On July 15-17, the Red Rock Indian Band held their annual Opwaaganisiniing Traditional Gathering on the shores of Lake Helen, just upstream from Nipigon Bay on Lake Superior. Taking place on the third weekend every July, the pow wow includes food, craft vendors, drumming, and ceremonial dance. A hand-drum contest was held Saturday evening during the supper break.
This year, the host drum were the Whitefish Bay Singers, co-hosted by the Heron Bay Singers and Little Feather Singers. Todd Genno presided as MC, and Aaron Therreault served as spiritual advisor for the event. The head dancers were listed as Doug Turner and Mary Magiskan.
InfoSuperior’s Jim Bailey attended the pow wow at Lake Helen Reserve on Saturday, July 16 to view dancing and drumming in the afternoon. The InfoSuperior team would like to congratulate RRIB on their 26th year of celebrating culture, ceremony, and tradition in this wonderful event.
Thunder Bay’s harbour cleanup plan, or Remedial Action Plan (RAP), invites experienced kayakers with their own kayaks to get up close with harbour environmental issues and projects on August 28th.
Centered on the lower Kaministiquia River and nearby portions of Lake Superior, this guided event is a chance for experienced kayakers to learn first-hand about harbour environmental issues and projects centered on water quality, habitat, and fish populations. The event is also a chance to get an up-close view of several harbour industries. The event runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and is free of charge. A light lunch will be provided. View tour details and video footage of a previous RAP kayak tour below.
1’13” Video Clip – 2015 Nipigon Bay RAP Kayak Tour on the Lower Nipigon River.
THUNDER BAY RAP KAYAK TOUR DETAILS:
When: Sunday, August 28, 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Where: Starting and ending at Mission Island public boat launch beside McKellar Marine at the end of 107th Avenue, off 106th Street. (106th Street is on the way to Mission Marsh.)
(or 107th Ave.)
(or 107th Ave.)
Why: To learn about Thunder Bay harbour environmental projects, progress and issues.
Registration: Contact Jim Bailey – jfbailey @ lakeheadu dot ca if you would like to participate. Please copy Kirsti Salmi – ksalmi @ lakeheadu dot ca. All participants must register & return waivers by email before August 19th, 2016.
Safety & Rules:
Safety is our primary consideration. All participants must be experienced kayakers of intermediate or higher skill level with their own kayak and safety equipment. The group will be accompanied by certified kayaking instructor Lise Vaugeois. Note that this is not a kayaking instruction course but rather a harbour tour focused on the lower Kaministiquia River and adjacent portion of Lake Superior.
If you are interested in participating email Jim Bailey at the Lakehead University Remedial Action Plan office – jfbailey @ lakeheadu dot ca. Please copy Kirsti Salmi – ksalmi @ lakeheadu dot ca. If you have any questions, feel free to give Jim a call – 807-343-8514.
The National Water Quality Monitoring Council, based in the U.S., is offering a webinar series geared toward volunteers who want to make an impact in scientific research on water quality.
The webinar is titled “Exploring the Worlds of Citizen Science and Volunteer Monitoring,” and aims to address the growing role of volunteering monitoring in research, restoration, and protection of watersheds.
- Tina Phillips, of the Public Engagement in Science Program at Cornell Lab of Ornithology
- Kris Stepenuck, Extension Program Leader for Lake Champlain Sea Grant
- Julie Vastine, Director of Alliance for Aquatic Resource Monitoring (moderator for the webinar)
From the press release:
While aquatic-based volunteer monitoring has been around for more than five decades, the term citizen science is generating a great deal of buzz and attention – resulting in international studies, new articles, and focused mini-conferences. With new agencies and programs coming to the community-based scientific research table, now is the time to discuss what exactly is volunteer monitoring and citizen science, synergies, as well as avenues for collaboration and increased integration.
This webinar will explore the general fields of citizen science and volunteer monitoring, highlight the successes/outcomes of the volunteer monitoring field, and end with a discussion of how to learn from each other strengths, challenges, and discuss avenues for increased collaboration.
The U.S. Coast Guard has not yet officially responded to a lawsuit filed jointly by the Great Lakes Ports Association, U.S. Great Lakes Shipping Association, and international shipping firms over increased pilotage rates. However, the pilots’ associations have stepped forward in favour Coast Guard’s decision to demand the raise, issuing a statement to articulate their support.
The Coast Guard proposed the hikes as a safety measure, to relieve fatigued coworkers, an issue which they say has caused pilot shortages and traffic delays. The shipping industry interests believe that the rate hikes will cripple “the competitive position of the Great Lakes Seaway navigation system,” saying that increased costs to vessel owners will result in job losses for the industry.
In response, the presidents of the Lakes Pilots, Western Great Lakes Pilots, and the St. Lawrence Seaway Pilots Associations issued a joint statement which echoed the Coast Guard’s insistence on safety. They stated they were “extremely disappointed” with the lawsuit coalition and their choice to save money instead of adhering to safety and environmental protection.
