The Great Lakes Water Level Viewer of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration puts Lake Superior at just less than one foot above the long-term average and exactly one foot less than the all time recorded high. All of us on or around the lake see signs of just how high the lake is, even if it is short of record levels. The tops of reefs which were visible a few years ago are now invisible, water and waves are right into the trees in some areas and shoreline erosion is visible in many locations.
People wonder why the lake is so high. Water has to come from somewhere and high lake levels reflect regional precipitation. Rain and snow not only fall on the lake, but on a vast array of sub-watersheds within the overall Lake Superior watershed. An interesting tool which has been added to the Infosuperior website is the Hydrometric Map and Data Viewer. This tool allows site visitors to view water levels in all major Canadian rivers flowing to Superior – in real time. The tool is provided by the Weather Office of Environment and Climate Change Canada.
The viewer provides a map including the North Shore of Lake Superior and clickable icons for rivers like the Kaministiquia, Wolf, Gravel, Whitesand, Steel, Magpie, Batchewana and Goulais, to name a few. By clicking the icon for a particular river, viewers are led to a page providing water levels and temperature information for that particular river. This page provides the GPS coordinates where the river water gauge is located, the gross drainage area of the watershd in question, the number of years the gauge has been in operation and a number of settings which can be modified to view temperature, water level and discharge. Settings can also be modified to view historical data for as long as the gauge has been in operation – sometimes in excess of 30 years. Pick a day, a week or a year and data for this period of time will be displayed. If you know the date of a specific storm event, it will be clearly reflected by the Hydrographic Data Viewer.
Superior’s sub-watersheds are obviously a major contributor to Lake Superior water levels and the Hydrometric Data Viewer is just one more way in which Infosuperior allows site visitors to view Lake Superior environmental data. Other data sources are all assembled on one Infosuperior page, easily accessible via the above link. A partial list includes:
- Weather and Climate in the Great Lakes Region
- Ontario Power Generation Water Levels
- Lake Superior In-Situ Data (buoys providing live data)
- Physical Characteristics of the Great Lakes
- Comprehensive Data including wind, waves, ice cover.
A report on progress to address Great Lakes environmental issues has been released by the governments of Canada and USA. Research to document progress and shortcoming in addressing these environmental issues is fundamental to continued progress.
The progress report provides information on a wide array of research and environmental monitoring carried out to address issues identified in the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. The Water Quality Agreement was most recently updated in 2012 and forms the basis for cooperative work between Canada and USA to address Great Lakes environmental issues. The 99 page report is divided into the following sections:
- Discharges from Vessels
- Aquatic Invasives
- Areas of Concern
- Climate Change
The report notes a number of successes including improved water quality, large reductions in release of toxic substances to the Great Lakes (mercury, PCBs, dioxins and furans, pesticides), start of construction of the “Randle Reef” project to address contaminated sediment in Hamilton Harbour, completion of all actions to restore the Nipigon Bay Area of Concern, completion of a Lakewide Action Plan for Lake Superior, thriving populations of species like bald eagles and large-scale reductions in inputs of nutrients like phosphorous which cause algae blooms. Despite this work, algae blooms remain a serious concern in Lake Erie and action plans to achieve a further 40% reduction in phosphorous input have been developed.
The document notes that Canada and USA, in cooperation with provincial governments, tribal governments, First Nations, Métis, municipal governments, watershed management agencies, and the general public will continue concerted efforts to restore and protect the Great Lakes.
The Nature Conservancy of Canada has purchased the Powder Islands off Pays Plat, Ontario on the North Shore of Lake Superior (often referred to as the Anguros Islands by locals). This is the latest of several purchases in western Lake Superior announced by the Conservancy, which procures funds through private donations and often works in cooperation with other organizations, like the Thunder Bay Field Naturalists and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry. The TD Bank Forests initiative contributed funds for purchase of the Powder Islands, which are named for the fact that they contained a facility for storing powder used in blasting for construction of the adjacent mainland railway. The objective of Nature Conservancy purchases is preservation of a representative cross-section of western Lake Superior ecosystems.
