Spoils Island: Improving Fish Habitat and Resilience

Site: Spoils Island

Project: Build fish spawning reef along northeast shoreline

  • Primary focus: Increase spawning habitat for native fish species like walleye, lake whitefish, and others
  • Secondary focus: Increased fishing opportunities

Project status (as of March 2024): Design and development

Why here?

  • Healthy fish populations and diverse habitats are key to a strong, resilient Saginaw Bay.
  • Site was identified through bottom mapping, sediment sampling, and computer models of wind, wave, and sediment movement.
  • Reef would promote successful reproduction for multiple native fish species.
  • Firm substrate would provide a solid foundation for the reef.
  • High wave energy would keep sediment from settling onto reef.
  • Would complement existing Coreyon reef by providing nearshore habitat with connected nursery habitat nearby.
  • Note: Project requires coordination with U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.


  • Support a network of spawning reefs and nursery habitat already expanded by restored Coreyon reef.
  • Pursue opportunities that incorporate coastal resilience and fish habitat needs.
  • Improve habitats for fish and wildlife species for Saginaw Bay.
  • Work with communities to generate shared vision, support, and buy-in.


  • 2020-2022: MDNR and ECT Inc. developed an initial feasibility report exploring several additional reef restoration sites in Saginaw Bay to address coastal resiliency and restoration of critical reef habitat for fish and wildlife with funding from NFWF.
  • 2022: MDNR and the Great Lakes Fishery Commission (GLFC) received funding through a NOAA Regional Partnership to advance additional feasibility, engineering/design, and construction studies for options identified through the feasibility study.
  • 2023: Partners hosted a community workshop to gather input from local stakeholders.
  • 2024: Based on input gathered from local stakeholders, GLFC, MDNR, EGLE, ECT Inc., and Purdue University continued to gather and refine feasibility information for the Spoils Island and Kawkawlin River restoration sites.


Why is it important to add this spawning reef to Saginaw Bay?

Learn more about the importance of rocky reefs to native fish species.

Who will pay for these projects?

A variety of grant funds from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation– Coastal Resilience Program, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Dow Chemical Natural Resources Damage Assessment will be used to fund feasibility studies and construction of feasible options.

Who is working on these projects?

Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR), Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE), Great Lakes Fishery Commission (GLFC), NOAA, ECT Inc., LimnoTech, and Purdue University.

Where can I get more information about these projects?

The Great Lakes Fishery Commission has additional details about several Saginaw Bay restoration projects.