Wisconsin’s Sheboygan River Community Gains 324 Protected Acres and Improved Public Recreation Access after Settlements

The settlements include projects that protect 324 acres of unique habitat and improve public recreational access to natural resources. (NOAA photo)
The settlements include projects that protect 324 acres of unique habitat and improve public recreational access to natural resources. (NOAA photo)

Wisconsin’s Sheboygan River Community Gains 324 Protected Acres and Improved Public Recreation Access after Settlements

May 3, 2018

On April 17, 2018, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin entered final consent decrees announcing three settlements, with three separate companies, in excess of $4.5 million for natural resource damages at the Sheboygan River and Harbor Superfund site.

These settlements resolve claims brought by NOAA and its co-trustees regarding liability for historic industrial discharges of chemicals that caused injury to public natural resources. The settlements include two projects that protect 324 acres of unique habitat and improve public recreational access to natural resources.

  • Acquisition of property on Willow Creek, high quality habitat supporting trout and salmon, with no current conservation protection.
  • Acquisition of Amsterdam Dunes, a rare Great Lakes coastal dune and swale habitat, with only minimal conservation protection. Preservation will benefit unique plant and animal species, and the local community, expanding recreational access to Lake Michigan.

The settlements also provide funding for future restoration projects at these and other sites. NOAA and the co-trustees will jointly manage the settlement funds to implement projects described in the restoration plan.

The Sheboygan River site encompasses the lower 14 river miles of the Sheboygan River, from Sheboygan Falls downstream to and including the Sheboygan Harbor on Lake Michigan, as well as adjoining floodplain areas.

According to the settlements, Tecumseh Products Co., Thomas Industries, Inc., and Wisconsin Public Service Corp., are liable for historic industrial discharges of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and/or polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) into the Sheboygan River. PCBs and PAHs were identified in river sediments at different locations throughout the Site in sufficient concentrations to cause injury to those habitats and the  many types of natural resources, including invertebrates, fish, amphibians, birds, and mammals living there. In addition, PCBs have resulted in the loss of recreational fishing services.

The terms of the settlements were finalized after a 30-day public comment period that ended in January 2018.

Additional stories about the Sheboygan River and Harbor Site:

2018 - As Assessment Phase Comes to a Close, OR&R Scientist Looks Back on Nearly a Decade of Work on Sheboygan River and Harbor Superfund Site

2017 - Trustees Seek Comments on Project to Protect Unique Habitat in Wisconsin

2013 - Déjà vu on the Sheboygan River: Transitioning from Cleanup to Restoration in Wisconsin