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Cautious optimism in annual Detroit River boat tour, organizers say

By Michelle Mark, The Windsor Star, July 14, 2014

The familiar doom-and-gloom tone of the annual narrated State of the Detroit River boat tour, hosted by Citizens Environment Alliance, saw a slight lift Saturday afternoon as speakers and organizers instead highlighted some of the noticeable improvements the river has undergone throughout the past several years.

Phil Roberts, member of the Essex County Field Naturalists’ Club, spoke to passengers on the tour about the ongoing biological inventory of Ojibway Shores, and said the last remaining piece of natural shoreline in Windsor was recently deemed provincially significant by the Ministry of Natural Resources.

“That is really quite a valuable designation for a natural property that you’re trying to protect, so they were all really pleased with that,” he said.

“We also still do outline some of the work that has to be done — we know there’s inputs, nicatoids, hexane emissions, combined sewer emissions and sewage going into the Detroit River.”

Derek Coronado, CEA co-ordinator, said the four-hour cruise took passengers through the finer points of the Detroit River’s problem areas, as well as the conservation efforts that have been developing for years.

The river has been part of a remedial action plan for more than 20 years, he said, so it’s important to note that in addition to the problems that persist, the actions of Windsor- and Detroit-based organizations have made a difference over time.

“There have been all sorts of efforts that have been going on on both sides of the river in terms of protecting water quality, habitat rehabilitation, wildlife consumption,” he said. “Some of the ongoing pollution issues on the river, of course, are always a serious problem.”

Ward 9 Coun. Hilary Payne boarded the Macassa Bay cruise ship with the intention of seeing the Port Authority-owned wetlands, known as Canadian National Heritage Site 37, but he was surprised to learn about the abundance of at-risk and endangered species the site protects.

Payne said he expects CNHS 37 to come before city council in the next year, and will be pushing hard to have the area preserved as a natural heritage site.

“I’m only one member of council out of 11, but I’m going to make my viewpoint known about that heritage site,” he said. “I’ve become a convert to environmentalism. I never thought much about it years ago, but I’m very big on it now and preserving the environment.

“Put it this way — the things we leave behind us are even more important than the things we do while we’re on this planet.”

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