St. Louis River Area of Concern 2015 Progress Report
2011 TOUR OF THE ST. LOUIS RIVER ESTUARY AREA OF CONCERN TO AREA OF RECOVERY:
The purpose of this river tour was to bring local leaders together with key state agency and funding decision-makers from both Minnesota and Wisconsin. Stories were shared to demonstrate how significant investments have led to much progress in restoring and protecting the St. Louis River since it was designated as an Area of Concern of the Great Lakes.
REMEDIATION OF CONTAMINATED SEDIMENTS:
Surveys conducted in recent years have provided a great deal of useful information about local sediment contamination.
In Minnesota, clean ups are underway at the two state Superfund sites on the river (USX and Interlake). Each site has a community work group.
In Wisconsin, WDNR and Murphy Oil are working together to clean up the Newton Creek System, which includes Hog Island Inlet. This is a staged clean-up process that began with Murphy Oil building a new waste water treatment plant. In fall 1997, Murphy Oil began cleaning up the headwaters of Newton Creek.
The RAP helped Oliver, Wisconsin, solve its wastewater treatment problems. Oliver and the Western Lake Superior Sanitary District (WLSSD) in Duluth agreed to lay a pipe under the river and treat Oliver’s waste at WLSSD.
Water quality continues to improve, due to pollution prevention efforts, better pre-treatment programs and new storm water management activities, including efforts to control storm-related “inflow and infiltration,” which has caused sewage bypasses in Duluth, with untreated sewage flowing directly into Lake Superior.
MPCA, WDNR and WLSSD are encouraging pollution prevention in outreach programs aimed at citizens and businesses.
HABITAT PROTECTION AND IMPROVEMENT:
The RAP was instrumental in the creation of WDNR’s St. Louis River Streambank Protection Project, upstream of Oliver, which purchased 6,900 acres, including shorelands bordering five miles along the St. Louis River and 13 miles along the Red River and its main tributaries. The project includes most of the Red River watershed, which is characterized by steep slopes and highly erodible red clay soils.
The St. Louis River Board developed an even larger protection project along the St. Louis, Cloquet and Whiteface river (all in the St. Louis River watershed). Some 22,000 acres were acquired and transferred to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
Bio-control is being used on purple loosestrife infestations in wetlands on both the Minnesota and Wisconsin sides of the lower estuary.
PUBLIC OUTREACH AND EDUCATION:
River Watch Program in Minnesota and Water Watch Program in Wisconsin have involved numerous area teachers and school children in hands-on, field-oriented, water-quality education and monitoring. These efforts have also included a spring River Congress, annual stormdrain stenciling and several art/science collaborations.
The RAP helped get signs posted to warn recreational users about contaminated sediments at Stryker Bay in Duluth and at Hog Island Inlet in Superior.
The SLRCAC has organized clean ups at the Connors Point Recreation Area and Wisconsin Point in Superior as well as Grassy Point and Erie Pier in Duluth.
The St. Louis River System RAP has been recognized since its inception for its high level of citizen participation and community involvement. Hundreds of individuals, representing a broad cross-section of the community, have worked together to identify problems, develop and/or implement recommendations and encourage environmental stewardship. They have provided crucial support for the RAP process and helped to improve the health of the St. Louis River ecosystem.
The current status of the implementation progress of all 43 recommendations from the Remedial Action Plan can be found here.