Lake Superior water levels on your mind?
IJC’s International Lake Superior Board of Control invites you to its teleconference-webinar on regulation of Lake Superior outflows and water levels in the Upper Great Lakes!
Members of the public are invited to participate in a teleconference-webinar to discuss regulation of Lake Superior outflows and water levels in the Upper Great Lakes system. Specific topics such as hydrologic conditions/forecast, expected deviations, and more will be discussed.
(Skip the conference and go directly to Infosuperior’s live data for Lake Superior water levels, also rivers flowing to Superior – infosuperior.com/data)
When: July 19, 2017 from 12 pm – 1pm EST
• Dial 1-877-336-1839 (toll free)
• Enter passcode: 5162099, then
• Enter security code: 2121
• Enter meeting number 8773361839, then
• Enter code 5162099, then
• Enter email address and name
• Click submit
Following the presentation, the Board will ask to hear comments and questions.
6 P.M., Thursday, August 3rd
Lake Linden High School
(just north of Houghton)
A public meeting about Lake Superior dredging of “stamp sands” (mine tailings) from historical copper mining on Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula will be held at the above date and time. Stamp sands have migrated onto important Lake Superior spawning habitat such as Buffalo Reef. Representatives of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, Michigan Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will be participating.
Stamp sands are the result of extensive copper mining on Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula. Historically, ore was crushed through a forceful stamping process, liberating minerals in a process where rock was reduced to fine grained sand.
Over more than a century, some 23 million metric tonnes of these tailings were sluiced onto Lake Superior’s shores near Gay, Michigan, on the eastern shore of the Keweenaw Peninsula. Stamp sands are migrating across river mouths, along beaches and over important fish spawning habitat like Buffalo Reef.
Dredging is being proposed as a temporary measure to deal with stamp sands migration.
Elevated levels of mercury and PCBs in sediment and fish contributed to Peninsula Harbour being designated as one of several Great Lakes “Areas of Concern.” Peninsula Harbour is the main harbour at Marathon, Ontario on Lake Superior. Mercury contamination resulted from historic discharges associated with the pulp and paper industry, specifically a chlor-alkali plant producing chlorine dioxide for use in bleaching paper.
A thin-layer “cap” was chosen as the preferred remedial option by government and the community. Construction in 2012 entailed placement of 15 to 20 cm of clean sand on top of the area of highest contamination in Peninsula Harbour. The project cost 7 million dollars with funding provided by the federal and provincial governments and former owners of the mill and associated facilities.
The intent of the thin-layer cap is not complete isolation of the underlying contaminated sediment, but rather enhancement of natural recovery due to cessation of the source of contamination and burial of existing sediments through natural deposition.
Provincial and federal government commitment to long-term monitoring is evidenced through the extensive suite of work to be completed during summer, 2017. The Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change and Environment and Climate Change Canada are cooperating to carry out this work. The Peninsula Harbour Community Liaison Committee, a cross-section of Marathon and Pic River area residents, also support long-term monitoring of the cap and Peninsula Harbour Area of Concern.
2017 long-term monitoring activities include:
- Performance monitoring to evaluate cap placement and to determine if the native sediment has been incorporated into the thin-layer cap;
- Remedial goal monitoring to evaluate cap effectiveness (i.e. determine if the average concentration of mercury on the cap is <3mg/kg); and,
- Ecological recovery monitoring to evaluate benthic and submerged aquatic vegetation re-colonization of the cap, and evaluate trends of mercury in fish tissue. Benthic organisms are organisms living on or in lake bottom sediment.
Scientists will also be looking at the sediment near the boat launch area and in other parts of the harbour.
June 21st and 22nd meetings in Thunder Bay let Lake Superior speak. The lake was given voice by representatives of agencies from around Lake Superior, working to implement environmental restoration and protection through Lake Superior’s Lakewide Action and Management Plan. The Lake Superior Partnership is just that, a team effort to ensure continued environmental quality in and around Lake Superior through cooperation.
Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) takes the lead role on the Canadian side of Lake Superior, co- chairing partnership efforts with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Partnership co-chairs are joined by federal, provincial, state, tribal and a growing contingent of First Nations representatives who lead day-to-day efforts aimed at ensuring Lake Superior environmental quality.
