Bay project removes wood from fish habitatAfter more than 100 years, work is beginning to remove tons of wood waste in a bay important for fish habitat on the St. Louis River.
After more than 100 years, work is beginning to remove tons of wood waste in a bay important for fish habitat on the St. Louis River. The project in the Radio Tower Bay is the first on the river funded through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. The bay was home to two sawmills in the late 1800s that dumped wood waste into the water. Above the waterline, pilings from a railroad line that once crossed the bay are visible.
This work to restore habitat was been made possible through a regional partnership between the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration with funding from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and the State of Minnesota Legacy Amendment.
At a news conference held Wednesday, Mayor Don Ness applauded this project saying, ”Restoring the St. Louis River is an important part of our vision for Duluth as a premier outdoor city.” Ness stated, ”The health of the river is important to residents and the city is an active participant in these clean-up efforts.”
Northeast Regional Director of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Craig Engwall said, “Restoration of the St. Louis River is a significant project within DNR, and we are pleased with the coordination between the partnering agencies.” Engwall added, “This project at Radio Tower Bay has the potential to restore important fish nursery habitat for a number of fish species, including walleye and lake sturgeon.”
According to Sarah Opfer, the Great Lakes coordinator for NOAA’s Marine Debris Program, “Radio Tower Bay was one of only nine habitat restoration projects awarded in 2010 by NOAA with Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funds. Since 2010, NOAA has awarded a total of $15.5 million to 17 habitat restoration projects throughout the region.” Opfer added, “Besides habitat benefits, coastal restoration projects such as this one in the St. Louis River provide a wide variety of economic benefits. This type of local investment is key to community support and one that the Radio Tower Bay project has successfully demonstrated.”
The Radio Tower Bay project is part of the St. Louis River Estuary Initiative, a large-scale effort by local, state and federal agencies to address water and habitat issues in the river and harbor. The initiative’s objective is to improve the health of the environment and assist in removing the river’s designation as a Great Lakes Area of Concern. Radio Tower Bay is one of five clean-up and habitat restoration projects anticipated to start in the next few years.
During this first phase of this two-phased habitat restoration effort, Marine Tech, a local contractor, is removing hundreds of railroad pilings from the bay, which will improve access to the site for the next phase of the project. Phase two involves removing tons of slab wood that covers the bottom of the bay and organic material that has built up over time. A trail and boardwalk will be constructed along with a wildlife observation deck and interpretive signs. Funding for phase two is currently being sought.