Month: January 2017

Habitat Theme for Thunder Bay PAC Meeting – February 8th

The  map viewer above displays several RAP habitat and cleanup projects in Thunder Bay Harbour. Click here if you would like to open the full viewer in a new tab.

The February 8th meeting of the Public Advisory Committee to the Thunder Bay Remedial Action Plan (RAP) or harbour cleanup plan, will focus on Thunder Bay Harbour fish and wildlife habitat. The meeting is meant to provide:

  • an overview of Thunder Bay habitat degradation
  • actions not yet completed to address habitat degradation
  • a presentation on harbour substrate mapping, as it relates to fish habitat (R. Kiriluk, Environment & Climate Change Canada)
  • next steps and discussion (facilitated by Dr. Rob Stewart, Lakehead University).

Everyone is welcome to attend the meeting, which is free of charge. Evening parking at Lakehead University is also free of charge. The meeting will be held in the Advanced Technology and Academic Centre (ATAC) building room 3004 (located in the NW corner of 3rd floor). The meeting agenda is included in the “Complete Meeting Package” for this posting which follows below.

Infosuperior will livestream the February 8th meeting audio and presentations. Click the link below to join the meeting online beginning at 6:45 p.m. Thunder Bay time on February 8th.

Meeting Livestream

Access Code: 497-320-669


Thunder Bay harbour fish and wildlife habitat has been degraded by urban and industrial waterfront development. Lake Superior lake bottom and shoreline habitat, as well as habitat along rivers and streams flowing to Superior, has been lost as a result. Remedial Action Plan habitat restoration projects have assisted in restoring spawning areas and wetland conditions in several harbour locations with the goal of creating productive conditions nurturing fish and aquatic life as well as bird and animal populations. Despite these efforts there is still room for habitat enhancement balancing harbour environmental and economic considerations.

Addtionally, Public Advisory Committee members will discuss next steps to address mercury contamination in the northern portion of Thunder Bay Harbour adjacent to Current River mouth and the shipyards. This discussion comes after a very informative November 30th presentation by Dr. Chris McLaughlin about cleanup of contamination in Hamilton Harbour.



Report on Wildlife Deformities and Reproduction Impairments Available for Comment

herring gull eggs
Herring gull eggs from islands in Thunder Bay and Black Bay were analyzed to determine the status of “Bird or Animal Deformities or Reproduction Problems” in Thunder Bay harbour.

After completing substantial research, organizations involved in Thunder Bay harbour cleanup are recommending that “Bird or Animal Deformities or Reproduction Problems” be removed from the list of local concerns. Thunder Bay’s harbour was listed as one of over forty environmental “Areas of Concern” around the Great Lakes in 1987 under the Canada – U.S. Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. Urbanization, industrial and municipal wastewater discharges, pulp and paper industry operations and hydro-electric developments were all contributing factors. Contaminated harbour sediment, water quality issues and concerns about the health of fish and wildlife populations were cited as problems requiring remedial action.

Bird and animal deformities have not been reported within the boundaries of the Thunder Bay Area of Concern however deformities in cormorants have occurred at nearby locations like the Gravel Islands (in Black Bay). Research outlined in a report on this matter, which is accessible below, is aimed at clarifying the status of this impairment.

Environment and Climate Change Canada research related to “Bird or Animal Deformities or Reproduction Problems” involved examination of herring gull eggs for contaminants. Eggs from Mutton Island and the Welcome Islands in Thunder Bay were compared to eggs from a reference site at Granite Island in Black Bay, some 60 km. eastward on Lake Superior. Research conclusions were as follows:

  • there is no evidence of contaminant-induced impairment of reproduction for colonial waterbirds within the Thunder Bay Area of Concern (AOC)
  • 0% deformity rate of herring gull embryos from Thunder Bay AOC following artificial incubation
  • 0% deformity rate in herring gull chicks within Thunder Bay AOC in both study years
  • Limited differences in contaminant concentrations between AOC and reference colonies and contaminant levels were some of the  lowest across the Great Lakes
  • Current contaminant concentrations are below thresholds established for impairment of reproduction and protection of avian fish-eating wildlife.

Further information about this research, including a full report, can be found in the “links” section at the bottom of this post.

