Area of Concern

The Great Lakes are a unique natural resource containing 20 percent of the world’s fresh surface water. These lakes form part of the international boundary between Canada and the United States. In order to protect water resources, address problems along their common border, and enhance water quality, the United States and Canada enacted the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909 and subsequently established the International Joint Commission to implement the treaty.
In 1988, the International Joint Commission identified forty-three specific locations in the Great Lakes where action was needed to control and cleanup pollution. The St. Clair River is one of these areas, known as an Area of Concern. The St. Clair River was listed as an Area of Concern because of significant historical pollution problems. Thirty years later, the St. Clair River still remains an Area of Concern.
St. Clair River Area of Concern

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St. Clair River Beneficial Use Impairments

  • Loss of fish and wildlife habitat
  • Restrictions on fish and wildlife consumption
  • Beach closings
  • Bird or animal deformities or reproduction problems
  • Degradation of benthos – pending removal!
  • Restrictions on drinking water consumption, or taste and odor – pending removal!
  • Tainting of fish and wildlife flavor – no longer impaired!
  • Degradation of aesthetics – no longer impaired!
  • Added costs to agriculture or industry – no longer impaired!
  • Restriction on dredging activities – no longer impaired!


  • Beneficial Use Impairments Status Chart
    St. Clair River Area of Concern Health Report Card
    Fish and Wildlife Habitat Plan
    St. Clair River Area of Concern
    Great Lakes Area of Concern
    Friendsflowchart_Oct2018
    Each Great Lake and their rivers have fourteen protected Beneficial Uses by the U.S. and Canadian governments. The St. Clair River had ten impaired Beneficial Uses, but through almost three decades of collaborative efforts, conditions in the St. Clair River are improving. Today only six Beneficial Uses are impaired, with two anticipating removal in 2015. The goal is to have the St. Clair River delisted as an Area of Concern in 2019.

    St. Clair River Projects

    In 2009, the first-ever, large-scale financial commitment to address persistent & historical environmental problems in the Great Lakes. This program, known as the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, was funded at $475 million in 2010. The St. Clair River has benefited greatly from numerous projects funded under this initiative. In addition to the five fish and wildlife habitat projects currently underway, Great Lakes Restoration Initiative money has been used for other projects in the St. Clair River, including the following....

    1Can we drink the water?
    Yes! Five municipalities along the river’s shoreline draw water from the river and purify it for human consumption. The drinking water meets or surpasses all state and federal health requirements. Most water intake plants on the St. Clair River do extra monitoring to detect real-time spills so that water intake can be stopped if a foreign substance is detected. This is the St. Clair River-Lake St. Clair Monitoring Group.
    2Can we eat the fish?
    Yes! All Great Lakes sport fish contain some contaminants so certain species should be eaten in moderation. For recommendations on fish species that contain low levels of chemicals go to www.michigan.gov/EatSafeFish.
    3Can we swim at the beaches?
    Yes! Seasonal testing conducted by the St. Clair County Health Department at fifteen Great Lakes beaches indicates bacterial levels are generally at safe levels for swimming. Beaches still close occasionally especially after a heavy rainfall. For current beach closings call the 24-hour hotline at (810) 987-7253 or visit “St Clair County Beaches” on Facebook.

    Blue Water River Walk

    This major habitat restoration project along the St. Clair River in Port Huron began in 2010. Desmond Landing started out as a mile-long stretch of industrial wasteland, but when this project finished in June 2014, it became a beautiful shoreline with suitable habitat for fish and wildlife. With a restored and naturalized shoreline, the River Walk is safer and has more places for public to access the water in this primarily urban landscape. Native plants are critical to this habitat project in that they will produce the most suitable habitat for native fish and wildlife and offer protection for the shoreline. This is one of nine projects completed under the “DELISTING TARGETS FOR LOSS OF FISH & WILDLIFE HABITAT BENEFICIAL USE IMPAIRMENT OF THE ST. CLAIR RIVER AREA OF CONCERN” that gets us one step closer to removing this BUI from the St. Clair River.


    Maintaining a beautiful shoreline by keeping invasive plants in check so that native plants can flourish is an ongoing project.

    Blue Water River Walk Fact Sheet

    St. Clair Community Foundation Blue Water River Walk website

    Sign up to become a Blue Water River Walk Steward

    Port Huron North

    Near Pine Grove Park, just south of the Hollyhock, the shoreline restoration was completed in 2012. The project was led by the city of Port Huron.

    See Fact Sheet

    Upper St. Clair River Shoreline

    Shoreline restoration along the Blue Water River Walk was completed in 2014.

    Marysville's Living Shoreline

    The City of Marysville’s Living Shoreline Restoration Project competed against 1,000 other applicants to become one of the 270 projects funded under the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, and in 2012 the project was completed on the banks of the St. Clair River. This project involved habitat restoration and establishing native plant life. To accomplish this, a total of 1,885 feet of steel seawall was removed and replaced with a reinforced rocky shoreline creating a more naturalized shoreline. The design included seawall removal, an elevated improved boardwalk, emergent and submergent wetland vegetation, native plants, gravel and cobble beds in the water, and riprap bank protection. The rocky shores provide spawning and nursery habitat for fish, while wetland and upland prairie vegetation benefit birds and other wildlife. Additional plantings create a transitional area between the deep waters of the St. Clair River and the upland areas along the shore. This is one of nine projects completed under the “DELISTING TARGETS FOR LOSS OF FISH & WILDLIFE HABITAT BENEFICIAL USE IMPAIRMENT OF THE ST. CLAIR RIVER AREA OF CONCERN” that gets us one step closer to removing this BUI from the St. Clair River.

