The international waters of the St. Clair-Detroit River System (SCDRS) include portions of southern Lake Huron, the St. Clair River, Lake St. Clair, the Detroit River, and western Lake Erie. The System is located within Michigan and Ohio, USA, and Ontario, Canada. Waters from the three upper Great Lakes (Superior, Michigan and Huron) flow through the SCDRS and into Lake Erie at a rate of about 120 billion gallons per day.
The SCDRS comprises one of the busiest navigation centers in the United States and is an international trade route with Canada and overseas markets. Over $80 billion per year in trade between the U.S. and Canada is carried out across the SCDRS. More than five million people live within an hour’s drive of this System. It is also the major source of drinking water for Michigan, Ohio, and Ontario.
The System is recognized historically for its cultural, ecological, and economic contributions to people in the Great Lakes basin. Unfortunately, the long-term use of the system for waste disposal, water withdrawals, shoreline development, shipping, urbanization, recreation, and fishing has impacted this ecosystem and its environmental services to the region. Deterioration of water quality, habitats, and biodiversity, as well as a proliferation of introduced invasive species, reflect an ecosystem in need of improvement to restore lost benefits to people.
The Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge and the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge are located in the lower SCDRS while the Walpole Island First Nation lands are in the upper SCDRS. Habitat in these waters is used by over 65 species of fish, and is home to 16 threatened or endangered fish species. The System is also part of the central Great Lakes flyway for millions of migratory waterfowl as it contains some of the largest and most diverse wetlands remaining in the region.
In 2004, the Huron-Erie Corridor Initiative (HECI) was proposed by the U.S. Geological Survey - Great Lakes Science Center to address high-priority research questions affecting aquatic resources and habitats in the System. Over time, this voluntary consortium of researchers and managers successfully cultivated effective working relationships among various academic, federal, provincial, state, First Nations and private sector groups, and stimulated interest in having a formal partnership to further advance restoration of the System. In 2013, the HECI membership adopted the use of the “St. Clair-Detroit River System Initiative” to more aptly reflect the geographic focus of the strait itself rather than the adjacent lakes.
The St. Clair-Detroit River System is a thriving ecosystem managed with science-based principles and broad social support, providing desired environmental services for the region and the Great Lakes basin. The purpose of the Partnership is to coordinate research and management efforts that collectively will achieve measurable progress toward the shared vision, as implemented through a strategic process to link science with integrated management priorities, that is to say, a common agenda.