Yesterday, it was reported that the pilot associations moved to join the lawsuit, even though they were not initially involved. The suit is against the Coast Guard, but they believe the pilots “have a direct and substantial interest in this case that cannot be adequately represented by any other party.”
The pilots have been careful to note that while they would be supporting the Coast Guard’s position in the lawsuit, the two groups have a history, both in court and out, of disagreement over piloting regulations.
A judge has yet to rule on the pilots’ motion.
Shuniah Township, located along the North Shore of Lake Superior, will be holding another Household Hazardous Waste Day this July 23, 2016. The event will be located at MacGregor Landfill Site, from 10am-2pm. The effort helps residents safely dispose of any unwanted household, pool, automotive, and garden chemicals.
According to an add in the Shuniah News, the collection site will accept a number of toxic items, including:
- paints, coatings, and their containers
- solvents and their containers
- single-use dry cell batteries
- pressurized containers (i.e. spray paint, hairspray, household cleaners, gas barbecue cynclinders)
- lawn fertilizers, pesticides, and their containers
- antifreeze and containers
- empty lubricating oil containers
The Hazardous Waste Day is an Orange Drop Program initiative, run by Stewardship Ontario and funded by industry. Orange Drop aims to “provide Ontario residents with a free, safe, and easy way to dispose of household products which require special handling.” The program coordinates a network of drop-off sites, holding Hazardous Waste Days in different municipalities to help ensure these harmful chemicals don’t wind up in landfills, sewers, or drains. The net effect of Shuniah’s event is to keep Lake Superior’s shoreline and watersheds clean and healthy.
In this week’s politics round up, three major headlines surface from Great Lakes basin policy across the border.
House passes Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funding
Last Thursday, the U.S. House of Representatives signed off on a $32 billion bill for environmental agencies. Included in this sum is $300 million for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. This amount has remained the same as the figure received by the GLRI last year.
Major wins for environmental agencies included Great Lakes cleanup money included in the bill and a $186 million increase in the Drinking Water State Revolving fund. However, there was vocal opposition to a $164 million cut in the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget, and a $400 million cut to a program which pays for sewage infrastructure updates. Critics also lamented that provisions in the bill would weaken the Clean Water Act.
Michigan State forces Enbridge to pay for Line 5 assessment
Michigan state officials announced last Tuesday that the state had hired two contractors to evaluate spill risk of the Enbridge Line 5 pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac. Enbridge will be forced to pick up the tab regardless of what the study finds. Attorney General Bill Schuette said that the company agreed to put aside $3.6 million aside in escrow to pay for the study, overseen by the state.
The two contractors are Dynamic Risk Assessment Systems (Calgary, AB) and Det Norske Veritas (USA). Dynamic will assess the current pipelines and provide alternative solutions to them, listing any potential impacts of the alternatives. Det Norske will provide an independent risk analysis to see what how much the financial damage might be for a worst-case spill, and figure out what resources would be necessary to respond to such a scenario. The studies will be completed in summer 2017.
Environmental advocacy group Oil & Water Don’t Mix criticized the agreement struck between Michigan State and Enbridge, objecting that Enbridge would have first access to the final report and will be able to lobby for changes before the public sees it. Groups also demonstrated outside of AG Shuette’s home last week in Midland, demanding an immediate shutdown of the pipeline.
Baldwin waterfront bill passes at Senate
Senator Tammy Baldwin has worked on the Waterfront Community Revitalization and Resiliency Act passed for the last year, and it was finally granted a Senate vote last week. The bill, whose goal is to help restore and revitalize waterfronts across the country, was passed in Senate and will move to the House.
The bill would offer grants and funding to municipalities (such as Green Bay, or Superior) who wish to transition former industrial areas into commercial, tourism, and residential ventures. Baldwin believes the bill is both environmentally and economically geared, stimulating positive growth in areas previously polluted and abused by industry. Baldwin said in a press release: “Waterfronts are a critical asset for our quality of life in Wisconsin, as well as for our long term economic security. In fact, the Great Lakes are directly linked to more than 1.5 million U.S. jobs and $62 billion in annual wages. And Wisconsin’s natural resources support nearly $12 billion dollars of economic activity in the Badger State. Boosting our waterfront communities is not just an environmental goal, it is an economic necessity.”
Baldwin also sees the bill as the driver of investment in critical infrastructure that will be built to withstand increasingly extreme weather events and adapt to changing ecosystem conditions.
Several areas in the Midwest were hammered earlier this week with severe weather, including flooding rain and tornados. A storm on July 11 had substantial impacts on the Lake Superior coastline at Saxon Harbor, almost directly on the Wisconsin/Michigan border. Wisconsin governor Scott Walker recorded a video of the impact of floodwater on the Lake Superior coastline, visible in the Twitter link below. NASA photos from space show mud and sediment being swept into Lake Superior.
