EPA Announces Removal of Lower Menominee River from List of Great Lakes Areas of Concern
MARINETTE / MENOMINEE (Sep. 3, 2020) – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is pleased to announce the official removal of the Lower Menominee River Area of Concern (AOC) from a list of heavily polluted sites located within the Great Lakes basin. A total of 43 AOCs were originally identified in the U.S. and Canada in the 1980s, primarily due to legacy contamination and degraded habitat dating back over many decades.
The completion of all necessary remedial and restoration work and the subsequent removal of six “Beneficial Use Impairments," i.e., specific types of environmental degradation occuring in the Lower Menominee River AOC, enabled the removal or “delisting” of the Lower Menominee River from the list of remaining AOCs. Of the 31 U.S. AOCs originally identified, the Lower Menominee River is the fifth to be delisted, representing a significant milestone in the ongoing efforts to restore and protect the Great Lakes.
“Having visited this site earlier in the summer, there is no doubt Wisconsin and Michigan have improved the environmental health of their waterways,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “I am proud of Region 5 and its state partners and look forward to more delistings. Great job.”
“It took decades of dedication and teamwork from federal, state, local and community partners in Wisconsin and Michigan to restore the river,” said Region 5 Administrator and Great Lakes National Program Manager Kurt Thiede. “This delisting means communities on both sides of the Lower Menominee River can enjoy a cleaner and healthier environment. We are proud to have achieved this significant milestone – one that underscores the Trump Administration’s dedication to restoring the health of the Great Lakes.”
The Lower Menominee River was designated an AOC because contaminated river sediment and degraded habitat impaired public benefits such as fish consumption, healthy fisheries, uncontaminated shipping channels, and wildlife habitat. The bulk of the AOC includes the lower three miles of the Menominee River, which separates the Cities of Marinette, Wis., and Menominee, Mich. The AOC also extends north and south of the river mouth along the shoreline of Green Bay.
“The delisting of the Lower Menominee River as an Area of Concern is a big step forward for our community and northeast Wisconsin,” said State Rep. John Nygren. “I’d like to thank the members of the community that have spent years working towards this goal. Our focus should now shift to protecting this important natural resource so that future generations may enjoy and benefit from it.”
A variety of remediation and restoration activities overseen by EPA and the states of Wisconsin and Michigan between 2000 and 2018 resulted in a cleaner and healthier river bottom, a healthier fish and wildlife population and improved fish and wildlife habitats. Michigan and Wisconsin shared the responsibility for the river’s rehabilitation and worked closely with each other and with federal agencies, industry, private partners and local citizens to restore the AOC.
“This delisting proves the value of partnerships not only among government agencies but also with the community, which helped to guide us along the way in deciding important next steps in the cleanup of the Lower Menominee River area,” said Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy Director Liesl Clark. “Through persistent efforts at the state and federal levels and continuous input from those who live and recreate on the Lower Menominee River, the partners were able to develop an effective plan for remediation and long-term monitoring so that this valuable asset is now, once again, something the community can safely enjoy.”
“This is a significant step in the work that the DNR does to ensure that Wisconsin provides clean, safe water to its communities,” said Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Secretary Preston D. Cole. “We will continue to work with regional and community partners to ensure that Wisconsinites have access to clean water and that businesses can thrive in areas not endangered by toxic pollution. Cleaning up these toxic hot spots are a priority across our state for both our public health and economic future.”
To achieve the delisting, project partners implemented over $170 million worth of sediment remediation and habitat restoration work which was accomplished through a combination of federal Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funding, matching state, local, and private funding, and through government regulatory actions.
For more information, including the delisting report, visit: https://www.epa.gov/great-lakes-aocs/lower-menominee-river-aoc