Alright folks! Last week InfoSuperior’s PEERS had a hiatus so this week’s research post will feature not one, but two updates from Sara and Brent, our Superior Streams summer researchers. We’ve also included links to their bios, in case you’d like to know a little more about their background. Enjoy, and don’t forget to visit Superior Streams to see their new website and get more info!
“For the past two weeks with Superior Streams, I have been working in the office preparing for the coming field work. In order to get all our ducks in a row, I’ve been writing protocols for the data collection itself, as well as for the crew’s safety while working in and around streams. Now, of course you’re thinking “wow, that’s the greatest and most fun job ever!”… Ok, maybe you’re not; however, the experience I am gaining is very well rounded and incorporates all aspects of research. I’m not only gaining field experience collecting data and counting fish and plants, I am also learning the logistics and politics that are required before any data is collected from the field…”
“One of my field days I spent exploring McVicar Creek for the first time. Before heading out into the field, I scoped out locations of previous restoration sites, intersections with roads where parking was available, and paths along the stream on Google maps. Camera in one hand, notepad in the other, I set out to explore the mouth of McVicar Creek at Lake Superior’s shoreline. As the location of multiple restoration projects, human effect on the stream was evident just by walking through it…”
Thunder Bay PAC Meeting June 1 at Richardson’s Grain Elevator
The Public Advisory Committee (PAC) to the Thunder Bay Remedial Action Plan will meet at 7 p.m. on June 1st at the Current River Terminal of Richardson’s International grain elevators, located on Thunder Bay’s waterfront near the mouth of the Current River (link to map of meeting location). Thanks to Richardson’s for offering the meeting room at their facility. The meeting is free of charge and everyone is welcome to attend.
Directions to the meeting:
Richardson’s Current River Terminal is at 303 Shipyard Road. To get to the terminal proceed to the intersection of Cumberland Street North and Grenville Avenue. This intersection is just east of the Current River bridge. Turn down Grenville Avenue toward Lake Superior. After the underpass, take the first right onto Shipyard Road. Proceed several hundred meters along Shipyard Road. A large RAP sign will be placed at the entrance to Richardson’s Current River Terminal. Proceed to parking in front of the Millwright’s shop where meeting participants can gather prior to being escorted to the boardroom. (Note that Richardson’s has two terminals, a main terminal accessible via the overpass to the marina and a Current River Terminal, accessible via Grenville Avenue/Shipyard Road. The PAC meeting is being held at the Current River Terminal.)
The central topic on the agenda will be a presentation by Environment and Climate Change Canada research scientist Dr. Mark McMaster about “Fish Tumours and Other Deformites”, one of several impairments which led to Thunder Bay being designated as a Great Lakes Area of Concern.
Information about “Fish Tumours and Other Deformities”
Current Status: Requires further assessment.
This BUI will no longer be impaired when a survey of 100 white suckers (Catostomus commersoni) – and more if available – encompassing a diverse age range indicates a liver tumor prevalence rate of less than 5%.
The agenda and complete information package for the meeting can be accessed below (note the “Zoom” or enlargement feature, top right, in the map of the meeting location):
The MV Roger Blough has been relieved of its cargo and was cleared over the weekend to head for repairs in Sturgeon Bay, WI. The Blough ran aground on May 27th on the Gros Cap Reef in Lake Superior’s Whitefish Bay. Since being freed of its cargo, it was anchored in Waiska Bay since June 4th awaiting clearance for transit.
The Blough was carrying a load of iron ore from Duluth until it was grounded about 10 miles west of Sault Ste. Marie, MI. The iron ore was offloaded onto the MV Philip R. Clarke and the MV. Arthur M. Anderson. The Blough offloaded its cargo so that it could float again, a strategy which proved successful on June 11. The two ships will now be making the iron ore delivery for the Blough.
According to The Duluth News Tribune, the Coast Guard announced Saturday morning that the Blough was moving on its own power and had anchored farther east in Waiska Bay. GCaptain.com provided an update from the Coast Guard stating that the Blough was on its way from Waiska Bay down the St. Marys River before 11:30am. It made it through the Soo Locks by early Saturday afternoon.
The News Tribune reported that the Coast Guard would conduct a detailed damage assessment of the Blough during favorable weather conditions. The assessment will help determine how much repair the Blough needs to be able to get to its final destination. The News Tribune also reported that a National Transportation Safety Board rep has been on scene to assist the Coast Guard with investigation into what caused the ship’s grounding.
The Detroit News reported that Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline, located under the Makinac Straits betweeen Lakes Huron and Michigan, underwent inspection last Thursday. The inspection began a day after the U.S. House of Representatives approved a four-year extension of a federal pipeline safety law. They added an additional rule which requires Enbridge to inspect the internal and external integrity of the Line 5 pipelines at least once a year.
