Month: November 2017

“Earthcare” Included in New Thunder Bay Official Plan

Earthcare Advisory Committee Chair Andrew Foulds
Thunder Bay City Councillor and Earthcare Advisory Committee Chair Andrew Foulds examines the new City of Thunder Bay Draft Official Plan at a meeting of Eathcare community partners on November 21st. (Photo: J. Bailey/Infosuperior.com)

On November 21st, City of Thunder Bay representatives met with Earthcare Sustainability Plan community partners, providing these organizations with another chance for input into the City of Thunder Bay draft official plan. EarthCare Community Partners are businesses, organizations, or individuals from the community that have declared their commitment to support the development of the EarthCare Sustainability Plan.

The EarthCare Sustainability Plan is a partnership between the City of Thunder Bay and the Community to address issues associated with:

  • community sustainability
  • greenhouse gas reduction.

All Earthcare Land Use Recomendations are Included in the Official Plan

Many aspects of the Earthcare Sustainability Plan have been incorporated in the City of Thunder Bay Draft Official Plan. In fact, every one of EarthCare’s recommendations pertaining to land use were incorporated in the plan, as well as many others, like the inclusion of a natural heritage section and a climate adaptation section. There is also inclusion of urban agriculture, wildland urban interface fire maps, and support for 2nd dwelling units and intensification targets to reduce further urban sprawl.

Background

Land use planning plays a significant role in defining built landscapes and shaping the natural landscape. It can be used as a tool to limit the impact of human activities on the environment, as well as to enhance significant cultural aspects of human history. Careful land use planning can facilitate the liveability and sustainability of the built environment benefiting public health, protecting forests and waterways, encouraging active transportation, reducing green house gas emissions, and contributing to the overall aesthetics and well-being of the community.

Earthcare’s mission is to lead the community in securing the environmental health of the region,  thereby improving the social, cultural and economic well being of future generations. There are 11 working group’s that operate under the guidance of EarthCare, providing a point of entry for the participation and engagement of the public and other stakeholders in the implementation of the EarthCare Sustainability Plan. Thunder Bay’s Remedial Action Plan, or harbour cleanup plan, is represented on the Water Working Group. Alongside the working groups the EarthCare Advisory Committee to Council advises on overarching implementation of the Sustainability Plan.

Significant contributions by the EarthCare (the EarthWise) working groups were provided in 2012 as part of the official plan review. General recommendations included making green infrastructure a priority, defining natural heritage features, undertaking the environmental policy study, protecting wetlands and environmental protection zones from encroachment and development, also curbing urban sprawl.

Next Steps

Next steps for the Official Plan include adoption by City Council and then implementation, including updating zoning by-laws and site plan controls.

Thunder Bay PAC Meeting – December 6

Draft Habitat Strategy
Nathan Wilson will present a draft habitat strategy for the Thunder Bay Area of Concern on December 6th.

The Public Advisory Committee to the Thunder Bay Remedial Action Plan will meet at 7 p.m. on December 6th in ATAC Room 3004 at Lakehead University. Evening parking at Lakehead University is free of charge and available right beside the ATAC building.

The meeting will deal with the following items:

  • Thunder Bay Area of Concern Draft Habitat Strategy
  • Review/Revisions to Committee Terms of Reference.

Meeting Package:

Remedial Action Plans work to address environmental chemical, physical, and biological degradation resulting in pollution and impacts to habitat in Areas of Concern on the Great Lakes.  They are supported by 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.

The meeting is open to the public and all are welcome to attend. Their is no charge. Observers do not participate in committee decisions but may be allowed to address the meeting at the discretion of the chair.

Caribou, Ice and Wolves – Death Spiral?

Caribou travel accross the Lake Superior ice, 2014.
A caribou from Lake Superior’s Slate Islands travels over the ice to the mainland near Jackfish Bay, 2014. Ice cover in 2014 also allowed wolves from the mainland to travel to the Slate Islands and Michipicoten Island. This photo was received by Infosuperior on April 7th, 2014. Photo by Lisa Jacques.

Michipicoten First Nation is deeply concerned about the fate of Lake Superior’s woodland caribou. The First Nation is located near Wawa, Ontario and would like Superior watershed residents to know about a situation they describe as critical.  The situation is related to the presence of wolves in recent years on Lake Superior islands.

