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Great Lakes


U.S. EPA RAP Liaison
John Perrecone

State RAP Contact
Victor C. Pappas
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
920-892-8756, ext. 3012

Local RAP Contact
Jon Gumtow

Sheboygan River AOC Committee

920-558-4393 or 608-839-1998

Sheboygan River Area of Concern

Lake Michigan

Cleanup Complete: June 2013 — EPA announces the completion of all dredging and habitat restoration projects required to remove the Sheboygan River Area of Concern from a list of toxic hot spots identified in the 1987 Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement.

Over $80 million has been spent to dredge contaminated sediment and restore habitat in the Sheboygan River Area of Concern. The cleanup work was funded largely through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and by responsible parties through the EPA Superfund program. The State of Wisconsin, the City of Sheboygan and Sheboygan County contributed approximately $5 million to the final phase of the river cleanup.

News release: EPA Announces "Cleanup Complete" at Sheboygan River Area of Concern

August 2012 — Starting in mid-August, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will target up to $57 million in Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funds for five projects in the Sheboygan River.  Two of the EPA projects will focus on dredging contaminated sediment from the river.  EPA's GLRI grant to the State of Wisconsin will fund three habitat restoration projects here. The State, the city of Sheboygan and Sheboygan County are contributing another $5 million to the dredging projects. These are the final actions needed to remove the river from the list of "Areas of Concern" on the Great Lakes.

Meanwhile, two Superfund dredging projects are already in progress on the river.  By the end of the year, these GLRI and Superfund actions — totaling about $80 million — will be finished.  Taken together, they will complete the Sheboygan River's transformation into an area of recovery.

By the end of the year, over 400,000 cubic yards of sediment will be removed from the Sheboygan River. Dredging will proceed around-the-clock to complete the projects. All the contaminated sediment will be processed and taken to a licensed landfill for disposal.

Sheboygan River Legacy Act Cleanup

EPA is beginning a $30-35 million Great Lakes Legacy Act sediment removal project. About 160,000 cubic yards of sediment contaminated with PCBs and polyaromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs, will be removed from the river. Workers will remove about 1,800 pounds of PCBs and 37,000 pounds of PAHs. Another benefit of the dredging will be greater depth in the Sheboygan River, improving navigation.

A separate EPA dredging project is already under way in the Inner Harbor, downstream from the 8th Street Bridge.  This $20 million project is focused on removing about 170,000 cubic yards of sediment from Sheboygan Harbor by the end of the year. WDNR, the City of Sheboygan and Sheboygan County are contributing to this project.

Sheboygan River & Harbor Superfund Site

In addition, contaminated sediment from the area upstream of the 8th Street Bridge is currently being removed as part of the Superfund cleanup. Hydraulic dredging began in 2011 and should be completed in September.

GLRI Habitat Restoration Projects

Also, about $5.5 million in Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funds have gone to the WDNR and the city of Sheboygan for habitat restoration projects along the Sheboygan River. These include shoreline restoration projects at Kiwanis Park, Wildwood Island, and in the area of Taylor Drive and Indiana Avenue, as well as bank stabilization and in-stream habitat projects. That work will be completed later this year.


The Sheboygan River Area of Concern encompasses the lower Sheboygan River downstream from the Sheboygan Falls Dam, including the entire harbor and nearshore waters of Lake Michigan. The AOC serves as a sink for pollutants carried from three watersheds: the Sheboygan River, Mullet River and Onion River. Pollutants of concern, both conventional and toxic, have been identified as suspended solids, fecal coliform bacteria, phosphorus, nitrogen, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and heavy metals. The Sheboygan River basin is located in portions of five counties. Industrial, agricultural and residential areas line the rivers of the basin. Agriculture is the dominant land use in the area, totaling 67 percent. The Sheboygan, Onion and Mullet River basins contain three cities, eleven villages and seven towns. The cities of Sheboygan and Sheboygan Falls and the village of Kohler are all located within the AOC.

Sheboygan River priorities include remediation of contaminated sediments, nonpoint source pollution control, brownfield and waterfront restoration, and habitat protection and restoration. Two Superfund sites are within the AOC:

  • Sheboygan River & Harbor Superfund Site
    The Sheboygan River and Harbor Superfund Site includes the lower 14 miles of the river from the Sheboygan Falls dam downstream to, and including, the inner harbor. EPA divided the river into three sections: the upper river, the middle river and the lower river. The inner harbor includes the section from the Pennsylvania Avenue bridge to the river's outlet to the outer harbor.
  • WPSC Campmarina Superfund site
    The 1.5-acre Wisconsin Public Service Corp. Campmarina manufactured gas plant site is located at 732 N. Water St., Sheboygan, on the north bank of the Sheboygan River. It is used as a park and marina with a river walk located immediately adjacent to the river shoreline.

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Beneficial Use Impairments More information

In 1985, the lower Sheboygan River and Harbor was designated an AOC because of water quality and habitat problems associated with the historical discharge of pollutants into the AOC and the potential adverse effect the pollutants could have on Lake Michigan. The high levels of nutrients, solids and toxics entering the river had caused a series of problems including nuisance algal blooms, fish consumption advisories and contaminated sediments. The pollutant discharges also were suspected of contributing to the degradation of wildlife, fish, benthos and plankton populations and the reduction in fish and wildlife habitat.

  • Restrictions on fish and wildlife consumption
  • Eutrophication or undesirable algae
  • Degradation of fish and wildlife populations
  • Fish tumors or other deformities
  • Bird or animal deformities or reproduction problems
  • Degradation of benthos
  • Degradation of phytoplankton and zooplankton populations
  • Restriction on dredging activities
  • Loss of fish and wildlife habitat

For further information and details on all of the BUIs, see Sheboygan River Beneficial Use Impairments (PDF) (2pp, 63K).

