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Disposal facility to receive upgrades to allow for Clinton River dredging

Jennifer Hill, executive director of the Clinton River Watershed District, is among several officials talking Monday following a press conference nearly under the Bridgeview bridge in Harrison Township commemorating a $500,000 federal allocation to repair a federally operated Confined Disposal Facility that will allow dredging of the Clinton River to take place.

Posted on April 24, 2024

Leaders engaged with improving Macomb County’s waterways and blue economy gathered Monday to commemorate a $500,000 government project to take the first step in dredging the Clinton River.

Local, state and federal politicians and other community leaders marked the receipt of the funds in a press conference held outside an underground 30-acre storage facility off of Old North River Road in Harrison Township. It abuts the Mount Clemens Field Office of the state Department of Natural Resources.

U.S. Rep. John James, with assistance from fellow Republican county Public Works Commissioner Candice Miller, secured the allocation to repair and upgrade the Confined Disposal Facility (CDF), owned by the state and operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that takes in and stores dredged sediments from nearby waterways. It is one of 45 such sites in the Great Lakes region.

After that work is done later this year, the river will receive a much-needed dredging to ease the ability of watercraft to traverse the river and access to Lake St. Clair. The material removed from the dredging will be placed in the CDF.

“This is extremely important for our environment, extremely important for our future, extremely important for our economy and enjoyment,” James said.

Several officials — including U.S. Rep John James and Macomb County Public Works Commissioner Candice Miller — participate in a ribbon-cutting ceremony to kick off a $500,000 project by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to perform repairs to a federally operated Confined Disposal Facility in Harrison Township that will allow Clinton River dredging.

Declining water levels, a developing sandbar and increased seaweed near the mouth of the river has made it more difficult for boats to gain access to Lake St. Clair from the Clinton River, Miller said. She said the river was last dredged before she left Congress in 2017.

“We have got to get the dredging done,” Miller said. “But first we have to fix the CDF, and we needed the cash to do that, and that’s what we have here. It’s no secret the Clinton River has some contaminants in the river bottom that have been there our lifetime.

“The Army Corps of Engineers complained to the congressman and myself they couldn’t do this dredging project until after they maintained and did some critical work on this infrastructure here, the Confined Disposal Facility. The CDF has fallen into some bit of disrepair.”

County board Chair Don Brown said the county will avert an “economic disaster” due to the dredging that is expected to result.

“This is another winning project again that is going to, actually quite frankly, prevent an economic disaster from happening,” Brown said. “Had it not work from being done on this CDF we’d have a disaster when that river shuts down because boats can’t through there. The economic damage would come as a result would be terrible.”

The dredging, however, most likely won’t take place this year because the CDF project will be done in the fall, according to Army Corps spokesman Brandon Hubbard.

“The (CDF) work is expected to take approximately 2 months and initiate in the fall using the Detroit District’s floating plant crew,” Hubbard said in a written statement. “Maintenance of (the Army Corps’) CDFs is critical in ensuring safe navigation in our waterways.”

The work will include vegetation and tree removal between dike and perimeter fence and within the CDF as well as restoration of the gravel dike access road, Hubbard said.

Hubbard said the $1.3 million needed for the dredging has been requested but not yet approved.

The project demonstrates the county’s deep connection to the waterways. Steve Remias, a director on the Macomb County Chamber Board of Directors and part of the county Blue Economy initiative, noted the impact of Lake St. Clair and Clinton River on the area: the waterways combined make up 430-square-miles and are the site of 80 public vessel launches, 20,000 boat slips, 10 public parks and 62 marinas. They provide 18,000 jobs, and 1.4 million people use them annually.

The funds for the project come from the Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies appropriations bill that passed in March that James voted and advocated for, according to a James spokesman.

Fencing along a federally operated Confined Disposal Facility separates it from the Mount Clemens Field Office of the state Department of Natural Resources.

James said this is the first time he has secured direct funding for the district he took office in January 2023, and insisted on calling the allocation a “tax refund.”

“This is your money,” James said. “This is the money that people from Macomb County sent to Washington D.C. to be used responsibly. I firmly believe this area has been di-invested for so long. It’s time for someone to stand up and bring resources back home. … This is the way government should work. Things go up the ladder, and resources come back down.”

Several officials noted the funding was made possible by mulitple levels of government working together.

Jennifer Hill, Executive Director for Clinton River Watershed Council, also praised the project and noted improvements in the quality of the river but said more work needs to be done.

“The health of the river has improved dramatically over the last 50 years,” Hill said. “But we know the fight to improve the health of the Clinton River is not over.”

She said the state DNR in the 1960s “found no live fish” in the river from Pontiac to Lake St. Clair, and in 1987 the Clinton River Watershed was named an “area of concern” in the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement.

Improvements since then are indicated by a DNR study in recent years that showed 80 species of fish, and the river has become a state designated water trail, she said.

Also attending the event were state Rep. Alicia St. Germaine, Harrison Township Supervisor Ken Verkest, county Commissioner Barbara Zinner of Harrison Township along with several members of the North Star Sailing Club in Harrison Township.

The CDF, which was built in 1989 with an impenetrable clay barrier, takes in 20,000 cubic yards of material every three to five years and has a capacity of 370,000 cubic yards of material, according to the Army Corps. The CDF has less than five years left of capacity.

It is located east of Bridgeview Street and Bridge just across North River Road from Selfridge Air National Guard Base.


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