Ford Stock – Shoreline, habitat restoration planned at Ford Cove
The Edsel & Eleanor Ford House, Great Lakes Commission and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are embarking on a project that will restore disappearing wildlife habitats along a stretch of Lake St. Clair.
The goal of the Ford Cove Shoreline and Coastal Wetland Restoration Project is to transform the cove’s shoreline back to its natural state by removing hard, non-natural coastal features like broken concrete and seawalls and reintroducing native plant species and softer shorelines. This would reduce heavy waves that disrupt vital habitats that local wildlife need to raise their young, find cover and forage for food.
“Most importantly, it’s the responsible thing to do,” said Kevin Drotos, invasive species and wildlife specialist at Ford House. “We were approached by Macomb County five years ago. They said, ‘You have almost two miles of shoreline, privately owned by a single owner. This gives us a really good restoration opportunity.’ It got pushed around for a few years. Then, GLC got involved a couple years ago and it was put on the top of the coastal restoration projects in the state by NOAA.
“As soon as we heard we could fund the project, everyone at Ford House was on board and excited,” he added.
The first step in the process is a feasibility study that will evaluate and plan the restoration. The project team selected OHM Advisors to perform the study, which will include baseline chemical, geotechnical and ecological evaluations, as well as preliminary hydrologic and hydraulic modeling.
The 18-month study will result in a conceptual plan, restoration recommendations and cost estimates, Drotos said.
“It’s a lot of area to cover,” he added. “We’re looking at roughly one mile of shoreline, four acres of adjacent forested wetland, eight acres of nearshore habitat and five and a half acres of coastal marsh.
“A lot of it is seasonal, too,” he continued. “You want to get a full season of sampling — how ice affects the shoreline in the winter, how high water levels affect it in the spring, how waves affect it in the summer.”
The feasibility study currently is underway.
“We’ve been working with Ford House for a while,” said Eric Ellis, project manager of the Coastal Conservation and Habitat Restoration Program with GLC. “With UHM Advisors now, the wheels are turning. They’ll analyze the data, produce a report and plan public meetings. You’ve got to cover all the bases and make sure it’s the right place to do the work and that it will have the right benefit to the community.”
The benefit, Ellis said, is great.
“Macomb County has lost almost every foot of its natural shoreline,” he said. “What this project is looking at restoring is one mile of shoreline to get it closer to its original condition, to restore fish and wildlife habitats. It’s going to provide the types of habitats missing in that part of the state. There are recreational benefits, too. Lots of people boat in that area; it will still be open for boating. There will be structures to reduce wave energy, which will protect the shores from erosion. With less waves, it’s better for vegetation and for fish. … Lots of fish and wildlife move through the area; having resting points is important. Having a spawning place is important.
“When we first saw it, we saw there was a lot of potential here to do something special that will have a positive impact on Lake St. Clair and the region,” he continued. “We have a great local partner with Ford House. When you look at the site, it’s surrounded by development in southeast Michigan. Anything we do there will benefit the Lake St. Clair ecosystem. Bringing it back to its natural condition with native species and native processes will be a huge improvement.”
A variety of native Great Lakes species are anticipated to benefit from restoration activities. Focal species include northern pike, Great Lakes muskellunge, smallmouth and largemouth bass and yellow perch. Various minnow species, panfish and other perchids also will benefit. State-listed species found in Lake St. Clair, such as northern madtom, mooneye, pugnose minnow and lake sturgeon, also could benefit from this project, as could herpetofauna including mudpuppy and eastern fox snakes.
Additionally, Bird Island is on a migration flyway, Drotos said. It was created by the Fords specifically as a bird habitat.
“This project will be restarting that as well,” he added, noting the roughly 200 species of birds that use Ford Cove and the land around it. “One day there may be more than 200 species of birds. … If we work to enhance a habitat that’s lacking elsewhere, this will be very meaningful.”
Once the study is complete, the results will be passed along to NOAA to determine if they’ll fund it, Drotos said.
“Just looking at the shoreline, you can see it needs a lot of work,” he said.
In addition to Ford House, GLC and NOAA, the project includes the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Fisheries Division and Macomb County’s Planning and Economic Development Department, Parks and Natural Resources Division.
“There are so many different organizations on the project team for this and all of them are passionate and excited,” Drotos said. “If you look at Macomb County, you’ll find 31 ½ miles of shoreline, but only roughly 2,000 feet in its natural condition. That’s a 99.99 percent reduction from original conditions. Since we have a big section, we can make a big impact. Ford House is excited about this and it’s the right thing to do.”
Following the feasibility study, if it’s recommended to move forward, next steps include engineering and project design.
“It’s a year-long process to develop actual plans and get permits,” Ellis said. “Once we have a final set of plans and compartments in place, we begin implementation. It’s really hard to say when that will happen.”
Ellis is optimistic the project will be approved for funding.
“Based off of what we’ve seen out there, it’s going to make sense and be feasible and work for the community,” he said.
Ellis said GLC and its partners will host public meetings to ensure the public has input during the process.
“We want to make sure we put something there that will fit ecologically, but also that it’s what the community wants,” he said.
Public meetings will begin during the feasibility study.
The cost of the feasibility study is $230,634, including a $3,000 in-kind match from Ford House.
Funding for this project comes from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative through a regional partnership between NOAA and the GLC.
Ford Stock – Shoreline, habitat restoration planned at Ford Cove
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