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Former Industrial Site On Detroit River Becomes International Wildlife Refuge

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Detroit River (File photo)

Detroit River (File photo)

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GIBRALTAR, Mich. (AP/WWJ) — Congressman John Dingell, D-15th District, will present an “Extreme Makeover” Monday when he unveils a former industrial site transformed into a wildlife habitat.

With innovative storm water management practices, the site includes opportunities for outdoor recreation and environmental education, and one of the most exceptional views of the Detroit River. The site is located in Gibraltar, with the 2 p.m. press conference at Carlson High School.

The Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge is the only International Wildlife Refuge in North America.  The refuge includes 5,700 acres with islands, coastal wetlands, marshes, shoals, and waterfront lands along 48 miles of Detroit River and western Lake Erie shoreline.

The property where a new visitor’s center is planned was the site of an auto parts plant for more than four decades starting in the 1940s. It was purchased in 2002 by Wayne County to become the refuge’s gateway. This fall, a shoreline restoration project was completed.

Now, fundraising is taking place for the visitor’s center — the final phase in the plan. Dingell will join U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region V Administrator Susan Hedman, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Wayne County, Downriver Community Conference’s Brownfield Consortium, and others at a press conference to celebrate the completion in 2011 of $1.2 million in brownfield cleanup and habitat restoration work at the Refuge Gateway, and to announce new funding to complete the cleanup and restoration work necessary for construction of the visitor center.

Overall, the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge is getting nearly $1.4 million for cleanup and restoration work at the site of the future visitor’s center.

The Refuge Gateway will become the entry point for the nearly seven million people who live within a 45-minute drive.  This project has been described as transformational for Southeast Michigan.

Everything people will see and do at the Refuge Gateway will teach them conservation and how to live sustainably, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Since the completion of the master plan, much work has been accomplished, including: cleanup and capping brownfield lands; daylighting Monguagon Creek and constructing a retention pond and emergent wetland to treat storm water prior to discharge to the Detroit River; completion of a first access road that brings visitors into the Refuge Gateway and adjacent Humbug Marsh; and the development of trails and an education shelter in Humbug Marsh for visitors to experience the great outdoors.

In fall 2011, the Shoreline Restoration Project was completed at the Refuge Gateway that included restoring a natural shoreline, removal of human-placed fill and debris to restore over three acres of riparian buffer habitat, and construction of a second access road and kayak landing.

(TM and © Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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