Researchers declare Fox River Clean-up Project a success

Officials say more than 40 species of fish are now swimming in the Fox River after only three species were found in the 70′s
Published: Sep. 1, 2020 at 3:37 PM CDT
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - State leaders today touted the completion of the Fox River Clean-up Project, marking the end of 12 years of dredging operations to remove cancer-causing PCB’s from river sediment.

Those whose research helped trigger the massive billion dollar project say it’s a success.

Bud and Vicky Harris have a long connection to the Fox River.

Arriving at UW-Green Bay 50 years ago as a young ecology professor, Bud Harris remembers his first boat ride on the Fox River in 1971.

“It was a rather sour introduction because at that time things were really in what you’d call a desperate condition, it was en eye opener,” recalls Bud Harris.

“And at that time only three species of fish could be found in the river, carp and bullheads, two species of bullheads, so it was basically a dead system,” says Vicky Harris, a retired DNR Water Resources Specialist.

Research began on the impact of paper mills dumping PCB’s in the Fox River for nearly two decades.

Bud Harris’ team of students discovered deformities and reproductive issues in birds.

“It was kind of a nail in the coffin to identify that it really was having an impact in terms of the environmental impact,” says Bud Harris.

“20 years to develop enough information to begin the PCB portion of the clean-up,” adds Vicky Harris.

Over the past 20 years, the Harris’ have watched the results of what their research spurred.

Today, more than 40 species of fish are swimming in the Fox River and the lower bay now boasts world-class walleye and musky fishing, and water fowl hunting.

“The system has improved dramatically for fish and aquatic life,” says Vicky Harris.

“Been a really marked decline in PCB’s in the fish, in the sediment and in the water column, so it will take some time but it’s clearly in the right direction, so I don’t think there’s any doubt it’s going to be successful,” says Bud Harris with a smile.

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