While many of their objectives align, it is important to note that the Nature Conservancy of Canada is not the Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area, which is an entirely separate Canadian federal entity operating under Parks Canada. The Powder Islands are located within the boundaries of the Lake Superior Marine Conservation Area.
The Powder Islands are located approximately 1.5 km. south of the community of Pays Plat and the Conservancy notes that Pays Plat First Nation played a key role as purchase of the islands moved forward and that the band will also play a key role in their preservation. The islands are an important cultural site for band members.
The Nature Conservancy notes the following characteristics for the islands:
The Powder Islands consist of two large islands: Anguros Island (299 acres) and a smaller unnamed island located to the west (100 acres). These islands are almost completely dominated by Lake Superior coastal forests.
Characteristic forest types include dense coniferous forests of white spruce, jack pine and balsam fir, and mixed forests with spruce, fir, poplar and white birch. The islands support many other habitat features including steep cliffs, cobble beaches, small inland lakes and Great Lakes coastal wetlands.
Rare species that have been documented include bald eagle and a small blue wildflower called Franklin’s scorpion-weed. The shallow waters around these islands provide spawning habitat for lake trout and lake whitefish, and stop-over habitat for migrating waterfowl.
Between the Nature Conservancy, the Thunder Bay Field Naturalists and other organizations, lands purchased on western Lake Superior for conservation include a large piece of shoreline property in the Municipality of Neebing, Caribou Island in eastern Thunder Bay near Amethyst Harbour, purchased with support from the Paterson family, shoreline around Gapens Pool, an important coaster brook trout spawning area in the Nipigon River, lands at the east side of the Nipigon River mouth, Hare Island near the tip of Thunder Cape, Fork Bay just east of Silver Islet, Paradise Island and nearby Bowman Island on the south side of St. Ignace Island in the Nipigon Bay area, Wilson Island off Rossport, and a large piece of Lake Superior shorline land abutting the municipality of Terrace Bay.
Rossport diver and charter boat operator Paul Turpin has agreed to present information about locating and diving to the train wreck recently found in the depths of Lake Superior. The wreck was located on the Canadian North Shore near Mink Tunnel. The work of Paul and others led the way to Tom Crossmon of Minnesota finding the steam locomotive which pulled the train, 106 years after it derailed.
Paul’s presentation will take place at the Terrace Bay Recreation Centre on the evening of October 19th. The event is free of charge and all are welcome. The evening begins at 7 p.m. with presentations about the environmental health of Blackbird Creek and Jackfish Bay by representatives of the Aditya Birla Terrace Bay mill, Environment and Climate Change Canada and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry. Paul’s presentation will follow.
Paul will recount the sequence of events leading up to discovery of the locomotive, including information about the Canadians who first found the wreck. Paul will bring along photos and video clips illustrating the work of his dive team. The event ends at 9 p.m.
Related News Posts:
Twin Cities Pioneer Press (includes detailed information about the sequence of events leading up to the crash, including Doug Stefurak of Schreiber)
The Express (UK)
Great Lakes marine transport moves over 160 million metric tons of cargo per year in lake freighters and “salties”, ships capable of both ocean and lake transport. This capability is absolutely vital to the well-being of Great Lakes ports like Thunder Bay and Duluth and to farmers and communities as far away as Alberta and across the U.S. Mid-west and Great Plains.
Autumn is traditionally the busiest time of the year for shipping, as evidenced when viewing the harbour in Lake Superior Ports like Thunder Bay and Duluth. On almost any day, ships are visible at anchor or at grain elevators and other port facilities as they load, or wait to load.
Year-to-date statistics for Great Lakes shipping as a whole show a substantial decline from 2015 figures but August statistics show a rise compared to the same month last year. This rise can be attributed to U.S. grain exports, iron ore shipments and raw materials for manufacturing. Viewed on their own, Port of Thunder Bay statistics show a slight decline from August, 2015. The Thunder Bay Port Authority says that cargo shipments to and from the port generate $369 million dollars of economic input and 1,800 jobs in Ontario.
Get the full picture about the August up-tick in Great Lakes shipping on the Chamber of Marine Commerce website.