Research involving “Bird or Animal Deformities or Reproduction Problems” was presented to the Public Advisory Committee to the Thunder Bay Remedial Action Plan at their March 2016 meeting. Committee members recommended that this impairment be removed from the list of environmental concerns in Thunder Bay harbour. Government agencies involved in the Remedial Action Plan are seeking input from any other interested individuals or organizations, prior to a formal decision as to whether “Bird or Animal Deformities or Reproduction Problems” in Thunder Bay harbour area should be listed as “unimpaired.”

Comments and input about changing the status of “Bird or Animal Deformities or Reproduction Problems” to unimpaired can be addressed to Remedial Action Plan Coordinator Jim Bailey at 807-343-8514 or jfbailey at

Remedial Action Plan agencies include Environment and Climate Change Canada, the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry and Lakehead University.

Below: View the Covering Letter from Environment and Climate Change Canada

Setting out the Change in Designation for “Bird or Animal Deformities or Reproduction Problems”


Cover Letterl BUI Redesignation Report TBay Bird Animal Deformities January, 2017 (Text)


Redesignation Report for “Bird or Animal Deformities or Reproduction Problems” (55 pages,.pdf format)

Trouble viewing the above covering letter? View the entire letter here.

More concise information in the form of a presentation given to the Public Advisory Committee on March 23, 2016

Delisting Criteria for “Bird or Animal Deformities or Reproduction Problems”

Photos taken during field research conducted by Environment and Climate Change Canada at Granite Island on Black Bay.

Environment Canada Great Lakes Videos

Environment and Climate Change Canada recently released a series of short videos with a common theme – the Great Lakes. There are three videos in total, each only a couple of minutes long. Enjoy.

According to Environment Canada, the videos highlight the importance of the Great Lakes for their economic, recreational and natural value.

Video #1 – This video showcases the beauty of the Great Lakes from the perspective of their economic value, also highlighting activities that are important to families and communities. The Great Lakes are a vast shared resource containing a significant portion of the world’s fresh water.

Video #2 – This video showcases the beauty of the Great Lakes from the perspective of their recreational value. The Great Lakes are a treasure to be enjoyed by Canadians for generations to come.

Video #3 This video is shown above in this post and showcases the beauty of the Great Lakes from the perspective of their natural value. Not only do the Great Lakes support our economy and provide us with a wonderful environment to work, live and play, they are thriving habitats for native fish and wildlife communities.


All three Environment and Climate Change Canada videos on one page.

Black Sturgeon River Dam Open House Events

Camp 43 Dam on the Black Sturgeon River.
Camp 43 Dam on the Black Sturgeon River.

The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) will be holding two open house events focused on the Camp 43 Dam on the Black Sturgeon River. The Black Sturgeon River flows into Black Bay on Lake Superior, some 65 km. east of Thunder Bay.

The eventual fate of the old Camp 43 Dam has been an extremely controversial topic for several years and has attracted local attention in the Nipigon and Thunder Bay area as well as attention from the U.S. side of Lake Superior.  Potential entry of sea lamprey into waters above the dam has been a central point of contention and organizations like the Great Lakes Fisheries Commission have been part of discussions.

Information about the open house events follows:

     -Nipigon Curling Club, January 31, 2017,  from 3-7 pm 
     -Oliver Road Community Centre, Thunder Bay, February 02, 2017, from 3-7 pm.

MNRF is seeking input on a draft Environmental Study Report which outlines 5 possible alternatives for the Camp 43 dam. Objectives for the dam include:

• Ensuring public safety by bringing the Camp 43 Dam site into compliance with Ontario Dam Safety Guidelines to protect downstream infrastructure;
• Achieving ecological, economic and social/recreational benefits by rehabilitating self-sustaining native fish populations (walleye and lake sturgeon) in Black Bay and Black Sturgeon River;
• Protecting Great Lakes fisheries and inland waterways and meeting international obligations through continued sea lamprey control in the Black Sturgeon watershed, and;
• Maintaining ecological integrity in Black Sturgeon River Provincial Park.

MNRF Staff will be available at the open house events to discuss the project and park amendment.