The band notes that wolves migrated to a couple of Lake Superior island locations over the ice in 2014 and that since then, caribou populations have declined dramatically. Some would argue that this is a natural course of events. Michipicoten First Nation has another point of view. They point out that, “for all intents and purposes,” there is no longer a coastal population of caribou, although at one time caribou lived throughout the Lake Superior watershed. Band representatives warn that since mainland populations have all but disappeared, island populations act as a “lifeline.” They are the last self-sustaining caribou populations on Lake Superior.

Concern centres on wolves, as these animals are predators for caribou on both the Slate Islands (near Terrace Bay, Ontario) and Michipicoten Island. The band says that island wolf populations are extremely close to causing the disappearance of caribou. Rather than years or months, band representatives contend that the timeline for caribou disappearance could be immediate.

Read more in the following article provided by Leo Lepiano, Lands and Resource Consulting Coordinator, Michipicoten First Nation.

Commercial links with excellent pictures of Michipicoten Island and the Slate Islands follows:

Leo Lepiano article:

The Lake Superior watershed has been home to the woodland caribou since the end of the last ice age, but they not be here for much longer. In 2014, wolves arrived on both the Slate Islands and Michipicoten Island by way of ice bridges. Previously these two islands supported the highest densities of woodland caribou in the world, and most of the Lake Superior herd. However, trapped on an island with wolves, caribou have no chance to survive by means of evasion, and recruitment and survival of calves is quick to reach zero. The caribou population on Michipicoten Island has declined from around 680 animals in 2011 to 180 at the end of last winter; the wolves are now estimated to number between 15 and 20.

Caribou crossing to the mainland from the Slates, 2014.
Caribou (background) cross the ice from the Slate Islands to the mainland, 2014. Photo: Paul and Allison Dennis.

While the populations on the islands have been falling rapidly, caribou have disappeared from Pukaskwa National Park on the east coast of the lake. A few animals may remain between Schreiber and Marathon, but it seems this population has been dependent on regular migrations from the Slates to be sustained. The Lake Superior herd now exists almost entirely, if not entirely, on these islands. The broader context is that woodland caribou are listed as a threatened species by both the federal and provincial governments.

In spite of the protected status offered to woodland caribou, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry has decided to study the situation. Having captured the wolves when they first crossed, the decision was made to proceed with an experiment. The wolves were collared and allowed to remain on the islands. As the caribou dwindle to nothing, those of us who would like to see the province fulfill their fiduciary duty to prevent wildlife populations from being extirpated need to speak up.

Buffalo Reef Public Meeting – Linden-Hubbell High School – Dec. 5

Gay Stamp Sands
This aerial photo shows the drift of stamp sands from the community of Gay, south toward the Grand Traverse Harbor on Lake Superior. The community of Gay is located on the east side of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (Photo: Neil Harri).

A public meeting dealing with Lake Superior’s Buffalo Reef, which is located on the east side of Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula, will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, December 5th at Lake Linden-Hubbell High School Auditorium, 601 Calument St. in Lake Linden, Houghton County. The reef, which is 5.6 square miles/9 square kilometers in size, provides productive spawning habitat for whitefish and lake trout. Stamp sand wastes are a legacy of the copper mining industry. Over many decades, the sands, which were sluiced onto the shoreline near the town of Gay, Michigan have spread some 5 mi./8 km. south and are now threatening Buffalo Reef’s important fish habitat and spawning area. Area tribes attribute much of their lake trout catch to the important habitat at Buffalo reef.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has created a cooperative, multi-entity task force to address the Buffalo Reef situation and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have been helpful in providing the information contained in this article to better understand the Buffalo Reef situation. The EPA formed the task force to develop a plan over the next couple of years aimed at resolution of the Buffalo Reef situation.  The plan will gather input from many stakeholders, including the public. “We will be soliciting public input on what issues the plan needs to address and looking for volunteers to help us understand and resolve those issues,” says Steve Casey, Upper Peninsula District Supervisor for the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s Water Resources Division.

“Nearly a quarter of the annual lake trout yield from Lake Superior’s Michigan waters comes from within 50 miles of Buffalo Reef.”

“The stamp sands were created in the early 1900s as a byproduct of copper processing at the Wolverine and Mohawk stamp mills in the community of Gay,” says John Pepin, Michigan Department of Natural Resources deputy public information officer. “Since that time, these coarse, black sands which were dumped into Lake Superior, have drifted south and are now threatening to smother Buffalo Reef and natural beaches south of the Grand Traverse Harbor.”

Nearly a quarter of the annual lake trout yield from Lake Superior’s Michigan waters comes from within 50 miles of Buffalo Reef. The Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission estimates the annual economic benefit of the reef at $1.7 million.

