- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 1, 2014

CHINA TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) - Construction starts this week on a spawning reef in the St. Clair River designed to increase the number of sturgeon, walleye and whitefish.

The University of Michigan-led project creates river-bottom rock structures suitable for spawning. Construction of the Harts Light Reef is set to take eight to 12 weeks, the university announced Monday. The site is in St. Clair County’s China Township between St. Clair and Marine City, about 40 miles northeast of Detroit.

Work on a second reef likely will start in September and take six to eight weeks. The Pointe Aux Chenes site is between Algonac and Russell Island.

The federal Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funds the $3.5 million project. It’s a follow-up to rock reefs built in the Detroit and St. Clair rivers in 2004, 2008 and 2012.

“Deep, swift-flowing waters seem to work best, tempting the target fish species while keeping the rocks free of silt, algae and mussels,” university spokesman Jim Erickson said in a statement. “Also, the rocks must be piled deep enough to form crevices that protect eggs from being washed downstream or consumed by predator fish.”

Reefs built in the Middle Channel of the St. Clair River in 2012 have attracted spawning sturgeon for two years, said project leader Jennifer Read.

“These fish seek out rocky areas in clean, fast-flowing water. Unfortunately, most of that habitat type was removed when the shipping channels were created or has filled with silt from agriculture and construction,” said Read, deputy director of the university’s Water Center at the Graham Sustainability Institute. “But we’re gradually restoring it with these reefs.”

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Online:

Project details: https://bit.ly/1nZG88U

Map and graphic: https://bit.ly/1lP6nT5

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