The St. Louis River Alliance celebrated the progress made this year toward the goal of delisting the river as an Area of Concern.
The annual celebration was held Tuesday, Oct. 1, in Superior, where it’s held every other year.
Community members had the opportunity to meet with AOC coordinators with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and DNR and the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa to learn more about what’s being done to clean up legacy pollution and restore habitat in the St. Louis River estuary.
“The idea is to connect people to the process and hopefully to the river,” said Kris Eilers, director of the St. Louis River Alliance.
The alliance formed in 1996 as a citizen advisory committee to assist Wisconsin and Minnesota state agencies in developing a remedial action plan to address impairments in the St. Louis River Area of Concern, one of 43 on the Great Lakes in the U.S. and Canada. Initially, the action plan identified nine environmental problems and developed 43 recommendations.
The plan is updated every six months and outlines multi-millions of dollars in projects that have taken place in recent decades, Eilers said.
Currently there are 78 management actions, including studies and data management in addition to construction projects, said Barb Huberty of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. She said it would likely be 79 when when it’ done.
The goal is to have the St. Louis River Area of Concern delisted by 2025.
“As the director of the Alliance, we hope it does get delisted by then because this could drag on forever, Eilers said. As the citizen’s group, she said the Alliance’s goal is to make sure the projects keep moving.
A lot has been done already, Eilers said.
This year’s projects included seeding to restore wild rice habitat, Huberty said. After getting no seeding done last year because of water levels, she said about 1,000 pounds of seed was planted this year.
The goal is to restore 275 acres of wild rice over 10 years in the 12,000-acre estuary.
This year’s projects included three projects in Superior: the Barker’s Island beach restoration, Wisconsin Point dune restoration and restoration of piping plover habitat at Wisconsin Point.
The project, which got underway this summer will create 14 acres of open sand and cobble beach in Allouez Bay using clean sand from dredging the Duluth-Superior harbor.
“I think they are over 75% of the material placement and there’s a few more habitat pieces they’ll be working on once the material is placed,” said Matt Steiger, area of concern coordinator with the Wisconsin DNR. He said nesting cradles using a cobble substrate will be made, which is expected to be done this year.
A predator-deterrent perimeter fence will also be installed, likely to be completed next year, Steiger said.
The goal is to restore nesting pairs of piping plover in the estuary.
Over the last seven years, the St. Louis River Alliance, working with U.S. Fish and Wildlife, has been monitoring beaches for piping plover in the estuary.
“Theproject went really good this year,” Eilers said. “We did see three piping ploversand two of them were likely female, which is unusual. We haven’t been seeingfemales out there as much. There are not as many females for some reason.”