Examples of actions implemented by the member agencies of the Lake Superior Partnership include:
- a cooperative science and monitoring program to better understand environmental conditions in and around Lake Superior, assisting in identifying challenges and priorities
- a lakewide effort to monitor the health of fish populations, abundance and diversity of species
- support to community events for environmentally sound disposal of household hazardous wastes like pesticides, oil, paint and cleaning products
- preservation of important habitat for wildlife and recreational use
- identification and management of invasive aquatic species, including plants like non-native phragmities,
- concerted effort to begin major cleanups at contaminated sites, like Buffalo Reef on the east side of the Keweenaw Peninsula, where migration of copper mining stamp sands waste is threatening to envelop critical fish spawning habitat
- cleanup, protection and enhanced public access to Lake Superior shoreline at sites like Pays Plat First Nation.
A list of the thirty partnership agencies would be much too long for this article. Representative of Canadian efforts through Thunder Bay attendance are the Ontario Ministry of Environment and Climate Change, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry and Parks Canada and on the U.S. side by Wisconsin and Minnesota Departments of Natural Resources and Minnesota Pollution Control. This partial list is buttressed by strong Partnership participation by the U.S. Geological Survey, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Indigenous communities are a cornerstone of lakewide management. Participants at the June meetings in Thunder Bay included the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission, Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, 1854 Treaty Authority, Fort William First Nation, Bay Mills Indian Community, Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa and Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa.
The Thunder Bay meetings were very focused. Efforts of every participant had a single point of convergence: how to harness limited resources to effectively implement the Lake Superior Lakewide Action and Management Plan to restore, protect and monitor the Lake Superior ecosystem.
If the lake spoke at the Partnership meetings in Thunder Bay, what did it say? It spoke with conviction and concern, putting forward solid scientific data about water quality and the health of fish and other aquatic and terrestrial populations. Discussions included habitat conditions, outreach and engagement, sustainable development within the watershed, and even factors from afar like atmospheric deposition of contaminants affecting the lake. The Partnership meeting in Thunder Bay and corresponding Lake Superior Lakewide Action and Management Plan are part of a concerted, organized, cross-border team effort to take this information and act in the best interest of Lake Superior and the many people that use and enjoy this incomparable resource.
Continued teamwork and conviction by Partnership agencies is critical to continued action and progress. Find out more about the Lake Superior Lakewide Action and Management Plan and related activities on binational.net, including annual updates on progress and challenges, Lake Superior Action Plan Annual Reports.
Lake Superior Areas of Concern:
- Deer Lake AOC – Michigan – DELISTED
- St. Louis River AOC – Minnesota, Wisconsin
- Torch Lake AOC – Michigan
- Thunder Bay AOC – Ontario
- Nipigon Bay AOC – Ontario
- Jackfish Bay AOC in Recovery – Ontario
- Peninsula Harbour AOC – Ontario
Recently, Lake Superior has become host to another unwelcome visitor: the invasive Phragmites, an aggressive reed which is tall, perennial, and chokes wetland habitats. While they’ve posed major problems in the lower Great Lakes for some time, the spread of Phragmites have only lately become problematic in Lake Superior. (photo credit: Ontario Phragmites Working Group)
What’s the problem?
To identify the problem with Phragmites, it’s important first to differentiate between native and invasive versions of the species. The americanus subspecies is relatively benign; it’s the spread of australis which is frustrating scientists and environmental organizations. The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality published a table differentiating between the two subspecies.
- can grow to 20 ft high
- has dull/tan stems
- has bluish-green leaves that are flat and stiff
- leaves persist throughout winter
- appears in dense monocultures
Invasive Phragmites cause ecological, economic, and social impacts, including:
- threats to coastal and interior wetlands
- reducing plant diversity by out-competing other species
- destroying wildlife habitat
- drying of marsh soils through increased evaporation and trapping sediment
- reducing property value by impairing land use (i.e. swimming, hunting, fishing, shoreline views)
- creating potential fire hazard due to dry biomass during winter (source: Michigan DEQ)
How does Phragmites spread?