The pipeline inspection is being conducted by a crew from Ballard Marine Construction, a firm based in Washington state. It’s expected to last a week long, and will assess the external integrity of the twin oil pipelines. Now 63 years old, Line 5 has come under increasing scrutiny by public and government alike since Enbridge’s Line 6B pipeline ruptured in the Kalamazoo River in 2010. Line 6B spilled 840 000 gallons of heavy crude during that incident, causing the largest inland oil spill in history. The Line 5 pipelines currently carry 540 000 barrels of oil and liquid natural gas each day.
The crew used an autonomous underwater vehicle and a remote-operated vehicle to take sonar scans and video images of the pipeline’s exterior. Once the images are received, the crew assesses them to see if there are any areas of corrosion, obstructions like rope or wire, or loose anchoring.
According to Chris Bauer, operations manager for Ballard Marine, the images help Enbridge ensure that there’s no more than a 75-foot span between each anchor that supports the pipeline. None of the anchors have ever been replaced. However, he insists the pipeline is in good working order. “From our point of view, that pipe, it’s unbelievable how good of shape that pipe is in,” Bauer told The Detroit News.
Enbridge, a company based out of Alberta, conducts the external inspection every two years and is required to do internal inspections every five years. The company maintains they test the thickness of the pipe walls more frequently than that. However, those commitments may not be enough for public and politicians.
On Wednesday June 8, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a four-year extension of the Protecting Our Infrastructure of Pipelines and Enhancing Safety (PIPES) Act. Included in the approved law was a a rule which would require pipelines under 150 feet of water to be inspected annually. At 290 feet down, Line 5 would have to be inspected internally and externally every year to meet the requirement.
U.S. Representative Candice Miller, R-Harrison Township, helped to secure the annual inspection requirement after she introduced a separate bill calling on the U.S. Department of Transportation to perform its own inspection within 18 months. If the department does conduct its own analysis and the federal government finds the pipeline a risk to “life, property, or the environment,” their inspection could be used to shut Line 5 down.
Miller stated her case directly on the House floor. “There is zero room for error in the Great Lakes,” Miller said. “There’s a 62-year-old pipeline that is called Line 5 that runs under the Straits of Mackinac, which is right in between Lake Huron and Lake Michigan. Any rupture there would be very, very difficult, if not impossible, to contain.”
As the Great Lakes states prepare for the the final decision on Waukesha, WI’s proposed water diversion from Lake Michigan, members of the public continue to express concern over the precedent-setting vote.
The Toronto Star recently spoke to several interested parties from the Great Lakes region to gauge reaction to the proposed diversion. Bob Duncanson, executive director of the Georgian Bay Association (representing 20 cottage associations), spoke on behalf of the Association and told the start that while they’re glad Waukesha’s request was scaled back considerably from its first incarnation, “we still feel that it sets a bad precedent for protection of the finite water resources in the Great Lakes.”
However, the Star also consulted Gail Krantzberg, a McMaster University engineering and public policy professor with 30 years experience as a Great Lakes scientist and policy analyst. She says she is “cautiously optimistic” that approval of Waukesha’s proposal won’t lead to a bad precedent for other thirsty communities, because the city’s situation is unique. She says that the request is for “drinking water, not golf courses,” addressing critics’ fears that the diverted water will be used for urban expansion. Waukesha submitted the request because its aquifer is depleting and contaminated with radium.
To round out the commentary, the Star consulted Ontario government representatives for comment. It reports that Ontario’s minister of natural resources and forestry told them the province “shared the strong concerns expressed by the public with respect to Waukesha’s original diversion proposal.”
The Star also quoted MPP Bill Mauro (Thunder Bay-Atikokan), who pointed out that the Waukesha application was “amended significantly” – referring to reduction of service-area boundaries and restriction on volume to 31 million litres per day. He also stated that the province “remains apprehensive about any diversion by Waukesha and will continue to voice the concerns of Ontarians.”
However, Ontario was among the preliminary votes in favour of the amended proposal, conducted May 18th. The vote passed 9-0 among Great Lakes states and provinces. Minnesota, the 10th member of the Great Lakes- St. Lawrence River Water Resources Regional Body, abstained from the vote. Ontario and Quebec will not have a say in the final vote, to take place sometime this month. The original vote was to take place today, June 13th, but appears to have been pushed back.
The International Joint Commission and Lake Ontario Waterkeeper are looking for your Great Lakes stories! This is an excellent way to share just how much Lake Superior and the other Great Lakes mean to you. See their post and examples from U.S. and Canadian IJC reps below:
Those of us lucky enough to spend time around the Great Lakes develop a personal connection to them. Their beauty, immensity, a particularly beautiful beach or rock cove, a fun experience on or in the water — these memories are what connect us to the lakes.
