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The Rouge Oxbow Restoration Project is located at the Henry Ford Museum & Greenfield Village (HFMGV) adjacent to the Rouge River in Dearborn, Michigan. Until recently, the water quality of the Rouge River had degraded significantly, partially as a result of pollutant loadings from various sources. In addition, development within the watershed had resulted in a significant increase in the percentage of impervious area resulting in increased peak flow volume and frequency. A flood control project on the River was constructed in the 1970s to prevent flooding in the river basin. One of the main features of the project was the enlargement and concrete realignment of approximately 9 miles of the original river channel. Consequently, a number of river meanders were cut off, creating several shallow oxbow wetlands.

The main objective of the Oxbow Restoration Project is to enhance the ecological viability of this western-most Oxbow by creating valuable fish and wildlife habitat, restore functioning riverine wetlands that have been lost due to channelization and improve water quality. Secondary objectives include additional flood storage, providing educational/interpretative opportunities and improved aesthetics of the channel and the associated upland island. The project will be completed in three phases: Phase I – Oxbow Channel and Wetland Restoration; Phase II – Modifications of an existing Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO); and, Phase III – Open Cut Connection of the Oxbow wetlands to the Rouge River. An existing storm sewer connection will provide a hydrologic connection that will allow river water to enter the Oxbow during Phase I. A siphon will connect the wetlands on both sides of the existing CSO structure until Phase II is completed.

Phase I will provide restoration of the Oxbow Wetlands similar to riverine wetlands common in southeast Michigan rivers. The restoration will provide a 2,200-ft long channel that will vary in width from 15 to 50 feet and depths of 3 to 6 feet. The channel will be surrounded by 3 acres of submergent and emergent wetland systems that provide habitat for various fish and aquatic species. Total channel and wetland width will extend to a maximum width of 105 feet.

Aquatic habitat will be enhanced by appropriate placement of woody and stone materials (shelter) and submergent plant species in and near deeper pool areas. The wetland will transition to 10 acres of existing and proposed upland woodlands and open areas. These areas will be planted with various native tree, shrub, grass and wildflower species. Bioengineering techniques, such as fascines and live staking, will provide stabilization of slope areas. Plant species have been chosen to reflect historic southern Michigan riverine wetland and floodplain communities. Plantings were also chosen to include native species that were utilized by the indigenous people (primarily Potowatomi and Chippewa) for food, medical and cultural materials for future interpretive programs. Upon stabilization, certain fish species will be introduced to the oxbow wetlands, including bass, channel catfish and bowfin. Various wildlife anticipated to use these habitat areas include macroinvertebrates, amphibians, reptiles, waterfowl and small mammals. Upon completion of construction, the oxbow upland will have a new educational program based on the people that originally occupied the Dearborn area and their use of the river, developed and implemented by HFMGV. It is anticipated that project will also be utilized by the Henry Ford Academy (grades 9–12) for biological/ecological studies, including water quality/quantity monitoring, botanical and wildlife surveys.

Phase I restoration is estimated to take 6 to 9 months to construct with an additional 2 years establishment period prior to Phases II & III. This time shall allow the wetland system to stabilize and be maintained accordingly. Phase I construction will begin in July 2001 and therefore the restoration, less establishment, should be completed by the early 2002.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2002

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