Phragmites reproduce through seeds and rhizomes. Rhizomes are underground, horizontal stems growing up to 60 ft long and more than 6 ft per year. Because they can penetrate underground more than 6 ft, they become resilient and persistent by accessing groundwater, and surviving both dry and wet conditions.
The quickest spread of Phragmites occurs when rhizomes are fragmented and grow new plants. Phragmites also spread with seeds germinated from mature plants during spring. A mature plant can produce up to 2,000 seeds, but viability is low where water depths extend beyond 2 inches.
What is being done to control Phragmites?
As part of a combined, long-term management strategy, any number of the following treatments and control methods can be applied to fight the spread of Phragmites. Herbicide is considered the primary method of control, followed by one or more followup methods:
- prescribed fire, or
- mechanical treatment (mowing), or
- water level management (flooding), or
- grazing by livestock, or
- smothering with black plastic
The methods are intended for long-term management and monitoring, employed over several seasons to control the aggressive reeds. The Michigan DEQ estimates that they can successfully control Phragmites for 1-2 years without additional application. However, the reeds can recover 3 years after treatment if follow-up management isn’t applied.
The Michigan DEQ states that there are no current biological controls being used in North America for Phragmites. While there are no commercially available biological methods, some insect species and microorganisms in Europe have reportedly attacked Phragmites. The Michigan DEQ goes on to suggest that Cornell University is currently researching the use of these species as biological controls in North America. However, a 2016 publication from researchers from Louisiana State University, University of Rhode Island, and the University of Florida suggests evidence that biological controls for invasive Phragmites would also have negative effects for native Phragmites as well.
What can I do?
Learn more about Phragmites in the Great Lakes Basin at www.greatlakesphragmites.net. This site provides resources for landowners, public officials, and land managers. These include brochures, videos, documents, fact sheets, management guidelines, mapping tools, and more. The site also helps connect stakeholders with regional resources for Phragmites management, both state and provincial.
If you live in Ontario, the Ontario Phragmites Working Group provides EDDMapS Ontario (Early Detection and Distribution Mapping System), a digital tool which is used to report and track invasive species across Ontario. You can also call 1-800-563-7711, or email firstname.lastname@example.org with sightings.
On Wednesday, June 28, the Thunder Bay District Health Unit announced that three Thunder Bay beaches would have permanent swimming advisory notices. Boulevard Lake main beach and two Chippewa Park beaches will have the advisories installed this summer due to their histories of higher E.coli levels.
Previously, temporary signs would advise people not to swim if current water quality tests showed elevated levels of E.coli. If the levels receded, the signs would be removed. This process would be reviewed and repeated after weekly testing. However, health unit representatives worried that removing the signs gave beach-goers and swimmers a false sense of security. Water quality can change rapidly.
Speaking to The Chronicle Journal, Lee Sieswerda, the health unit’s manager of environmental health stated that:
“Water quality can change due to wind, waves, weather, and waterfowl over the course of a few hours. However, it takes one to two days to take the water samples, test them for E. coli, and then post the advisory signs, so that ‘snapshot’ is no longer an accurate indicator of current conditions. Therefore, we will no longer be advising people whether or not to swim based on short-term E. coli tests. Instead, we will provide people with a long-term summary of E. coli test results over the past five years. People can use that information to decide if they want to swim at that beach.”
When speaking with TB Newswatch, Sieswerda indicated that water fowl is the most likely suspect when it comes to elevated E.coli.
“When there’s high levels of E. coli it’s because of feces. It’s mostly birds,” Sieswerda said, adding it is different than swimmer’s itch.
“Anyone who has been to a beach around Thunder Bay knows when it is goose season. Things like a lot of waterfowl, if the beach isn’t cleaned up regularly or wind, water and waves that stir up the sediments on the bottom can also drive E. coli up into the water.”
The City of Thunder Bay routinely rakes beaches to remove the waterfowl fecal matter.
Using weekly test results from the past five summers, the health unit creates a percentage to show how often a certain beach experienced high levels of E. Coli. Boulevard Lake main beach currently shows that 30% of the time E.coli levels were high; Chippewa Park main beach showed 40% of the time; and Chippewa Park’s Sandy Beach showed 10% of the time.
