus
of the Rouge Project became more holistic to consider the impacts
from all sources
of pollution and use impairments in receiving waters. The challenge
for the Rouge Project became to develop innovative solutions to achieve
quality objectives that may be: 1) more cost-effective, 2) implemented
in a more timely fashion and 3) better able to meet local needs.
It has also become clear that water resources management must have
of the general public in order to be effective and to become self-sustaining.
The Rouge Project has provided a unique opportunity for a watershed-wide
approach to restoring and protecting an urban river system by using
a cooperative, locally based approach to pollution control. However,
is very important to remember that the CSO control program is at
the heart of this success story.
The water quality improvements that
have occurred as a result of the Rouge Project are striking.
The Long-Term Monitoring Network of
Project includes continuous measurement of Rouge River dissolved
oxygen (DO) content at five key locations. Adequate dissolved
is one key element of a healthy river ecosystem. The DO measurements
are made from mid-April through mid-November each year. Most
sites have been monitored since 1994. Since the measurements are
show the combined effect of dry and wet weather conditions in
river. A review of the 2003 data from these long-term monitoring
The water quality in the Rouge River continued
to show the very encouraging trend of continuous improvement
because of the CSO control
and other watershed restoration efforts. The MDEQ water quality
standard for DO is 5 mg/l. The mean DO in the lower reaches
of the Rouge River
has increased from 4.5 mg/l in 1994 to over 7.0 mg/l in 2003.
of DO readings that violated the DO standard of 5 mg/l dropped
from 61 percent in 1994 to less than 4 percent in 2003. Similar
improvements occurred at all stations in the watershed where
those upper river
met the standard 100% of the time. The water quality improvements
that are occurring clearly reflect the benefits of the watershed
strategies that have been implemented to address and control
and wet weather pollution sources in the watershed.
with the water quality improvements, the ecosystem health continues
to improve as well. This improvement is demonstrated
by the results of
the annual Frog and Toad Survey which is conducted by
volunteers surveying various locations in the watershed. Frogs and
toads are sensitive indicators
of ecosystem health because they require clean water
quality habitat to survive. The volunteers heard a greater
number of green
frogs, bullfrogs, and northern leopard frogs during the
2003 survey than they
did in the previous year. Leopard frogs have been undergoing
a nationwide and statewide decline in recent years so
it was very good news that
they continue to survive in the Rouge watershed. Green
frogs were also heard
in a higher percentage of blocks and were calling in
every subwatershed. The possible statewide decline of green frogs
reported by the
Michigan statewide survey may not be happening in the
Rouge River Watershed. Bullfrogs, while never numerous in the Rouge
more urban areas in the watershed this year than in past
The aesthetics of the river are greatly improved.
Also, there are more sightings of larger and more diverse species
of fish. Salmon are
migrating up the Rouge River. And finally, the recreational
use of the River is expanding at an increasing rate.
Wayne County hosts
triathlon along and in the Rouge River. Canoe liveries
are booming along the River.