Map of Gay Stamp Sands.
This map depicts the stamp sands area near the community of Gay on the Keweenaw Peninsula.

“We need to develop a long-term, adaptive management plan, a solution, for the Gay stamp sands problem.”

Over the past roughly 80 years, the stamp sands have shifted south – moved by winds, waves and nearshore lake currents – about 5 miles to the Grand Traverse Harbor, covering 1,426 acres of shoreline and lake bottom. Michigan Department of Natural Resources has applied for a permit from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, under the Great Lakes Submerged Lands Act, to allow the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to remove more than 200,000 cubic yards of stamp sands from Lake Superior. The EPA has provided $3.1 million to the Army Corps to design and carry out the dredging work, scheduled for May 2018. “This dredging project would buy 5 to 7 years of protection for the reef and the whitefish juvenile recruitment area south of the harbor,” said Steve Casey. “In the meantime, we need to develop a long-term, adaptive management plan, a solution, for the Gay stamp sands problem.”

We’re hoping construction can start on some type of control mechanism for the original pile of stamp sands by 2021.”

A task force steering committee has been named which includes Lori Ann Sherman, Natural Resources Director for the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, Tony Friona, Great Lakes liaison for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Engineer, Research and Development Center and Steve Casey, U.P. District Supervisor of the DEQ’s Water Resources Division. “We’re hoping construction can start on some type of control mechanism for the original pile of stamp sands by 2021, with completion two years after that,” Casey said. “We would then hope to put long-term maintenance dredging in place by 2026. The annual costs for that dredging would depend on which type of long-term remedy is selected.” The stamp sands source pile at Gay was originally estimated to contain 22 million cubic yards of material, with 2.3 million cubic yards of material remaining today.

Bipartisan Support for Great Lakes

Great Lakes Restoration Iniative Projects
A map showing projects completed with assistance from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

In a rare show of unity, lawmakers from both parties came together this month to protect the Great Lakes. A spending bill approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee provides $300 million for Great Lakes restoration and protection.  The measure cleared committee and now goes to the full Senate. Funding is for next year and flows through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI). The amount is the same as the GLRI has received in most other years. The Trump budget did not support GLRI funding but representatives of both parties fought to retain it.

The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) was launched in 2010 to accelerate efforts aimed at Great Lakes restoration and protection. The primary focus of the GLRI includes:

  • Cleaning up Great Lakes Areas of Concern
  • Preventing and controlling invasive species
  • Reducing nutrient runoff that contributes to harmful/nuisance algal blooms
  • Restoring habitat to protect native fish and other species

The bill provides:

· $300 million for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative to clean up toxic pollution, reduce farm and urban runoff, control invasive species, and restore fish and wildlife habitat. The bill maintains funding at the same level as last fiscal year, which is $300 million more than the Trump Administration’s budget request.
· $1.394 billion for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund to help communities finance wastewater infrastructure. The bill maintains funding at the same level as last fiscal year, and is the same amount as the Trump Administration’s budget request.
· $864 million for the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund to help communities finance drinking water infrastructure. The bill maintains funding at the same level as last fiscal year, and is the same amount as the Trump Administration’s budget request.

A GLRI report to Congress for the year 2016 provides information about a plethora of Great Lakes restoration initiatives including:

  • Cleanup of the St. Clair River, Michigan so it can now be removed from the list of Great Lakes Areas of Concern
  • Cleanup of chemicals like polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in the Grand Calument River Area of Concern
  • Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission data collection to provide improved information about fish consumption advisories for mercury
  • Urban stormwater runoff reduction at Lake Superior’s twin ports (Duluth/Superior)
  • Lake Superior coastal wetland restoration in Wisconsin and Michigan
  • Monitoring plumes to Lake Superior and impacts on nearshore waters from the 1 in 500 year flood event which struck the Wisconsin/Michigan border area near Lake Superior (Saxon Harbor area)
  • A citizen reporting system for harmful algae blooms affecting animals and people aimed at illness prevention.

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Interactive Tour – Lake Superior Outflows

View the interactive tour full size in a new window.

Lake Superior is at the second highest November level ever recorded, gaining water when it usually looses it. Ever wonder how outflows from Lake Superior are determined and regulated at any given point in time?

