The lower Menominee River was taken off a list of polluted areas in need of remediation by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Tuesday.
EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler announced in Marinette that the river was deemed clean enough to be removed from the list after a remediation process that began in the late 1980s.
During those years, millions of dollars were spent by local governments from both Wisconsin and Michigan, as well as the federal government and private entities, Wheeler said. That money was used to not only dredge the lower portion of the river to remove contaminated sediment but also to study the level of contaminants in fish populations, restore natural habitats and remove invasive species.
The Menominee River is the first area of concern to be delisted in Wisconsin, and only the fifth nationwide, Wheeler said. Still on the list of sites being cleaned up are St. Louis River, the Milwaukee Estuary, the lower Green Bay and Fox River and the Sheboygan River.
The remediation completion was based on guidelines set in 1990 as part of the Great Lakes Remedial Action Plan.
The project included removing 300,000 cubic yards of sediment from the bottom of the river, Wheeler said, and building a fish elevator to help sturgeon reach breeding waters farther up the river.
The project cost $178 million, he said, between federal, state and local governments, as well as private companies and entities.