GREAT LAKES COMMISSION
SAULT STE MARIE, MICH – The Great Lakes Commission (GLC), U.S. Rep. Jack Bergman (R-MI-1) and others celebrated the completion of the Little Rapids Restoration Project at an event in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich. Thursday.
The project, which constructed a new bridge to replace two deteriorating causeway culverts between the island ferry dock and Sugar Island proper and reestablished the flow of water to the Little Rapids for the first time in more than 50 years, was led by the GLC in coordination with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Chippewa County Road Commission, and the Eastern Upper Peninsula Regional Planning and Development Commission, and made possible by funding from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.
“The success of this project shows how important continued support for the bipartisan Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is,” said Rep. Bergman, who serves on the House Great Lakes Task Force.
“The GLRI has already funded more than 760 projects across the state of Michigan. The restoration of the Little Rapids will not only benefit fish and wildlife in the St. Marys River, it will also help revitalize tourism and sport fishing opportunities in Sault Ste. Marie and across the U.P. Congratulations to all that played a role in completing this important work.”
The Little Rapids restoration was completed under a NOAA Regional Partnership, a unique funding mechanism that allows key projects to receive essential funding and work in close collaboration with local and state groups.
Julie Sims, regional coordinator for NOAA’s Restoration Center in the Great Lakes noted, “This work could only be accomplished because of the strong partnership between NOAA, the GLC, and our local partners. Because of this partnership, we have been able to restore a vital ecological and economic resource.”
The St. Marys River was designated as an Area of Concern in 1987 after decades of pollution and habitat degradation. Planning for this restoration project began in the early 1990s when the Soo Area Sportsmen’s Club recognized the opportunity to boost the local economy by improving sportfish habitat in the Little Rapids area.
In 2011, the Chippewa County Road Commission, Lake Superior State University and the Eastern Upper Peninsula Regional Planning and Development Commission were awarded GLRI funding for this project by the Great Lakes Commission and NOAA, which are working together to implement high-priority habitat restoration projects in U.S. AOCs.
Bridge construction started in spring 2016 and was completed in November 2016. Additional ecological monitoring, conducted by Lake Superior State University, will continue in 2017.
“Because of this work, we are one step closer to removal of the St. Marys River from the list of Great Lakes AOCs,” said Jon Allan, chair of the Great Lakes Commission and director of Michigan’s Office of the Great Lakes. “The lakes are critical to our future in both Michigan and the region, and GLC is proud to have led this important work to restore the Little Rapids.”