The Remedial Action Plan currently lists fish populations as degraded or “impaired” in Thunder Bay on Lake Superior but Eric Berglund told Sept. 21st meeting participants that populations of lake trout and whitefish in Thunder Bay are healthy and comparable to populations across the broader lake. He said that data and populations trends for sturgeon, walleye and brook trout were much harder to quantify because populations of these fish were low, just as they were across the entire lake. He pointed out that it was difficult to compare Thunder Bay walleye populations, to either Black Bay or Nipigon Bay populations, where he said there was much better habitat for these fish. He added that longer term trends are difficult to measure since historical commercial fishing data, when compared to data collected using modern methods, does not provide an accurate picture of populations trends.
Eric’s presentation covered trends in abundance, diversity of species, population structure (juvenile abundance, recruitment, growth, mortality, exploitation) and data about natural reproduction. His presentation focused primarily on lake trout, lake whitefish, lake sturgeon, walleye and brook trout. Data was collected through the fish community index netting program of the Upper Great Lakes Management Unit of the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry. This program uses various mesh sizes at various depths with the objective of netting a representative sample of the fish community. Netting was done at multiple locations across Thunder Bay from the vicinity of Pie Island, also around the Welcome Islands, closer to the breakwall around Thunder Bay Harbour, east to locations like Caribou Island and Bay’s End at the base of the Sibley Peninsula, and south along the Sibley Peninsula to Thunder Cape.
For PAC members, the objective of the meeting was to learn about the health of Thunder Bay fish populations, especially in comparison to conditions across the lake as a whole. Additionally, based on this information, PAC input was sought as to whether the designation for fish populations should be changed to “unimpaired.” Other Thunder Bay ecosystem impairments include advisories for swimming at Chippewa Beach due to bacterial contamination, loss of fish habitat, and issues related to contaminated sediment, especially near the former Cascades mill not far from the mouth of the Current River.
Public Advisory Committee members asked if salmon were included in the study. Eric replied that they were not and that the emphasis was on native species. He said that salmon are rarely caught in the community index netting program. Public Advisory Committees members agreed that given the healthy populations of some species, the threshold had probably been met to remove the designation of “impaired” for these more populous species. They hesitated to provide support for overall removal of the impaired designation for all species however, as information was quite limited for some species. Members also noted the lack of data for fish populations inside the Thunder Bay breakwall. They said this lack of data had also been noted in a previous report. The committee decided they would continue discussion of fish populations at a future meeting. They said that even while further discussion was probably warranted for the designation of “impaired” for overall fish populations, agreement could likely be arrived at to remove several individual species from the impaired list.
PAC members agreed with Eric’s contention that in future, discussion, efforts and resources would be more productive if focused on increasing fish habitat. Eric’s presentation asserted that increased quantity and quality of fish habitat was one of the few ways of increasing populations of fish species such as walleye.
Gene Kent of the Lakehead Region Conservation Authority also provided a presentation about summer work done at the Mission Island Conservation Area, also work to protect and improve water quality in the Slate River Valley and efforts to survey area wetlands in both the McVicar Creek and McIntyre River Watersheds.
- Presentation on Thunder Bay fish populations given by Eric Berglund of MNRF
- The Public Advisory Committee previously agreed upon delisting criteria for fish populations which, if met, would assist in determining whether Thunder Bay fish populations have recovered to the extent that status of this item should be changed to “unimpaired.”
- Presentation of Gene Kent of the LRCA re Slate River and area wetlands
- Meeting agenda
- Minutes of the June 1, 2016 Thunder Bay PAC meeting.
OCT. 4TH UPDATE 08:30 A.M. Update In addition to the livestream noted below a separate breakout session for Lake Superior will be held between the hours of 4:30 and 6 p.m. ET on October 4th. The Lake Superior session is accessible by phone at 1-877-413-4781, passcode 9082031
The Great Lakes Public Forum will be livestreamed on Infosuperior on October 4th from 08:45 to 4 p.m. ET and on October 5th from 08:30 to 6 p.m. ET. Return to this page during the listed dates and times. Livestreaming will begin automatically.