Related Nov. 14th Article – Superior Almost One Foot Above Average 

Outflow at the St. Marys River is controlled by the Lake Superior Board of Control. If you haven’t had the opportunity to view the St. Marys River and related Lake Superior control structures up close, a great way of doing so is via the map and storyboard on the Lake Superior Board of Control website. Multiple considerations and facilities come into play and the Board’s online tool is an excellent way to improve understanding of how flow regulation from Superior is accomplished. If you’d like to take away the mystery, visit the graphic storyboard. The interactive graphic has several sections, as listed below:

  • Flow Control Structures
  • Flow Control Regulations
  • Distribution of Flow Across the St. Marys River, Including the Rapids
  • Municipal and Industrial Water Use
  • Shipping and Navigation
  • The Canadian Lock
  • The U.S. Locks
  • The St. Marys Rapids
  • The Compensating Works (control structures compensating for flow to hydro-power)
  • Determining the Gate Setting
  • Fishery Remedial Works (protecting the critical fishery associated with the rapids)
  • Whitefish Island
  • Hydropower
  • Brookfield Renewable Energy.

The Lake Superior Board of Control was established by the International Joint Commission in 1914. It is tasked with setting Lake Superior outflows, overseeing and maintaining the various structures through which the outflow runs, ensuring flow rates are met for the environmentally sensitive fishery in the St. Marys River rapids, measuring flow rates and related research. The board is comprised of only two members, one from Canada and one from USA. Board members are representatives of agencies such as the U.S. Corps of Army Engineers and Environment and Climate Change Canada. Both Canadian and U.S. board members are supported by three staff members each, including one on-site representative. The Board meets regularly with the International Joint Commission and annually with the public.

 

Books: “Sustaining Lake Superior”

Sustaining Lake Superior
Nancy Langston’s new book, “Sustaining Lake Superior” examines several major issues which have affected Lake Superior, along with the power of communities to overcome these issues.

A new book by Nancy Langston entitled, “Sustaining Lake Superior” is available from Yale University Press and Amazon.

Go directly to the book’s website – www.sustaininglakesuperior.com.

The book asks how communities can, “help sustain the health of Lake Superior in the face of mining, climate change, forest change, invasive species, and emerging chemicals of concern?” At the same time the book notes that communities throughout the Lake Superior watershed have overcome “enormous” challenges in the last century.

The book is divided into the following chapters:

  • Ecological History of the Lake Superior Basin
  • Industrializing the Forests, 1870s to 1930s
  • The Postwar Pollution Boom
  • Taconite and the Fight Over Reserve Mining Company
  • Mining Pollution Debates, 1950s Through the 1970s
  • Mining, Toxics and Environmental Justice for the Anishinaabe
  • The Mysteries of Toxaphene and Toxic Fish
  • The Great Lakes Water Quality Agreements
  • Climate Change, Contaminants and the Future of Lake Superior.

While noting environmental sins of the past, Langston puts the process of restoration and recovery of the last 50 years front and centre. She asks what can be learned, both from from past environmental transgressions, and from more recent efforts to rectify these transgressions. The author of “Sustaining Lake Superior” pins hope on community-based advocacy and notes the following successes:

Lake Superior has witnessed several significant conservation success stories in the past half century:

  • the recovery of forests after the devastation of the cutover era
  • the recovery of fisheries after the collapse of fish populations from overfishing, industrialization, habitat loss, and invasive species in the second half of the 20th century,
  • the substantial cleaning up of many toxic waste sites

Langston lives on the Keweenaw Peninsula and teaches at Michigan Technological University. As you’ll see from the photos on the book’s website, Langston is also an ardent kayaker. Her previous books include:

Related Infosuperior Post:

Lake Superior Makes Legal History

Thunder Bay PAC Meeting – December 6th

McKellar mouth, Kaministiquia River
McKellar mouth, Kaministiquia River. The Public Advisory Committee to the Thunder Bay Remedial Action Plan will discuss a habitat rehabilitation strategy for the harbour at their December 6th meeting. (Photo: J. Bailey/infosuperior.com)

The 7 p.m., December 6th meeting of the Public Advisory Committee to the Thunder Bay Remedial Action Plan (RAP), or harbour cleanup plan, will focus on the following items:

  • election of chair (or shared co-chairmanship)
  • review and potential revision of committee Terms of Reference
  • presentation of a draft habitat rehabilitation strategy.

Lakehead University Doctoral student Nathan Wilson will present the draft habitat strategy which was developed over the summer.

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).

Background

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.

MEETING PACKAGE:

 



Coastal Reporting Tool Displays Storm Damage

Shoreline Damage Reporting Tool
Shoreline damage, Marquette, Michigan, reported using the Coastal Damages Reporting Tool.

