EPA, States Making Progress Toward “Delisting” Lower Menominee River Area of Concern
MARINETTE / MENOMINEE (Jan. 29, 2020) – EPA and its partner states Wisconsin and Michigan are making progress toward removing the Lower Menominee River Area of Concern from a group of 43 heavily polluted sites located within the Great Lakes basin. These Areas of Concern or “AOCs” were originally identified in the 1980s and were targeted primarily due to contamination dating back over many decades. In the Lower Menominee River AOC, a variety of remediation, monitoring and assessment activities overseen by EPA, Wisconsin and Michigan between 2000 and 2018 have resulted in the removal of a number of environmental impairments in the AOC, leading to a cleaner and healthier river bottom, a healthier fish and wildlife population and improved fish and wildlife habitats.
“Thanks to a lasting partnership with our state and local stakeholders, the restoration goals for the Lower Menominee River AOC have been met and we are one step closer to delisting the first AOC in Wisconsin,” said EPA Great Lakes National Program Manager/Region 5 Administrator Kurt Thiede. “We are proud to have achieved this significant milestone that has been over thirty years in the making.”
After receiving recommendations from the states of Wisconsin and Michigan to delist the AOC, EPA has taken the next step by seeking input on the proposed delisting from tribal representatives and the International Joint Commission. An opportunity for public input on the proposed delisting, including a public meeting, will follow in the next few months.
Significant funding for the pollution cleanup and restoration work was provided by the federal Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. Michigan and Wisconsin share responsibility for the river’s rehabilitation, and the states have worked closely with each other and with federal agencies and local citizens to address the issues.
“We are delighted that Wisconsin and partners were part of implementing the actions which have moved us towards delisting the Lower Menominee River AOC,” said Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Secretary-designee Preston Cole. “These legacy contaminants were impairing our ability to have clean healthy waters in Wisconsin. We look forward to the day the four other AOCs – including the Milwaukee Estuary on Lake Michigan, Sheboygan River, Lower Green Bay and Fox River, and the St. Louis River on Lake Superior – have also met their AOC restoration goals.”
“The AOC cleanup would not have been possible without the close partnerships developed in the over 30 years of work at this site,” said Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy Director Liesl Eichler Clark. “Partnerships are key to achieving restoration goals.”
The Menominee River flows into Green Bay and forms the boundary between northeast Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The bulk of the AOC includes the lower three miles of the 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.
Of the 31 original Great Lakes AOCs located in the U.S., four have been delisted to date. This will be the first of Wisconsin’s five AOCs to be delisted.