[Date Prev][Date Next][Date Index]

General Motors agrees to spend millions to restore Saginaw River and Bay

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Great Lakes-Big Rivers Region

           NEWS RELEASE

For Immediate Release
November 24, 1998

Charles Wooley, 517-351-8470
Larry Dean, 612-713-5312


The Department of Justice and the Interior Department
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today that
General Motors will spend over $28 million to restore and
protect the Saginaw River and Bay area.  The Saginaw
River and Bay are contaminated by PCBs (poly-
chlorinated biphenyls) and related compounds that the
federal government alleges have been released from
General Motors facilities since the early 1970's, as well as
by contaminants released from wastewater treatment
plants in Bay City and Saginaw.

"Today's settlement is good news for the people of
Michigan and for all Americans who care about the
quality of our environment," said Lois J. Schiffer,
Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department's
Environment and Natural Resources Division.  "Under the
settlement, General Motors is required to finance a major
cleanup of PCBs from the Saginaw River and Bay.  That
means a cleaner and healthier environment for people
who live in and around the region."

"This is a great day for birds, fish and all other species
that depend on the Saginaw River and its wetlands," U.S.
Fish and Wildlife Service Director Jamie Rappaport Clark
said.  "This settlement begins a cooperative process to
undo the injury to important natural resources and to
staunch the flow from contaminated sediments that are a
source of PCBs in the Saginaw River and Saginaw Bay."

The settlement resolves lawsuits filed today in the U.S.
District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan against
GM and the two cities on behalf of the natural resource
trustees: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the State of
Michigan, and the Saginaw Chippewa Tribe.

Specifically, the settlement will result in the removal of
contaminated sediments from the Saginaw River,
Michigan, and restore and protect habitat in the Saginaw
River and Bay area.  General Motors and the cities will
pay $28.22 million in direct costs for sediment removal
and restoration projects.  The overall value of the
settlement is significantly greater than this, however,
because the restoration projects are designed to increase
recreational use by improving fishing and boating access
and by increasing the quality and quantity of habitat for
fish, game, and watchable wildlife.

Service Regional Director Bill Hartwig explained that a
portion of the $28.22 million settlement payment will be
used for habitat restoration for fish and wildlife in the
Saginaw Bay watershed, known as one of the premier
walleye and waterfowl locations in the Great Lakes area.
"This settlement is the largest of any case brought by the
Department of Interior as the lead federal agency to
recover natural resource damages," he noted.

Dredging in the Saginaw River is scheduled to begin in
1999.  This 1-2 year project will remove approximately
345,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediments, or
approximately 90 percent of the mass of PCBs in the
lower river.  Although not all risk to natural resources will
be removed, experts believe that additional restoration
dredging would significantly increase physical injury to
habitat with little additional removal of PCBs.

The settlement provides for acquisition, restoration and
protection of over 1,600 acres of habitat.  The land will be
owned and managed by the State of Michigan, the
Service's Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge, and the
Saginaw Chippewa Tribe.  Additionally, restoration is
planned for acquired lands which had been drained long
ago for agricultural use, for fish habitat between Saginaw
Bay and Tobico Marsh, and for the Green Point
Environmental Learning Center in Saginaw.  Boat
launches and nature-viewing opportunities will be
provided at two sites on the Saginaw River in Bay City,
and at one site on Saginaw Bay near Essexville as part of
compensating the public for injuries associated with the
state's resources.

The case was prosecuted by the U.S. Department of
Justice, Environment and Natural Resources division.  A
notice of the proposed settlement will be published in the
Federal Register.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal federal
agency responsible for conserving, protecting, and
enhancing fish and wildlife and their habitats for the
continuing benefit of the American people.  The Service
manages the 93-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge
System comprising more than 500 national wildlife
refuges, thousands of small wetlands, and other special
management areas.  It also operates 66 national fish
hatcheries and 78 ecological services field stations.

The agency enforces federal wildlife laws, administers the
Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird
populations, restores nationally significant fisheries,
conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands,
and helps foreign governments with their conservation
efforts.  It also oversees the Federal Aid program that
distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes
on fishing and hunting equipment to state wildlife
agencies.  Visit the Service on the Internet for more
information:  http://www.fws.gov/r3pao/

Department of the Interior
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Bishop Henry Whipple Federal Bldg.
1 Federal Drive, Ft. Snelling, MN 55111
Contact External Affairs:
Telephone (612) 713-5360
TDD (612) 713-5318
Fax: (612) 713-5280
E-mail: r3_pao@mail.fws.gov