— MPR Weather (@MPRweather) July 13, 2016
In addition to coastal environmental impacts, dozens of boats were damaged and eight boats are still lost. No sheen (oil slick) has been noted on the water. The Bad River and Bad River Reservation saw significant impacts: a representative of the Bad River Band said that the Bad River rose 27 feet, a new record. In Minnesota the I – 35 interstate highway was closed, a rare occurrence for this main route to the Superior basin. Rain was measured at over 12 inches in the centre of the storm area near the Wisconsin/Michigan border, although effects were felt in all three states bordering Lake Superior.
A flooded Willow River has shut down a section of Highway 61. Part of that road has buckled. pic.twitter.com/HKeKR2uRMl
— Zachery Lashway (@ZachLashway) July 14, 2016
In addition to extreme wind down-bursts, several small tornadoes were also documented. Several people had to be rescued from a site on the Apostle Islands. Three confirmed deaths have been attributed to the storm as of July 14 and governor Walker declared a state of emergency in eight counties.
Toured the flood damage in Northern WI. This is the damage of the Saxon Harbor and coastline of Lake Superior. pic.twitter.com/NjTCOGQ08G
— Governor Walker (@GovWalker) July 13, 2016
For more information and pictures, see the following links:
Featured photo of mud and sediment being swept out to Lake Superior credit to Nathan Mielke (@ndmielke) via Twitter.
In the future, the Kama Creek project will still be subject to monitoring to ensure the results are consistent. Dr. Rob Stewart reports that: “We will continue to monitor Kama for another 4 year cycle to ensure that the creek maintains its ecological integrity and provides numerous public and educational opportunities. We have noticed that some of the pool riffle sequences are degrading as the infrequent discharges of the creek push boulders and cobbles downstream and this may have to be mitigated in the next few years. We are also keeping an eye on the water loss through the berm that exists to block off the old channel as it still allows a small trickle of discharge into the old creek and we want to ensure that does not increase. We will continue to update with future monitoring results.”
Two major headlines from Great Lakes and Superior shipping this week:
Dredging to begin in Duluth, MN – Superior, WI harbour
On July 7, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced via press release that their contractors would begin dredging portions of the Duluth-Superior Harbour this month. Dredging is excavation work typically done to gather bottom sediments and dispose of them in another location.The dredging is expected to last from July to mid-November of this year.
The Corps stated that the dredging is to be done to clear a federal navigation channel an keep it clear for commercial shipping traffic. The dredged material will be placed in two different locations (Interstate Island and 21st Avenue Embayment) per a habitat restoration design by the St. Louis River Area of Concern Remedial Action Plan (RAP).
Regarding the operation, the Corps conclude that: “placement of the dredge material will create optimal water depths and flows to promote the growth of aquatic vegetation in support of a healthy benthic community and robust fishery.”
The dredging work will be carried out by two firms: Marine Tech of Duluth, MN ($1.4 mil contract) and Roen Salvage of Sturgeon Bay, WI ($1.25 mil contract).
Shipping companies suing U.S. Coast Guard over rate hike
After the U.S. Coast Guard increased ship pilot rates on the Great Lakes, foreign and domestic shipping companies are filing a lawsuit against them over the rate hike.
U.S. Coast Guard public affairs officer Katie Braynard told Wisconsin Public Radio that the rate increase was introduced to add more pilots and reduce safety risks due to fatigue. She also stated that the National Transportation Safety Board recommended the measures.
There are currently 37 ship pilots on the Great Lakes, and the Coast Guard is aiming to gain another 17 pilots [it wasn’t specified if the 37 were Americans only, or Americans and Canadians]. Western Great Lakes Pilots Association President John Swartout believes rate increases were necessary to provide adequate training and compensation for the pilots. However, the companies believe they have been exploited by pilotage fees which have increased substantially in the last decade.
The lawsuit against the U.S. Coast Guard reads:
“Much of this increase has occurred in the last two navigation seasons. In comments submitted to the Coast Guard docket that led to the Final Rule, the Shipping Federation of Canada, a Plaintiff herein, observed that pilotage is now one of the largest single cost items for foreign-flag vessels that enter the St. Lawrence Seaway/Great Lakes System.”
In response, Swartout pointed out that “Great Lakes had the highest work load and among the lowest pay of any pilots in the country.We couldn’t keep people and we couldn’t attract people.”
He told WPR that [American] ship pilots work about 90 days without a scheduled day off, and get paid an average of $140 000 per year to guide ships safely into Great Lakes ports. The U.S. Coast Guard has set targets for pilots to receive more than double that amount each year, which would make compensation competitive with what Canadian ship pilots earn.
The lawsuit aims to stop the rate increase, and are requesting the agency drop this year’s rates by 20%.