Middle Channel Reef Project
This St. Clair River Middle Channel Reef project is focused on restoring fish spawning habitat for lake sturgeon, walleye, lake whitefish and other native fish. An acre of rock reefs were constructed in the Middle Channel of the St. Clair River in the spring of 2012. Some success has already been reported.
Check out the videos, pictures, fact sheets, news coverage, etc. to learn more about the project.
Video Overview of the Reef Project
This video focuses on the successful St. Clair River fish habitat restoration project and the science and collaboration that made it a success.
Sturgeon Spawning on New Reefs
USGS researchers inspecting the newly constructed reefs capture delightful footage: a large number of lake sturgeon already gathering on the reefs and fresh sturgeon eggs in the crevices of the rocks.
Reef Construction Begins
Interviews with project partners, clips of the construction vessels and some footage of lake sturgeon taken near the Bluewater Bridge are featured.
Scientists Study Fish in St. Clair River Before Construction
This Out of the Blue video illustrates how project partners are studying lake sturgeon and juvenile fish communities in the St. Clair River and the role of Michigan Sea Grant.
More About the Project
Michigan Sea Grant is leading this restoration project, which is the result of a long-term collaboration among scientists and resources managers participating in the Huron Erie Corridor Initiative. The location and design of the Middle Channel reefs were chosen based on studies of fish populations and lessons learned during two previous reef projects located in the Detroit River, near Belle Isle and Fighting Island.
Scientists studied the St. Clair River area before the Middle Channel Reefs were constructed, and they will continue to study the area after the reefs are installed to determine if fish are using them for spawning and whether deposited eggs produce viable fish larvae and juvenile fish.
This research will assist future restoration efforts and help delist the St. Clair River as a binational Area of Concern under the U.S.-Canada Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. Restoration efforts in the St. Clair River could help rebuild native fish communities throughout the Great Lakes region.
The Need for Restoration
Many fish seek out rocky areas in fast-flowing currents in order to deposit their eggs during spawning season. Unfortunately, many of the natural limestone reefs and rocky areas were destroyed in the Detroit and St. Clair rivers when shipping channels were constructed. Similar spawning areas in tributary rivers were made inaccessible as a result of dams. Despite massive population declines, the waterways connecting Lakes Huron and Erie continue to support the largest remaining population of lake sturgeon in the Great Lakes.
- Fall 2010 – Fall 2011: Pre-construction biological assessment
- Spring 2012: Spawning reef construction
- Fall 2012 – Summer 2013: Post-construction biological assessment
The Middle Channel Reef Project is supported by grants totaling more than $1 million from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the US Fish & Wildlife Service through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, with additional matching support from partner organizations.