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Delisting Targets More information

The Wisconsin DNR and Sheboygan River Basin Partnership (formerly the Sheboygan River Basin Land and Waters Partners) are working together to develop a process to establish delisting targets. In 2004, SRBP members formed an AOC Committee to coordinate with local, state and federal agencies and other interested parties to implement the RAP. A goal of this committee is to develop and lead a citizen-based approach to delist the Sheboygan River.

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RAP Development and Status More information

The WDNR and Sheboygan River Basin Partnership are working together to update the 1995 Sheboygan River Remedial Action Plan (PDF) (127pp, 933K). An analysis of the current situation, including any new information regarding the BUIs, is needed in order to determine what still needs to be done and to develop science-based delisting targets that can have wide community acceptance.

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RAP Actions

  • 2011: Summer Drawdown of Seboygan Marsh FAQ (PDF) (2 pp, 76K) Exit EPA Disclaimer
  • 2007: Administrative Settlement and Agreed Order for WPSC Campmarina Site signed.
  • 2006: Sheboygan County adopted an erosion control and stormwater management ordinance.
  • 2006: Phase II of the Sheboygan River and Harbor Superfund Site clean up began in the Upper River.
  • 2005: WDNR and the Sheboygan County Land and Water Conservation Department worked with a local farmer to relocate a barnyard and grazing area along the banks of Otter Creek, a tributary to the Sheboygan River.
  • 2004: Phase 1 cleanup of the of the Sheboygan Superfund Site was completed.
  • 2004: Sheboygan County completed and then updated the Sheboygan County Natural Areas and Critical Resources Plan. Exit EPA Disclaimer
  • 2004: Wisconsin Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits were issued for the Village of Kohler, Town of Sheboygan, and Town of Wilson. These communities are taking actions to control urban runoff.
  • 2004: City of Sheboygan and WDNR completed the redevelopment of the former C. Reiss Coal Peninsula on Lake Michigan and the Sheboygan River. The project included permitting for seawall reconstruction on the Sheboygan River, remedial action plan for site cleanup, site grading permit and a dune re-creation project.
  • 2004: WDNR completed two Onion River trout stream restoration projects, a small wetland restoration and trout population surveys on the Onion River and its tributaries.
  • 2003: Final Consent Decree (PDF) (81 pp, 339K) was signed by EPA, U.S. DOJ and Tecumseh Products Company to clean up the upper portion of the Sheboygan River Superfund site including ground water at the Tecumseh facility, floodplain soil, and river sediment.
  • 2003: WDNR staff conducted a stream monitoring workshop for the public that was concentrated on a small waterway named Willow Creek that is tributary to the Sheboygan River.
  • 2002: Sheboygan County and WDNR collected data during a drawdown of the Broughton Sheboygan Marsh.
  • 2002 Broughton Sheboygan Marsh Strategic Management Plan (PDF) (113 pp, 428K) was approved by Sheboygan County .
  • 2001: Sheboygan County Land and Water Conservation Departments began the vegetated buffer strip program.
  • 2001: The soil cleanup phase of the Campmarina Manufactured Gas Plant site along the Sheboygan River in the city of Sheboygan was implemented in 2001.
  • 2000: Removal of Franklin Dam on the Sheboygan River.

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Community Involvement Exit disclaimer

  • The Sheboygan River Basin Partnership is an alliance of volunteers from conservation and environmental groups; local businesses; local, state and federal agency staff; and individuals working together on natural resource issues in the Sheboygan River Basin formed in 1998.
  • Water Action Volunteers - Citizen Stream Monitoring, a group of private citizens who volunteer to collect and analyze data to assess stream ecosystem health in the Milwaukee and Sheboygan River Basins.

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What is a beneficial use impairment?

Impairment of beneficial use is a change in the chemical, physical, or biological integrity of the Great Lakes system sufficient to cause any of the following 14 use impairments:

  • restrictions on fish and wildlife consumption
  • tainted fish and wildlife flavor
  • loss of fish or wildlife habitat
  • degraded fish and wildlife populations
  • fish tumors or other deformities
  • bird or animal deformities or reproductive problems
  • degradation of benthic macroinvertebrate communities
  • restrictions on dredging activities
  • eutrophication or undesirable algae
  • restrictions on drinking water consumption or taste and odor problems
  • beach closings
  • degradation of aesthetics
  • added costs to agriculture and industry
  • degradation of phytoplankton and zooplankton

What is a remedial action plan?

The remedial action plan, or RAP, is a process to clean up the waterfront, rivers, habitats and waters. The United States and Canada, as part of the Great Lake Water Quality Agreement, committed to cooperate with State and Provincial Governments to ensure that RAPs are developed and implemented for all Areas of Concern in the Great Lakes basin. Forty-three AOCs have been identified: 26 located entirely within the United States; 12 located entirely within Canada; and five that are shared by both countries. RAPs address impairments to any one of 14 beneficial uses (e.g., restrictions on fish and wildlife consumption, dredging activities, or drinking water consumption) associated with these areas.

What is a delisting target?

In order to move towards formal delisting, RAPs need delisting targets to gauge their success:

  • Delisting targets should be premised on local goals and related environmental objectives for the watershed; they should be consistent with the applicable federal and state regulations, objectives, guidelines, standards and policies, when available, and the principles and objectives embodied in Annex 2 and supporting parts of the GLWQA.
  • Delisting targets should have measurable indicators.
  • Delisting targets should be developed and periodically reviewed on a site specific basis (allowing for flexibility in addressing local conditions) by the respective state agencies, in consultation with local stakeholder groups. This is particularly important if new information becomes available.

More information about the delisting process>>

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