On June 22, the Nipigon Bay Public Advisory Committee met to receive an update on the status of the Area of Concern. Twenty-one people were in attendance representing a wide variety of environmental interests that included Chief Ed Wawia and representatives of the Red Rock Indian Band, Lakehead University, the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, Environment Canada, Parks Canada and members of the public.
After opening introductions Rob Hyde (Environment and Climate Change Canada) gave a presentation on the Lake Superior Lakewide Action and Management Plan (commonly referred to as the LAMP). Rob’s presentation focused on the conditions, stressors, and potential actions that could be undertaken to protect Lake Superior. With regard to the environmental conditions in Lake Superior, he said that although recent data showed declines in fish populations, the fishery and most habitat types were in good condition. He reported that contaminants affecting water quality were generally stable or decreasing, especially mercury inputs from within the basin which had undergone very large reductions. He also mentioned stressors like aquatic invasive species and climate change, which might entail increased weather variability, including extremes.
Following Rob’s presentation, Tara George (Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change) presented an overview of the environmental monitoring that would be happening in Nipigon Bay during the summer of 2017. Nipigon Bay monitoring objectives include those associated with the Nipigon Bay Area of Concern and trends related to historical sediment contamination in the area adjacent to the former Norampac Mill.
Presentations were followed by roundtable updates from various organizations:
Red Rock Indian Band – Watershed Management Plan (presentation)
Alyssa Ray gave a presentation on the Watershed Management and Climate Change Adaptation Plan that was being developed by the Band. She noted that the purpose of the plan was to create a community-led initiative that mapped the valued ecosystem components within the watershed, identified vulnerabilities with respect to development and climate change, created a dialog about the environment and Lake Superior watershed, and built environmental capacity in the community. She also outlined the need to define the geography of the watershed, also baseline monitoring through community engagement. She noted that Lakehead University and the Grand Portage Tribe of Lake Superior Chippewa would be providing technical support.
Lakehead University – Lake Superior Streams (presentation)
Nathan Wilson (Lakehead University) presented information about the stream assessment work conducted in 2016 for approximately 50 smaller streams on the north shore of Lake Superior, including the Nipigon Area. He said the effort focused on quantifying environmental conditions including aspects like water quality, and where possible, fish populations. He discussed how some of the streams were selected and the methods utilized for data collection.
Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (OMNRF)
Kyle Rogers (OMNRF) presented the group with an update noting that the OMNRF had just completed the Nipigon Bay portion of a nearshore brook trout electrofishing program. He also noted that community index netting was being undertaken in the Nipigon area. Kyle said that electrofishing for walleye in the Nipigon River and around the former Norampac mill would be completed in the fall. He said the above OMNRF monitoring actions were part of efforts to better understand Nipigon Bay fish populations.
Judy Rosenthal (Parks Canada) updated the group about a successful BioBlitz event in Red Rock attended by more than 400 elementary students, Parks Canada’s ongoing work to develop a Visitor Experience Strategy for the Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area (NMCA), and receipt of a 22’ rigid inflatable hull boat for their planned environmental monitoring program. She also mentioned that they had recently hired a permanent ecologist and a three-year term geomatics technician. She said Parks Canada was hoping to use a drone to conduct monitoring of the Pukaskwa Pits on NMCA islands.
Red Rock Wastewater Treatment Plant Construction
Jim Bailey (Lakehead University) reported that a call for tenders for construction of a new Red Rock Wastewater Treatment Plant had been placed by the Town of Red Rock in the Chronicle Journal edition of June 10th.
Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC)
Kate Taillon (ECCC) presented an update on the status of Nipigon Bay as an Area of Concern noting Environment Canada’s commitment to long-term monitoring. She said that Nipigon Bay was one of five Areas of Concern that ECCC hoped would be removed from the list of Great Lakes Areas of Concern by 2019.