The Rouge River National Wet Weather Demonstration Project (Rouge Project) has been a working example of how a systematic watershed approach to pollution management can result in cost-effective and ultimately greater and faster achievement of designated uses in a water body. The Project provided solutions to other urban watersheds throughout the country on how to restore a polluted urban waterway. The Rouge Project was initiated in 1992 by the Department of the Environment, Wayne County, Michigan. This cooperative effort between federal, state and local agencies has been supported by multi-year federal grants from the United States Environmental Protection Agency and additional funding from local communities.
The early focus of the Rouge Project was on the control of combined sewer overflows (CSOs) in the watershed. Although control of pollution from CSOs was identified as a major priority, it was determined that CSO control alone would not provide sufficient improvements to meet water quality standards in the watershed. This is because nonpoint source pollutants, such as stormwater runoff, discharges from illicit connections, discharges from failed on-site septic systems, and other sources would continue to degrade the river. In addition, it was determined that wetlands, habitat restoration, lake restoration, erosion control and flow variability all needed to be controlled before full restoration of the river would be achieved throughout the watershed. Major progress has been made in the control of pollution being discharged to the Rouge River from the above named sources.
Based upon what was learned, the focus of the Rouge Project became more holistic to consider the impacts from all sources of pollution and use impairments in a receiving water. This watershed management method is based on the use of a cooperative, locally based approach to pollution control. The use of the watershed approach is working in the Rouge River.
Using the watershed approach requires such tools as a comprehensive sampling and monitoring program, various water quality and water quantity modeling tools, data management and a geographic information system. The Rouge Project aggressively invested in these tools in order to develop a holistic watershed management strategy. Use of the watershed approach has proven to be very efficient and cost effective in dealing with wet weather issues.
The Rouge Project developed an effective public information and education program based on the concept that each citizen has the right to expect clean water from their upstream neighbor and are also expected to assure that their downstream neighbor is given the same courtesy.
The Rouge Project learned a great deal about what it takes to restore an urban waterway to its beneficial uses. Using the various tools of the watershed approach, the Rouge Project stands as a model in pollution management based upon the results to date. A watershed-wide strategy to restore the Rouge River has been implemented through a unique partnership of local agencies and communities, state agencies, non-profit organizations, businesses and citizens.
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ROUGE PROJECT MISSION STATEMENT
The mission of the Rouge River National Wet Weather Demonstration Project was to demonstrate effective solutions to water quality problems facing an urban watershed highly impacted by wet weather and develop potential solutions and implement projects which will lead to the restoration of water quality in the Rouge River. The project addressed both conventional and toxic pollutants to:
- provide a safe and healthy recreational river resource for present and future generations;
- reestablish a healthy and diverse ecosystem within the Rouge River Watershed;
- protect downstream water resources such as the Detroit River and Lake Erie; and
- help ensure compliance with federal, state and local environmental laws which protect human health and the environment.
This was accomplished through the development, implementation and financial integration of technical, social and institutional frameworks that led to cost-efficient and innovative watershed-based solutions to wet weather problems. This watershed-based national demonstration project provided other municipalities across the nation facing similar problems with guidance and effective solutions.
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Please address all comments and suggestions about the contents of this web page to ESGHelp@waynecounty.com. Additional questions about the Rouge Project can also be directed to the Department of Public Services Environmental Hotline at 1-888-223-2363.
The Rouge River National Wet Weather Demonstration Project is funded, in part, by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Grants #XP995743-01, -02, -03, -04, -05, -06, -08, -09, and C-264000-01.