Lower Green Bay and Fox River Area of Concern
About the Lower Green Bay and Fox River AOC
In the 1980s, Lower Green Bay (out to Long Tail Point and Point Au Sable) and the Fox River below the De Pere Dam were listed as one of 43 Great Lakes Areas of Concern (AOCs) by the International Joint Commission of Canada and the United States.
Problems that affected the use of this area such that it needed priority attention included:
- contaminated sediment;
- poor water quality; and
- lost or altered habitat.
Eleven beneficial use impairments describing the area's problems were assigned.
The DNR worked with community stakeholders to develop a Remedial Action Plan (RAP) in 1988. This plan contained a citizen's vision for the future and outlined the key actions and recommendations necessary to restore the environment. Since that time, much work has been completed and significant progress made.
The DNR worked with community stakeholders to develop a RAP Update, which incorporated studies and actions that had occurred since 1988, in 1993. The report provided updated goals and recommendations and a list of long-term priorities.
In 2009, the DNR developed delisting targets as a way to measure when enough restoration has occurred to take Green Bay and the Fox River off the list of Great Lakes Areas of Concern. Then, in 2011, with the help of a newly re-formed Citizen Advisory Committee, the DNR developed a Stage 2 RAP Update that summarized the current status of the area's impairments and described specific actions that should be taken to achieve the restoration targets.
Community Advisory Committee (CAC)
The original Remedial Action Plan (RAP) was developed by DNR in 1988 with extensive public involvement and input from other agencies, local governments, scientists, citizens, industries and environmental groups. To prepare the Stage 2 RAP Update in 2011, DNR convened three technical advisory workgroups to address toxic substances, fish and wildlife and their habitats, and social uses of the system.
To improve public input on Area of Concern activities, DNR also formed a new Citizens Advisory Committee in 2011. The CAC consisted of 20 people representing a balance between public, private and nonprofit interests in the AOC. Members were chosen based on their unique background, interest and ability to serve as a liaison to a larger audience. The group's purpose was to provide two–way communication between DNR and the CAC member organizations as priority restoration projects were identified. The DNR-convened CAC met until 2015. This group then transitioned to a community group with leadership from UW-Sea Grant, called the Clean Bay Backers.
The Clean Bay Backers are a diverse group of public, private and non-profit members who represent community interests in creating a better future through restoring the natural and economic heritage of the Lower Fox River and Bay of Green Bay. For the past few years, the group has led an annual "Bringing Back the Bay Tour" targeted for community leaders and elected officials. The tour topics highlight various environmental concerns and restoration efforts in the area.
Community Advisory Committee meetings are open to public attendance and advertised on the DNR Public Hearings and Meetings Calendar.
To learn more about community events, volunteer opportunities and more, check out these links.
The Lower Green Bay and Fox River Area of Concern includes the last 7 miles of the Fox River from the De Pere Dam to the mouth and extends into lower Green Bay up to an imaginary line crossing the bay from Long Tail Point to Point au Sable.
Although this part of the River and Bay is where water quality is most severely impacted, land and water uses upstream in the Fox–Wolf basin also have a great impact on the Area of Concern. To fully restore the Area of Concern a "watershed approach" will be needed to address upstream water quality.
A "beneficial use" is any way that a water body can improve the quality of life for humans or for fish and wildlife (for example providing fish that are safe to eat). If the beneficial use is unavailable due to environmental problems (for example if it is unsafe to eat the fish because of contamination) then that use is impaired.
Of the 14 possible beneficial use impairments defined by the U.S. and Canadian governments, 11 were listed as present and two as suspected in the Lower Green Bay and Fox River Area of Concern in the late 1980s. The only beneficial use impairment that is not identified in the Lower Green Bay and Fox River Area of Concern is "Added costs to agriculture or industry."
Beneficial Use Impairments
- Restrictions on fish and wildlife consumption
- Tainting of fish and wildlife flavor - BUI removed April 2020
- Degradation of fish and wildlife populations
- Fish tumors or other deformities (suspected)
- Bird or animal deformities or reproductive problems
- Degradation of benthos
- Restrictions on dredging activities - BUI removed Sept. 2021
- Eutrophication or undesirable algae
- Restrictions on drinking water, or taste and odor problems
- Beach closings
- Degradation of aesthetics - BUI removed April 2022
- Degradation of phytoplankton and zooplankton populations
- Loss of fish and wildlife habitat
Final BUI removal packages with cover letters
- Degradation of Aesthetics BUI removal package - Removed April 2022
- Restrictions on Dredging Activities BUI removal package - Removed Sept. 2021
- Final Tainting of Fish and Wildlife Flavor BUI removal package - Removed April 2020
- 2020-2021 Remedial Action Plan Update
- 2019 Remedial Action Plan Update
- 2018 Remedial Action Plan Update
- 2017 Remedial Action Plan Update
- 2016 Remedial Action Plan Update
- 2015 Remedial Action Plan Update
- 2014 Remedial Action Plan Update
- 2013 Remedial Action Plan Update
- 2012 Remedial Action Plan Update
- 2011 Stage 2 Remedial Action Plan Update
- 2009 Area of Concern Beneficial Use Impairment Delisting Targets
This report contains the targets describing when each beneficial use should be considered sufficiently restored so that the Lower Green Bay and Fox River can be removed from the list of Great Lakes Areas of Concern.
- 1993 Area of Concern Remedial Action Plan Update
This update of the Remedial Action Plan describes each beneficial use impairment in the Area of Concern and updates the original Remedial Action Plan.
- 1988 Area of Concern Remedial Action Plan
Completed by DNR with significant public input, this plan describes the specific environmental problems in Lower Green Bay and the Fox River and describes actions to correct them.
Links Relating to the Lower Fox River
- Lower Green Bay and Fox River Accomplishments Fact Sheet
- Beneficial Use Impairment (BUI) Restoration Report - Fall 2022
- Lower Fox River TMDL
- Lower Fox River PCB Cleanup Project
- Fish Consumption Advice
Cat Island - Rebirth of an Environment
Plovers are back in Green Bay!
- TNC Duck–Pensaukee watershed restoration project
- West Shore Northern Pike habitat project [exit DNR]
- Updated Aesthetics Monitoring Program volunteer handout
An Aesthetics Monitoring Program was piloted in the fall of 2011 and was expanded for 2012 and beyond. The results of this monitoring will be used to determine whether this Area of Concern can be delisted for the "Degraded Aesthetics" impairment, and whether there are areas that need improvement. Please consider volunteering for the program.