The health unit will continue to take the weekly water samples for testing, at these three beaches and others listed on their website. However, they will not be posting them. Instead, they will collect the results, analyze them at the season’s end, and update the percentages for the 2018 season, as necessary.
Currently, beaches outside of Thunder Bay will continue with the temporary advisory sign strategy rather than switching to permanent advisories. Their signs will continue to be posted and taken down, as necessary, because these beaches rarely experience high levels of E.coli.
Ultimately, beach-goers can decide for themselves whether or not they want to swim. The advisories are meant to provide them with information they need to make an informed decision. Swimming in water that has elevated levels of E.coli can cause skin, eye, nose, and throat infections, as well as stomach illness.
Some things swimmers can do to reduce their risk of becoming ill are:
- avoid swallowing beach water
- towel off after a swim
- shower once they’ve gone home
TBDHU’s Beaches page, includes information on beach advisories, public pools & spas, E.coli, inspections & enforcement, injury prevention, sun safety & tanning.
Held every third Sunday in July, Lake Superior Day started in the early 1990s by a group of Lake Superior area residents who sought to celebrate the body of water that dominates and defines our region.
Other organizations and communities followed with festivities of their own and created Lake Superior Day(s), even events which span the entire weekend – which might be appropriate for such a large Lake. Here are a few of the events going on in your neighbourhood celebrating our Lake:
Terrace Bay Beach Festival
Location: Terrace Bay Beach, Terrace Bay, ON
Date: July 16
Time: 11 am – 6 pm
For more information: terracebay.ca/beachfestival
Description: We are throwing a LAKE SUPERIOR DAY Party with everything wind, water & waves!
Join in to meet paddlers, demo anything that floats and learn skills from the experts!
Dive into the world of kayaking and stand up paddleboarding with the experts!
We’ve got lots on deck and everyone’s welcome!
You can go for a test paddle, learn skills at a clinic, Boat Tours, Artisan Market & Food!
Also, Join us in welcoming the 2017 Métis Nation of Ontario Canoe Expedition members, dressed in the historic garb of the voyageurs, as they visit the Terrace Bay from Noon to 4 pm at the Terrace Bay Beach. The Métis Council and the Expedition crew will be hosting an event open to the entire community in order to highlight traditional Métis art, dance, music, and culture.
Keweenaw Bay Indian Community Lake Superior Day Celebration
Location: Baraga, MI
Date: July 14
For more information: Shannon DesRochers, email@example.com
Description: Beach cleanup, Microplastics presentation
Bay Mills Indian Community St. Mary’s River & Lake Superior Day Celebration
Location: Brimley, MI
Date: July 14
For more information: Aubrey E. Maccoux, firstname.lastname@example.org
Festival of Arts & Gallery Tour
Location: City of Bayfield’s Memorial Park
Dates: July 15 & July 16
Time: Saturday 10 am – 5 pm, Sunday 10 am – 4 pm
For more information: http://bayfield.org/bayfield-activities/festival-of-arts/
Description: In honour of Lake Superior Day, Bayfield Festival of Arts will highlight the artists who incorporate materials that are sourced directly from the Big Lake. Artists from will gather on Saturday, July 15 from 10 am to 5 pm and Sunday, July 16 from 10 am to 4 pm. A juried arts & crafts show held in Memorial Park on the scenic shores of Lake Superior in downtown Bayfield. Visitors will find a unique selection of pottery, painting, jewelry, sculpture, glass works, wood carvings, photography and more.
Maslowski Beach Clean Up
Location: Maslowski Beach and City of Ashland.
Date: July 16
Time: 9 am – 12 pm (noon)
For more information: Sara Hudson at email@example.com or 715-682-7059
Description: Celebrate your love for the Chequamegon Bay of Lake Superior at our Second Annual Ashland Beach Cleanup! We will pick up trash and check for signs of pollution or erosion along Maslowski Beach in Ashland. Supplies are available, but you are welcome to bring your own gloves and trash pickers. Food and beverages are provided for those who volunteer. If you are interested, please meet at the Maslowski Beach Playground at 9 am. This event is co-hosted by the Ashland Parks and Recreation Department, Chequamegon Bay Area Partnership, and the Center for Rural Communities at Northland College, in partnership with the Alliance for the Great Lakes Adopt-A-Beach Program.
