Lake St. Clair Coastal Habitat
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Vessel Activity


Photo: John Meyland/BoatNerd.Com

Vessel activity in a confined, relatively shallow body of water such as Lake St. Clair is a known stressor of coastal habitat. Several environmental impacts result from the wakes of large or high-speed maritime vessels and anchoring. Wakes from large (e.g., Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Seaway bulk cargo carriers) or fast-moving recreational boats can cause erosion and vegetative damage in confined or shallow waters. Wakes can cause strong wave propagation that is capable of eroding shorelines or stirring up bottom sediments in shallow areas. Vegetation can be disturbed both by erosion processes and sedimentation resulting from wakes. Sedimentation reduces the amount of sunlight available for photosynthetic processes. The impacts of wakes are local in nature and likely to be more pronounced in confined, high traffic areas.


Lake St. Clair has a uniquely high combined traffic of both commercial cargo carriers and recreational craft. Commercial traffic includes U.S. and Canadian interlake vessels ("lakers confined to Great Lakes trades) of up to 1,000 feet long and 78,000-ton cargo carrying capacity, and oceangoing freighters of up to 740 feet in length and 36,000-ton capacity. As a strategic connecting route on the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Seaway System, Lake St. Clair's dredged 59-foot wide, 27-foot deep commercial navigation channel sees from 4,000 to 5,000 upbound and downbound vessel passages a year.

For more information, see: Coastal Habitat Plan, Section V (PDF)