The Fox River Natural Resource Trustee Council

Schmidt wetland restoration Common tern chicks Preservation of Herb Behnke Wolf River Bottoms Pike
Wetland restoration on the Oneida Reservation (photo by the Oneida EH&SD)
Common tern chicks on Lake Butte des Morts (photo by Colette Charbonneau, FWS)
Herb Behnke Unit, Wolf River Bottoms Natural Resource Area (Photo by Wisconsin DNR)
Young of the year pike photographed during spring monitoring on the west shore of Green Bay (photo by Brown County LCD)


Trustees for natural resources in the Fox River Natural Resource Damage Assessment at Green Bay, Wisconsin, have released a final updated restoration plan.

2016 Update to the Restoration Plan and Environmental Assessment (2.7 MB pdf)

The plan aims to create more public access to recreational fishing in the river and on the bay. The plan also continues restoration of fish and wildlife habitat toward a goal of sustainable populations of native fish and wildlife.

This spring, the Trustees held a public meeting to describe the updated restoration plan and invite written comments from the public.  These comments were incorporated into the final plan.

The updated plan will guide future Natural Resource Damage Assessment restoration in the Lower Fox River and Green Bay area where natural resources have been injured by PCBs and builds upon the goals set forth in the 2003 plan. The updated plan describes restoration progress, a summary of current environmental and socio-economic conditions within the Lower Fox River and Green Bay and a review of potential restoration alternatives and corresponding environmental consequences.  The plan also defines an updated preferred restoration alternative that includes targeted goals for future restoration.

The recent Natural Resource Damage Assessment settlements totaling $46 million are the largest set of settlements to date and will support the updated restoration plan and supplemental environmental assessment. The latest settlements bring the total recovery for natural resource damages to $106 million (in 2016 dollars) and mark the close of the natural resource damages claim from ongoing litigation at the site.

The trustees have recovered natural resource damage funds through settlements with responsible parties contributing to the PCB-related injuries, including paper mills along the Lower Fox River, paper recyclers and public water treatment works. Trustees include the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Oneida Tribe and Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin.

We are proud to announce the release of our Restoration Progress Report compiling the restoration projects implemented by the Trustees in the Lower Fox River/Green Bay area, through June 30, 2012.

Restoration Progress Report (17.1 MB pdf)

Background Information

The Fox River Natural Resource Trustee Council supports the long-term recovery, protection, and enhancement of the unique natural resources of the Lower Fox River and Green Bay ecosystem. The council has provided settlement funding for over 100 restoration projects over the last decade that restore, replace, or acquire the equivalent of natural resources that have been injured by PCB releases.

Starting in the mid-1950s, Lower Fox River paper companies and associated waste treatment facilities released PCBs into the Lower Fox River/Green Bay ecosystem. These releases resulted in injuries to wildlife, surface water, and sediments. Through a process known as Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA), authorized under federal law, the Trustees assessed these injuries and determined what actions are necessary to restore, rehabilitate, replace, and/or acquire the equivalent of the injured natural resources.

Studies undertaken by the Trustees and other parties have documented the presence of elevated concentrations of PCBs in surface water and sediment, as well as in the tissues of plankton, forage fish, predatory fish, and birds in the Lower Fox River/Green Bay ecosystem (link to assessment library).

To protect human health, Wisconsin and/or Michigan have issued fish consumption advisories for the Lower Fox River and Green Bay. The State of Wisconsin has continued to warn against consuming fat or skin from mallard ducks in the same area because of the risk of PCB exposure.

In 2003, the Trustees published a Joint Restoration Plan and Environmental Assessment for the Lower Fox River/Green Bay area.   In 2016 the Trustees published an Update to the Restoration Plan and Environmental Assessment that guides the implementation of restoration projects that compensate for PCB-related injuries to natural resources.