Fully Opening the Lower Rouge River to the Great Lakes

A $1-million federal grant will dismantle a dam fully opening the lower Rouge River to the Great Lakes this summer for the first time in more than 100 years. The Alliance for Rouge Communities, which received the grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, is one of the groups involved.

In a 1998 report from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources it concluded the dam was one of two major impediments that isolated the Rouge watershed from the larger bodies of water downstream. The Wayne Dam located on the lower Rouge under Wayne Road, near Wayne City Hall blocks fish heading from Lake Erie and the Detroit River, as well as from the headwaters of the Rouge River to the mouth.

At 3 feet tall, it impedes all but the biggest fish. Removing it will give species like small and largemouth bass, suckers, darters and steelhead access to more and possibly better spawning and feeding grounds than they have seen in decades, experts said.

The Wayne Dam is believed to have been built in the early 1900s for firefighting and to create a water supply. At one point, it was one of six dams on the lower Rouge, which runs through Canton, Wayne, Westland, Inkster, Dearborn Heights and Dearborn before joining the main Rouge River.