Hosted by the International Joint Commission, the forum runs from October 4th to 6th at the Allstream Centre in Toronto, Ontario. The event, which runs on a three year cycle, is the primary opportunity for the parties to the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement to report on progress. Approximately 600 people are registered for the event at the time of writing and the forum provides an opportunity for residents of Canada and USA to provide input and comment to the International Joint Commission about regional issuess around the Great Lakes, the state of the Great Lakes environment and priorities for action. A portion of the forum will deal specifically with Lake Superior. This Lake Superior session will run from 4:30 to approximately 6 p.m. on October 4th and will be part of the livestream.
While most of us will not be making the trip to Toronto, Infosuperior’s livestream feed allows residents of the Lake Superior watershed to attend online. A portion of the forum will deal specifically with Lake Superior. This Lake Superior session will run from 4:30 to approximately 6 p.m. on October 4th and will be part of the livestream. Infosuperior would like to thank Great Lakes Now for livestream access. Bookmark this Infosuperior post to tune in on October 4th and 5th or simply click the “Events” tab on the Infosuperior.com home page. The drop-down menu provides a link to the livestream. We’ll also be posting links to the livestream on our Infosuperior Facebook and Twitter feeds.
At the forum, experts from around the Great Lakes and beyond will be presenting on matters related to Great Lakes restoration and protection. Federal, state, provincial, municipal, Canadian First Nation and U.S. tribal representatives, Métis, government agency personnel and the public will all be represented. Great Lakes Areas of Concern, lakewide management plans, chemical contamination, algae blooms, climate change and invasive species are all topics on the agenda. The head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Gina McCarthy will speak at the forum, as will Glen Murray, the Ontario Minister of Environment and Climate Change and John Tory, mayor of Toronto.
A tree planting event to assist in stormwater management and retention in Thunder Bay’s McVicar Creek watershed will be held beginning at 9:00 a.m. on September 30th at the Clayte Street crossing of McVicar Creek (off Balsam Street). Volunteers are welcome to come out and assist. Work will be completed by noon.
This event is supported by the Department of Geography and the Environment at Lakehead University, Ontario’s Great Lakes Guardian Community Fund and the City of Thunder Bay.
A full suite of information, including details about free transportation to the site for Lakehead University students is available here…
An action plan for Lake Superior restoration and protection was released by the governments of Canada and USA on September 21st. The document, nearly 100 pages in length, outlines steps for environmental action and management of the Lake Superior ecosystem, including its surrounding watershed. Actions outlined in the document dovetail with goals outlined in the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, the over-arching agreement between Canada and USA for Great Lakes restoration and protection. The document was developed by staff working in federal, provincial, state and tribal agencies around Lake Superior. Environment and Climate Change Canada, the Ontario Ministry of Environment and Climate Change and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry all contributed to the plan.
The document lays out actions and projects for Superior, including those locations designated as “Areas of Concern”, like Thunder Bay, Nipigon Bay and Peninsula Harbour. (Jackfish Bay, formerly an Area of Concern, was designated as being “in recovery” in 2011.)
The document contains chapters outlining environmental objectives for Lake Superior, current environmental conditions, threats to Superior, programs which monitor the health of the Superior ecosystem, science and monitoring priorities, and cooperative strategies between Canada and USA to meet objectives.
If you’ve taken in the view of the harbour at Hillcrest Park in Thunder Bay over the last several weeks, you will have noticed many ships anchored waiting to load cargo. Likewise, if you’ve been boating on Superior you may have passed a ship, wondered what ship it was and where it was going. Like the bulk cargoes these ships most often contain, the economic impact of all this Great Lakes shipping is massive, and viewing these ships makes people want to know more about them.
Through the Infosuperior website, you can now now view a wide range of information about every ship currently on Superior. Our ship identifier provides a map of Lake Superior showing all commercial ships, including their current position and heading, in real time.
Hover your mouse over a ship and the ship’s name, speed, heading and destination will show up. Click on the ship and you’ll see a photo of the ship and further details. Click the map to zoom in to a specific location – like Thunder Bay harbour, Duluth Harbour or the Sault locks Lake Superior exit – and you will see all of the ships at that location.