Photos Show Coastal Damage

The photos are incredible. Especially those from around Marquette, like the one above taken at Lakeshore Boulevard during the stormy week of October 23rd. There are other photos. Some of them show homes, one on the edge of a steep sand embankment, another with Superior lapping at the shore, just a few feet away. Some are simply textual posts with no photo, relating conditions at specific Lake Superior shoreline locations. While water levels are currently high, several of the posts also note the very low water conditions of the recent past. All posts have one thing in common. They describe Lake Superior coastal conditions and damage. 

Proceed Directly to the Coastal Reporting Tool.

Coastal Damages Reporting Tool
Click the map above to proceed to the Coastal Damages Reporting Tool.

Reporting Damage and Raising Awareness

The photos and posts described above are part of the Superior Watershed Partnership’s Great Lakes Coastal Reporting Tool. Due to recent storm events, the Superior Watershed Partnership (SWP) is reminding shoreline landowners, units of local government dealing with shoreline issues and the general public that they can report coastal erosion and property damage using the SWP Great Lakes Coastal Reporting Tool.

With current high lake levels and recent record waves (28.8 feet measured near Marquette), there has been a dramatic increase in both urban and rural coastal impacts. The Coastal Reporting Tool is easy to use: simply zoom in to the coastal site, double click to place a locator pin, upload a photo and type in any additional information about the site (directions to site, nearest street address, dimensions of site if applicable, name, phone number, etc.). The inventory will be used to prioritize sites, seek resources to remediate coastal impacts and raise awareness of coastal concerns.

Canadian Content Encouraged

The SWP cooperates with the Infosuperior Research and Information Network and encourages use by anyone on Lake Superior, whether in Canada or USA. At time of writing, there is only one Canadian posting from Coppermine Point north of Sault Ste. Marie. 
 

The Superior Watershed Partnership and Land Conservancy is an award winning Great Lakes nonprofit organization that has set national records for pollution prevention and implements innovative, science-based programs that achieve documented, measurable results through a variety of conservation, restoration and public education projects. 

Related:

Lake Blasts Marquette, Western Lake Superior

Explore Lake Superior’s Largest Estuary

Access the mapping tool in a new window.

Unique Freshwater Ecosystem

Estuaries are unique ecosystems where rivers meet lakes, or seas and oceans, commonly with highly productive plant, animal and fish commuities, Estuary water itself can be a mixing zone and often has characteristics setting it apart from both river water, and lake water. As the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration puts it “Estuaries are among the most productive ecosystems in the world,” providing sheltered nursery habitat for fish, migration stopovers for birds and functions helpful to humans, like filtering stormwater entering the lake.

The St. Louis River Estuary is an example of such a unique Lake Superior ecosystem, located at the mouth of the St. Louis River between Duluth, Minnesota and Superior, Wisconsin. It is the largest estuary on Lake Superior. For those from “away,” the waters of the St. Louis River estuary are essentially all the waters visible as one crosses the high Blatnik Bridge (linking Duluth and Superior). On the “lake side,” the estuary is limited only by the Minnesota Point/Wisconsin Point sand spit providing a narrow border to the open waters of Superior. What is the inland extent of the estuary? According to the Lake Superior National Estuarine Research Reserve, the inland extent is the same as the extent of Lake Superior’s seiche, which flows miles inland up the lower St. Louis River.

Explore the Estuary

For well over a hundred years the estuary has been bounded almost entirely by urban and industrial pressures, with their attendant impacts. As such, in 1987, the estuary was declared one of over 40 Great Lakes areas of environmental concern for which cleanup, or remedial action plans, were required. A mapping tool, embedded above and hosted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, provides a fascinating way to explore the estuary online. The system is focused on habitat and provides information about:

  • priority issues
  • objectives
  • projects
  • partners
  • milestones.

In addition to beautiful photographs of the estuary, problems and projects, the locations of individual cleanup projects are mapped and each project explained. These projects range from removing 115,000 cubic yards/ of wood debris from Radio Tower Bay through restoring dune and shoreline habitat on Wisconsin Point.

Cleanup Roadmap

Unlike Areas of Concern on the Canadian side of Lake Superior, which typically work with public advisory committees comprised of a cross-section of community members, the St. Louis River Area of Concern has no such committee. Instead, the St. Louis River Alliance focuses on implementing cleanup actions. In 2013, a framework was produced mapping out all restoration actions necessary for estuary environmental restoration. This framework is a roadmap for all concerned.

Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Geological Survey, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources all cooperate to restore environmental quality in the St. Louis River.

See a similar mapping tool for Thunder Bay.

St. Louis River Estuary – The Stories and the Science