Black Sturgeon River Camp 43 Dam Project Information on Ontario’s Environmental Registry

The Path of Least Resistance

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Article
A recent Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article lays out the big picture with respect to oil and the Great Lakes.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has featured excellent articles about the Great Lakes for decades. The newspaper’s latest feature is about oil and what the newspaper claims is the path of least resistance – the Great Lakes. Citing the recent increased interest, speculation and activity with respect to pipelines, the Journal Sentinel lays out the “big picture” about North American energy transportation, invoking the North Dakota Bakken Field, the Alberta tar sands, Keystone XL, Dakota Access, Standing Rock, the Straits of Mackinac and Superior, Wisconsin, right next to Duluth, Minnesota.


The newspaper points out that significant quantities of oil already flow through the Great Lakes region, making a strong case that energy transport, including bitumen, through the Great Lakes Region, is likely to increase. This is a long, interesting, in depth article and is actually the second of a three part series. Links to the other articles in the series are provided below.

On a regional level, in Northwestern Ontario, pipelines have also been getting a great deal of ink from both the media and local citizens. One such citizen is Edgar Lavoie of Geraldton, Ontario, in the municipality of Greenstone. Geraldton is located near the edge of the Lake Superior watershed near Lake Nipigon. To provide a flavour of the input about pipelines area residents are putting forward, a link to an article by Edgar Lavoie is provided below.


Article written by Geraldton resident Edgar Lavoie for his blog.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Series

Pipeline Pressure Builds in the Great Lakes

Dangerous Straits

Toronto Company Completes Land Exchange to Build Minnesota Mine

Hoyt Lakes, Minnesota
PolyMet proposes a new mine to be located at Hoyt Lakes, Minnesota, 87 km./54 mi. due north of Duluth.

A copper, nickel and precious metals mine proposed for Minnesota and well within the Lake Superior watershed is one step closer to reality.  A land exchange with the U.S. Forest Service to facilitate development of the mine was recently approved. Development of the proposed mine has been extremely contentious.

The mine is being proposed by PolyMet Inc. of Toronto, Canada for a location in the Hoyt Lakes area, approximately 87 km./54 miles due north of Duluth. Although the land exchange is in place, the proposed mine must still meet federal and state regulations, including those of Minnesota Pollution Control.
The land exchange was carried out in response to contention about the legality of constructing an open pit mine on federal land, namely the Superior National Forest. Rather than going to court, the U.S. Forest service decided it was in the best interests of all concerned, as well as in the interest of economic development and responsibilities to area tribes, to proceed with a land exchange. Lands acquired in the exchange include extensive wetlands, some of which will be used for research.

The Forest Service will exchange 6,650 acres of federal land for 6690 acres of non-federal land scattered throughout the region. The Forest Service believed an open pit mine was not permissible on its federal land. PolyMet argued its subsurface mineral rights gave it the ability to mine.

The mine will benefit from what Polymet says is the largest known undeveloped deposit of copper, nickel and precious metals in the world.  The company says the mine will have a substantial positive economic impact, including employment for 360 people and annual generation of $515 million in wages, benefits and spending in St. Louis County, where the community of Hoyt Lakes is located. Polymet cites a figure of $20 billion in economic benefits over the 20 year permit period for the mine. The company says it controls 100% of the “NorthMet” ore body, which is located in the 1.1 billion year old Mid-Continent Rift.  PolyMet will utilize an open pit method for mining.

A statement on the PolyMet website notes the company’s environmental commitment:

The mine and processing facilities will comply with all applicable state and federal standards designed to protect Minnesota’s water, air, and other natural resources at the project site, which is 175 river miles upstream from Lake Superior. The plant and mine site are not in the Rainy River Watershed that includes the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW).

Friends of the Boundary Waters does not support the exchange and says the company should meet all federal and state requirements before a land exchange takes place. The organization says serious environmental factors come into play, including perpetual wastewater treatment, even after the mine has closed. Friends of the Boundary Waters says the taxpayers of Minnesota should not be made to pay for such ongoing costs, as the mine may close at any time, due to market conditions or other factors beyond control of the company. Others argue that Minnesota taxpayers are paying for the environmental liabilities associated with a number of mines across the state, even though the mines closed long ago. They argue that while environmental liabilities persist, profits from these mines accrued to shareholders outside the Minnesota region and have vanished, just like the mines which produced these profits.

