By ZEINAB NAJM
DEARBORN — The grand opening of the Rouge River Oxbow Restoration was officially celebrated with a ribbon cutting and release of fish Oct. 18.
Elected officials, origination representatives and Henry Ford Academy students gathered at The Henry Ford Village Pavilion to recognize the restoration applications in southeast Michigan’s river systems over the past several years which includes the Rouge River Oxbow, according to a media release.
The goal of the oxbow is to bring back native animal and plant life to the Rouge River.
“After nearly two decades of restoration work, the oxbow is reconnected to the Rouge River as part of a continued effort to bring back native species of animal and plant life along the entire Rouge River,” the release said. “The project, led by Wayne County in partnership with The Henry Ford and Alliance of Rouge Communities, has been under way since 2000 and marks the completion of 18 years of work marking a major step in the restoration of the Rouge River habitat for the benefit of the region and the Great Lakes ecosystem.”
Academy students and biology teacher Robert Leclerc joined the ceremony where students released bluegill.
Wayne County Executive Warren Evans and U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) assisted students Jade Roock, Joshua Forerster, Arvin Hardaway and Lexie Helka with the fish release into the oxbow.
The students have been at the oxbow with Leclerc to look at the environment, organisms and health of the water. The students put leaf packs in the water for three weeks to check for insects and water health.
Leclerc explained that is when a river doesn’t flow in a straight line so it goes back in forth over time because of water flow which becomes a rounded and eventually an oxbow island can form.
An oxbow is formally defined as, “a curved lake that was originally a bend in a river but became separated when the river took a new, straighter course” by Cambridge Dictionary.
In the case of this section of the Rouge, the oxbow was separated when the federal government channelized the river in the 1970s, with a concrete channel, due to repeated flooding.
“Today we celebrated the opening of the Rouge River Oxbow, a project nearly 20 years in the making led by Wayne County’s Department of Public Services,” Evans wrote on Facebook. “We were joined by students of The Henry Ford Academy releasing bluegill and were pleased to host Sen. Debbie Stabenow, a relentless champion for Great Lakes restoration and water quality issues.
“These efforts continue on several fronts as we work with partners to restore areas of concern to bring back native wildlife and aquatic habitats. It’s quality of life work designed to preserve and improve the environment for our children and grandchildren. It couldn’t be more important. Big thanks to the Alliance of Rouge Communities, Friends of the Rouge River, the EPA, NOAA and so many more.”
Stabenow also posted about the ribbon cutting on her Facebook page.
“Proud to celebrate the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative in Dearborn yesterday with so many agencies and organizations who are doing incredible work restoring Michigan’s waterways,” she said. “Congratulations to Wayne County, The Henry Ford and the Alliance of Rouge Communities for the grand opening of the Rouge Oxbow Restoration Project.”
For more information on the oxbow and project go to www.allianceofrougecommunities.com.
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at [email protected])