    Marysville Fact Sheet 1
    Marysville Fact Sheet 2

    In-River Habitat Restoration

    These artificial reef habitats for fish are in the St. Clair River near Algonac. At least one habitat was finished in 2013. Two reef habitats were completed in summer 2014 near Algonac Hart’s Light at Marine City.

    Reef Creation Photo Album
    Restoration Project Update
    MI SeaGrant: Videos of reef construction
    Restoring Fish Habitat in the St. Clair River Fact Sheet

    Blue Water River Walk County Park

    GLRI money also is helping to finance wetland construction at the south end of the Blue Water River Walk which will become St. Clair County Park and Recreation’s newest county park.

    View County Park Website

    Harsen’s Island Krispin Blueway Habitat Restoration Project

    St. Clair River Restoration Partner Award

    We recognize it takes an international community to be the guardians of the St. Clair River. Here on it’s shores, we’re celebrating the role of our partners in the success we’ve had over 30 years to restore, protect and enhance the St. Clair River.

    Successful restoration work for the St. Clair River Area of Concern has been accomplished due to many partner’s leadership, as well as from government agencies, First Nations, the Binational Public Advisory Council, municipalities, industry, and hundreds of dedicated volunteers.

    In the late 1980’s when the St. Clair River was designated an Area of Concern we started with ten impairments. These affected the health and quality of the water for fishing, swimming and drinking. Today we have just two impairments remaining.

    As we continue our Area of Concern work to improve and protect the St. Clair River, it’s important we recognize our partners and share their success story. Each plays an important role in safeguarding this resource. We are very grateful to all of our partners and especially for their valuable contributions.

    Their hard work and collaboration are an example of how community investment can create healthy, environmentally successful places and are a significant step towards delisting the St. Clair River as an Area of Concern. With their help, we continue to restore this magnificent river and its ecosystem.

    Watch the award presentations by searching “Friends of the St. Clair River” on YouTube or visit our YouTube Channel.

    2020-2022 Award Recipients

    Blueways of St. Clair

    The Blueways of St. Clair is a program of the St. Clair County Metropolitan Planning Commission and has been primarily the work of one woman, Lori Eschenburg. Lori is a pioneer and champion for promoting St. Clair County’s first Blueways Trail System and Michigan’s first National Water Trail. She has taken water trails from its infancy to a successful program with a collection of 17 mapped water trails. Blueways brings people in connection with rivers, which fosters the appreciation for and protection of this magnificent resource. This has gone a long way towards developing political support and gaining funding for trail improvements.

    Herpetological Resource and Management

    HRM has been instrumental in evaluating many habitat restoration projects on the St. Clair River. They performed ecological monitoring before, during and after many of the area’s most successful wildlife habitat restoration projects. They designed, installed and consulted on creature features such as frog and snake hibernacula, near shore mudpuppy habitat, and fish and bird elements. They have elevated St. Clair River restoration work, allowing us to highlight and promote our area’s unique features.

    David Mifsud, Director and Founder of HRM, shared: "Thank you so much for this incredible honor! Working on St. Clair River restoration projects has been a very rewarding and educational experience that I carry with me. I vividly remember the Area of Concern meeting when Rose Ellison introduced me to folks planning to pilot a restoration project on an old railyard. My how things have changed for the better thanks to the efforts from you all. On behalf of the amazing folks who have worked with me over the years, we want to thank you for seeing the value of amphibians and reptiles and the work HRM does. I am certainly disappointed not to be able to see folks in person to accept the award, but thankful for good health and hope for better times to come.

    St. Clair County Parks and Recreation Commission

    St. Clair County Parks and Recreation Commission has been a long time partner of St. Clair River restoration efforts in habitat restoration for the Blue Water River Walk and new Blue Water River Walk County Park. As a partner on these projects the Parks Commission contributed local match for the grant to build the 1-mile long paved path along the River Walk and also purchased adjoining land south of the River Walk and developed the new County Park. They continue to support these projects by providing maintenance and monitoring to these habitat sites, which guarantees their success.

    U.S. Geological Survey – Great Lakes Science Center

    Under the guidance of Edward F. Roseman, Ph.D., Research Fishery Biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey Great Lakes Science Center and his entire Lake Sturgeon team, they are responsible for the building and monitoring of three fish spawning reefs in the St. Clair River. This has enhanced the St. Clair River’s habitat for several fish species, especially the lake sturgeon. They have taken Lake Sturgeon awareness and outreach from its infancy stage to a large-scale successful program. The Sturgeon in the Classroom program, Blue Water Sturgeon Festival and North Channel Sturgeon Classic are a few examples of projects that are successful due to close cooperation between non-profits and the USGS-GLSC. Their partnership is benefiting lake sturgeon conservation, increasing public awareness, improving data collection and stewardship of Lake Sturgeon efforts elsewhere throughout the Great Lakes.

    Hall of Fame: Previous Partner Award Recipients

    Our 2020 award recipients join a prestigious line-up of those who have worked tirelessly towards the goal of restoring the health of the St. Clair River.

    • 2011 – Lisa Huntington
    • 2012 – Dave Dortman; Clay Township Phragmites Board; Gregory A.D.; City of Port Huron
    • 2014 – Community Foundation of St. Clair County; City of Marysville
    • 2015 – Jim Lesnau & Celesta Brill; Jim Bloch; St. Clair County Health Department.; Cottrellville Township.; Huron to Erie Drinking Water Protection Network
    • 2016 – Kay Cumbow; Kristen O’Reilly; Blue Water River Walk Stewards; Cargill Salt, Inc; Jeff Friedland
    • 2017 – Bob Gross; Huron Lady II; U.S.F.W.S-Alpena Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office