BPAC Main | The Concern | Sediments | Water Quality | Point & Non-Point Sources | Wildlife Habitat

The purpose of the Bi-National Public Advisory Council (BPAC) is spelled out in the “Charge to BPAC” as adopted on Wednesday, April 13, 1988 as follows:

“The Advisory Council shall advise the RAP Team on key aspects of the Remedial Action Plan Preparation and Adoption. This includes: the goals of the plan, problems to be addressed, planning methodology, public involvement program, technical data, remedial action alternatives, planning recommendations and adoption, plan implementation, plan funding and methods of enforcement. The goal of all concerned should be to arrive at planned recommendations upon which the RAP Team and the Advisory Council agree, and for which there is broad public support.”

Project Background
The Great Lakes are a unique natural resource containing 20 percent of the world’s fresh surface water. These lakes form part of the international boundary between Canada and the United States. In order to protect water resources, address problems along their common border, and “enhance Great Lakes water quality,” Canada and the United States enacted the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909 and subsequently established the International Joint Commission (IJC) to implement the treaty.

In the mid-1980s, the IJC identified specific locations throughout the Great Lakes where action was needed to control and clean up pollution. These locations are known as Areas of Concern (AOCs), “where there is known impairment of a beneficial water use.” The IJC identified the St. Clair River as one of 43 AOCs in the Great Lakes.

St. Clair River
The St. Clair River is approximately 64 kilometers (40 miles) long, flowing in a southerly direction. Together with Lake St. Clair and the Detroit River, it forms a connecting channel between Lake Huron and Lake Erie. The St. Clair River is a resource for shipping, water supply, fish and wildlife habitat, commercial and sport fishing, hunting and trapping, swimming, recreational boating, and nature studies. Fish, mammals, and waterfowl taken from the river and adjacent areas are a main food source for some people who live along the river. Unfortunately, the St. Clair River also receives wastewater discharges from industrial complexes and municipalities.

Canadian tributaries include Talfourd, Baby, Bowens, Clay, Marshy, and Murphy creeks, all of which are in Lambton County. The Sydenham River is the largest river on the Canadian side; it flows into Channel Ecart, which discharges into Lake St. Clair, just south of the St. Clair River. U.S. tributaries are Black, Pine, and Belle rivers, Bunce Creek, and Marine City Drain.

The landmass around the St. Clair River and its Lambton County tributaries in Ontario measures 41,776 hectares (103,210 acres), not including the Sydenham River watershed. In Michigan, the Black, Pine, and Belle rivers drain 780,600 acres (315,900 hectares) in Lapeer, Macomb, Sanilac, and St. Clair Counties; the watersheds around Bunce Creek and Marine City Drain are relatively small.

Land Usage
Much of the shoreline on both sides of the St. Clair River is urbanized and industrialized. A majority of the watershed away from the river in both Ontario and Michigan is used for agriculture. A few forest and wetland remnants are present, although their area has declined significantly since the advent of European settlement.

Stag Island lies between Corunna and Marysville. Fawn Island can be seen from Marine City. Walpole, Seaway, Bassett, Squirrel, Pottowatamie, St. Anne, Dickinson, and Harsens islands are located where the St. Clair River flows into Lake St. Clair; these islands form St. Clair Flats, the only major river delta in the Great Lakes and the largest freshwater delta in North America. Six of the islands in this delta are the land of Walpole Island First Nation.

Land Habitat
Land areas of the St. Clair River shoreline and flats consist of two biological zones: upland and transitional, both of which are normally above the water table, but which may be flooded periodically. The upland forests consist of deciduous species, many of which are near their northern climatic limit. Most presettlement trees have been cleared for agriculture, industry, or urbanization. Remaining forest stands, such as oak savannas as well as lakeplain prairies, are found along the southern reaches of the river, particularly on the islands of the St. Clair River Delta and on the mainland in Algonac State Park. Transitional species are abundant in the low-lying regions, categorized as shrub ecotones, wet meadows, sedge marshes, and island shorelines and beaches. This habitat is home to water and land mammals, including humans, as well as songbirds, waterfowl, insects, pollinators, reptiles, and amphibians.

Aquatic Habitat
The aquatic habitat of the St. Clair River ranges from deep and fast near the Blue Water Bridge to shallow and slow in the lower river. Each area provides a unique habitat for aquatic life: macrophytes (visible marine plants), benthic macroinvertebrates (organisms that live at the bottom of a lake or stream), phytoplankton and zooplankton (floating plants and animals), emergent vegetation (plants seen above the water surface), and fish (from minnows to large sport fish).

Progress Indicator
The graphic below was developed to quickly show the status of recovery for the specific issue of concern discussed in each of the categories listed above. The yellow ring represents the amount of work completed to-date and the blue ring shows the progress made towards delisting the issue of concern:

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