State, county team up on Rouge River study

Charles E. Ramirez
The Detroit News

Wayne County officials agreed Thursday to accept a state grant and kick in funding to pay for a study on the Rouge River’s health.

County commissioners voted unanimously to accept a $35,830 State Clean Michigan Initiative Grant to help monitor the health of the river and its tributaries. The grant contract runs from July 1, 2015, to June 30, 2017.

Under the resolution, the county plans to contribute $11,943 in existing storm water general permit money into the effort, “The Rouge River Insecticide Monitoring Project.”

“This project is important because the health of the Rouge River and its branches is tied to the overall environmental health of the region,” Commissioner Tim Killeen, D-Detroit, said in a statement. “It truly is a barometer of not only the watershed’s health, but the health of the county and southeast Michigan as a whole.”

Killeen is a member of the commission’s Committee on Public Services and a former science teacher. Earlier this month, the committee forwarded the resolution to the full commission for final approval.

Officials said the project is aimed at determining if there are levels of insecticides that are toxic for the river’s macroinvertebrates, such as beetles, mayflies, worms and snails.

Researchers in the study will collect samples from the river at 32 surface water sites and eight sediment stream bottom sites for two years. The nonprofit volunteer group Friends of the Rouge and the Alliance of Rouge Communities will be involved in the project, officials said.

The Rouge River and its four branches run a total of 126 miles.

Its upper branch flows into its main branch in northwest Detroit. The middle branch flows into the main branch near the Dearborn-Dearborn Heights border and the lower branch merges into the main branch in Dearborn. The river empties into the Detroit River near Zug Island on the border between Detroit and the city of River Rouge.

The river’s watershed runs through 48 communities in Wayne, Oakland and Washtenaw counties and covers roughly 466 square miles.

More than two million people live within the watershed.

In the early 1970s, federal officials declared the Rouge River one of the most intense sources of pollution flowing into the Great Lakes due to the 50 years of industrial waste that settled in the muck of its lower stretches.

“I am always pleased to see the county receive grants that improve water quality,” Commissioner Diane Webb, D-Livonia, who chairs the Committee on Public Services, said in a statement. “I’m glad we’re able to take advantage of the opportunity. Ensuring the health of the Rouge River and its branches is so important.”

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