Friends of the Boundary Waters provide the following rationale for their contention that the mine should not go ahead:
The transfer of thousands of acres of Superior National Forest land to PolyMet is a bad deal for taxpayers, premature, and not in the public interest. No exchange of land can undo the damage that PolyMet would do to this area. The land that PolyMet seeks to mine contains thousands of acres of high-value wetlands that are irreplaceable. The standard for federal land exchanges is that the exchange must be in the public interest. PolyMet would create polluted water that would require expensive treatment for hundreds of years. PolyMet would be the largest permitted destruction of wetlands in Minnesota history. The risk to the St. Louis River, Lake Superior, and downstream communities from this mine proposal demonstrates why it is not in the public interest. The land exchange is a bad deal for taxpayers and the public. The land PolyMet would receive has been valued at just $550 per acre, well below its actual value as land essential to a mining proposal. The federal government will even have to pay $425,000 in cash to PolyMet. If a land exchange is to occur, it should at least fairly value the land and protect taxpayers.


Land Exchange Overview

Thunder Bay Harbour “Way Back”

CBC radio in Thunder Bay recently aired an audio recording about cleanup of a toxic creosote blob in Thunder Bay Harbour. The cleanup took place in the nineties and is part of CBC Thunder Bay’s “Wayback” series, centering on historical events in Northwestern Ontario. The 7′ clip provides an overview of the cleanup through an interview with Bob Hartley, former chair of the Public Advisory Committee to the Thunder Bay Remedial Action Plan, or harbour cleanup plan.

As one listens to this audio clip from years ago it is easy to wonder, “how could we have let such pollution happen?” In fact, such sites dot the Great Lakes. Remedial Action Plans in both Canada and USA have been put in place for cleanup. Thunder Bay’s industrial past has left other toxic legacies in Lake Superior, including the “North Harbour” site near the mouth of the Current River. North Harbour is contaminated with mercury and methods for cleanup are being examined.  Cleanup arrangements have not been finalized.



Thunder Bay Harbour Featured in Drone Video

A feel good video featuring drone footage shot in the Thunder Bay area prominently features Lake Superior and Thunder Bay harbour. Everything from great scenery to iceboating to ocean going cargo vessels, ice racing and sailing is included. This 3′ video is better than any number of words in attesting to the importance of a clean environment for Lake Superior and Thunder Bay harbour. The video is produced by Imagine Films.

Canoes Subject of Talk by Dr. J. Raffan at Lakehead University

Explorer Dr. James Raffan will give a public talk at Lakehead University Thunder Bay on Thursday, Jan. 26, entitled Canoe Country: A Lovingly Skewed Sesquicentennial Geography of Canada.

Canada is a nation of lakes and rivers and therefore a nation of canoes. An elegantly simple vehicle designed by Aboriginal people across the country, the canoe carried the freight of an emerging nation.

In a lively and entertaining multi-media presentation, Canada’s foremost canoeist-cum-storyteller reflects through his love of the canoe on the 150th anniversary of confederation and the emerging future plans for The Canadian Canoe Museum in Peterborough, Ontario—showing how, even in the information age, the essence of Canada can be still shaped by its riparian geography and by its people’s affection for each other and the canoe.

Admission by donation with proceeds going to the Canadian Canoe Museum.

Date: Thursday, Jan. 26
Time: 7:30 pm
Location: Advanced Technology and Academic Centre (ATAC) 1001.


Dr. Raffan is first-generation Canadian, a community builder, explorer, geographer, experiential educator, musician, author, and long-time booster of the Canadian Canoe Museum in Peterborough, Ontario.

Over the years he has touched many lives through his teaching and presentations as well as through his award-winning documentaries, books and films.

He is a Fellow International of the Explorers Club, Past Chair of the Arctic Institute of North America as well as a Fellow, Past Governor and Camsell medalist of the Royal Canadian

Geographical Society—volunteerism for which he was awarded Queen’s Golden and Diamond Jubilee medals and, most recently, Canada’s Meritorious Service Medal.

For more information about Dr. Raffan, click here.

This presentation is supported by Lakehead’s School of Outdoor Recreation, Parks and Tourism and the Outdoor Recreation Students Society.