These emotional and cultural connections are called watermarks, which like birthmarks become part of who we are. The Watermark Project of the Lake Ontario Waterkeeper collects, archives and shares stories about the ways people use and value bodies of water that have been important in their lives. The International Joint Commission (IJC) is proud to partner with the Lake Ontario Waterkeeper to collect and publish a special Great Lakes Watermark collection.
The IJC is collecting Great Lakes stories in video and written formats. By way of introduction, we invite you to listen to the Watermark stories of IJC Co-Chairs Lana Pollack and Gordon Walker. We also encourage you to follow our Great Lakes Connection newsletter for opportunities to contribute to the project.
Everyone has a Great Lakes story … what’s yours?
Over the course of the summer, we’ll be featuring updates from Superior Streams, brought to you by Lakehead University students Sara and Brent. Catch up with us on Thursdays to see what they’re up to as their research projects progress! Today’s update comes from Sara.
The first few weeks of being a research assistant have been hectic! We’ve done a combination of training and self-directed learning. Brent and I started off with two days of a first-aid refresher course with the rest of the team: Rob, Nathan, and Jason.
We dove into training and read a lot to learn about the Superior Streams project. After spending a couple days inside reading past reports and equipment manuals, we went out on a beautiful Friday afternoon to the McIntyre River on Lakehead’s campus, where we experimented in the water with equipment so we could familiarize ourselves with it before any actual field work.
After we collected quantitative flow, pH, and dissolved oxygen measurements, we acquired some qualitative measurements. Brent, Nathan, and I caught a couple crayfish, noticed a few dragonfly nymphs, and tried to wrangle some sucker fish. Unfortunately, we didn’t get close enough to actually catch any.
The following week was spent in the office. Brent worked on field health and safety policies and procedures. I began creating a website for future awareness and event promotion, and researched seedlings to be ordered for remediation projects later this summer. This involved networking with connections to try and find local tree and shrubs sources, but ultimately we settled on a supplier in Manitoba.
This past Monday, I got the new website under our own domain. I have spent a lot of time learning about website creation, formatting and organizing web content, and incorporating pictures, blog posts, widgets, and so much more. Visit us at superiorstreams.infosuperior.com and check out what we’ve got so far!
A plan is currently underway to rescue the MV Roger Blough, an 858-foot U.S.-flagged freighter which is currently grounded in eastern Lake Superior. The ship is carrying iron ore and got stuck May 27 in Whitefish Bay, about 10 miles past Sault Ste. Marie, MI. It is grounded near the Gros Cap Reefs.
Two other Great Lakes freighter ships are coming to the aid of the Roger Blough – the Arthur M. Anderson and Philip R. Clarke. Mitch Koslow, the vice-president of engineering for Keystone Shipping Co. in Philadelphia, told the Dululth News Tribune that the plan is to offload iron ore from the Blough to the other vessels, as much as needed to get the Blough to float again. The Clarke and Anderson arescheduled to arrive at the Blough’s location on Thursday and Saturday, respectively.
Though the Canadian National Railway owns the Blough, they have contracts with Keystone to operate its lake freighters. American-flagged vessels are required to be operated by American companies.
The Blough ran aground on Friday, shortly after noon. Keystone has been conducting an internal investigation into what happened. Reports have surfaced of heavy fog in the area, as well as of the Blough attempting to pass another ship that was under a dead tow. A National Transportation Safety Board rep arrived Monday to aid the U.S. Coast Guard investigators in determining what happened to cause the grounding. However, Keystone has been hesitant to assign blame to captain or crew just yet.
“There’s obviously a lot of lessons to be learned coming out of it,” Koslow said [to the News Tribune], “but hopefully we’ll get down to the root cause of the route taken that resulted in this. Any actions against anybody we’ll deal with in the future.”
To address potential environmental concerns, 6000-foot booming was put in place around the vessel to prevent possible pollution discharge into the lake. The U.S. Coast Guard reported that divers conducted an underwater survey of the Blough on Tuesday to assess the hull and identify any damage to the lake freighter. However, Koslow acknowledged that divers will likely not know the extent of the damage until the ship is fully dislodged and the bottom is visible.
Teams assembled to address the grounding are using computer models from the American Bureau of Shipping to develop the Blough’s refloat plan. Still in its developing stages, the ultimate plan while be submitted to the Coast Guard for review before being enacted.
Currently, the Blough is not impeding the flow of traffic too or from the Soo Locks. GCaptain.com reported that there is a 500 yard safety zone around the vessel, enforced by the Coast Guard cutter Mobile Bay.