Washburn Lake Superior Day
Location: Thompson’s West End Park, Washburn, WI
Date: July 16
Time: 9 am – 3 am
For more information: Michele Wheeler, 715-685-2912 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Description: Come love the Lake at the City of Washburn’s Thompson’s West End Park! All are welcome to enjoy a variety of activities. Fun activities will be available from 9 am – 3 pm, including:
9 am – 10 am
- Gritty Fish Crossfit – Have you seen people working out on main street and wondered what they’re doing? Meet at 9 a.m. by the playground to learn more about crossfit and try it out. All experience and fitness levels can participate.
10 am – 12 pm
- Words for Water portraits. If you could speak for the water, what would you say?
- What’s in the water? Water quality monitoring demonstration with the Bad River Watershed Association.
- Get out on the water with FREE sailboat cruises hosted by Northcoast sailing.
- Get out on the water with FREE standup paddle board and kayak demos. Or rent a kayak/SUP for a longer time period.
- Corn hole competition. AND!! There will be a prize for the fastest time to get to 21 points.
11 am – 1 pm
- Messiah Lutheran Church will provide brats and baked goods for sale so that you can picnic at the beach.
1 pm – 3 pm
- What’s in the water? USGS will present data collected at the newly installed Ashland Lighthouse monitoring station, including info about last year’s big rain event.
- More Northcoast sailing trips!
Corn hole, horseshoes and beach volleyball will be available all day. Or, invite your friends and just go play/swim at the beach.
Port Wing Business Alliance Lake Superior Day
Location: Port Wing Town Hall and Pavilion
Date: July 15
Time: 8 am – dusk
For More information: http://portwingwi.com/events/port-wing/port-wing-events/lake-superior-day/
- 8 am Bird watching and photography hike with Rick Burkman and Wayne Rundell. Meet at the main door of the Town Hall for orientation and directions.
- 9 am Display’s open at the Town Hall
- 9 am – 12 pm Coast Guard boat at Town Hall
- 9 am – 1 pm Farmers’ market with veggies and crafts.
- 10 am Rick Burkman, speaker– Washburn -Beneath the Feathers: A Peek Into the Seedier Side of our Avian Friends. ”
Rick Burkman never lost his childhood fascination with the hidden lives of birds. Writing natural history articles for national and regional magazines, newspapers, and even a couple of books have given him many opportunities to fuel his passion. Here he explores the secret, and sometimes sinister, side of a few of our well-known birds, including surprises from our own back yards.
- 10:45 am Tracy Hames, Executive Director, Wisconsin Wetlands Association
Learn what a wetland is, how and why they form, and where you can find them. Learn about the many different kinds of wetlands found in Wisconsin. Learn about the benefits wetlands provide to Wisconsin’s waters, wildlife, and people.
- 12 pm – 2 pm Fish Boil, sponsored by the Port Wing Area Business Association @ Town Hall
- 12:30 pm – 1:30 pm Tracy Hames leading a wetland hike/driving tour of 4 to 5 different wetlands along Beach Road and Quarry Road and Twin Falls Park, meet at Town Hall
- 7 pm – dusk Bonfire & Stargazing at Marina
Bad River’s Lake Superior Day Celebration
Location: Waverly Beach, Odanah, WI
Date: July 14
Time: 11 am – 3 pm
For more information: Bad River Natural Resource Department, 715-682-7123
Description: Informational and educational booths, lunch
Barkers Island Lake Superior Day
Location: 15 Marina Drive, Superior WI 54880
Date: July 16
Time: 11 am – 4 pm
For more information: Deanna Erickson, email@example.com
Description: Live music, art, and fun for all ages! +This year’s event is coordinated by the Lake Superior National Estuarine Research Reserve, a federal reserve encompassing over 16,000 acres along the St. Louis River freshwater estuary.