Great Lakes Region

Manistique River. Credit: National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science.

In the late 1800s, the Manistique River basin in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula became a dumping ground for byproducts of sawmilling operations and later paper recycling operations. Woody debris and chemical contamination continue to degrade lake and river habitat today. This environmentally degraded site—identified as an Area of Concern (AOC) by the Great Lakes Water Quality agreement— has been plagued by fish consumption advisories and restrictions on dredging due to elevated polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) levels.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) completed a Superfund cleanup project in 2000, successfully reducing the average PCB contamination. Although PCB levels in the river mouth are slowly dropping, continued sampling shows that low to moderate PCB contamination is still cause for restrictions on fish and wildlife consumption and restrictions on dredging activities.

NOAA’s role in restoration

NOAA is contributing to the restoration of Manistique River habitat by remediating polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) contamination in sediments and associated woody debris.  This represents the collaborative effort of multiple NOAA Line Offices, including its National Marine Fishers Service, National Ocean Service, and Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research.

The outcome: Manistique’s designation as an Area of Concern (AOC) will be removed.  GLRI funds are supporting NOAA’s work to study, design, and contract the cleanup of woody debris and contaminants. In addition, this collaborative project will provide insight and transfer of information to other Great Lakes AOCs that have impairments associated with marine debris impacts.

The phases of cleanup

The cleanup and restoration of the Manistique River is taking place in three phases.

Phase 1: A “Conceptual Site Model” was assembled from existing and new sediment sampling data.  This model took into account changes to the site after the Superfund cleanup dredged 170,000 cubic yards of PCB sediments, followed by large volumes of clean sediments that washed into the site from upstream of the dam after 2000, and then the dredging of the navigation channel by the US Army Corps of Engineers in 2010.

Phase 2: After the Conceptual Site Model defined the current distribution of PCBs, a feasibility study was prepared to evaluate methods to remediate woody debris and associated contaminated sediments causing restrictions on fish consumption and dredging activities.

Phase 3: NOAA is preparing a remedial design to implement those technologies selected from the feasibility study.  The Manistique River Steering Committee anticipates initiating construction in either late 2016 or spring or 2017.


GLRI Funding:
FY 2012: $850,000
FY 2013: $7,000,000
FY 2015: $4,000,000


For additional information, please contact:
Julie Sims, Great Lakes Regional Coordinator
NOAA Restoration Center
Phone: (734) 741-2385

NOAA Facebook NOAA Twitter RSS Feed for this site Email Us NOAA's Flickr Feed