A restoration projectunderway in the Grassy Point area of Duluth’s harbour seeks to clean up half a million cubic yards of wood waste almost 120 years old. The Duluth News Tribune reports that the wood which clogs the St. Louis River estuary is over 16 feet deep in some places, refusing to decompose and destroying fish habitat. The wood is a holdover from Duluth’s late nineteenth-century history as a lumber capital, when the LeSeur and St. Louis lumber companies were in operation at Grassy Point.
The project will be completed by the St. Louis River Restoration Initiative to the tune of $14.7 million, contributed by the Minnesota Outdoor Heritage Fund, the U.S. EPA via the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, and a pending settlement from the Stryker Bay Superfund site. The project’s mandate is to clean up much of the wood waste, but it will also remove 165,000 cubic yards of sediment from the mouth of Kingsbury Creek, 1.5 miles upstream of Grassy Point. The removed sediment will be used to recreate shallow water fish habitat where the wood waste has been removed.
The project is set to begin in January 2018, and is expected to run through 2019. The combined Grassy Point and Kinsbury Creek project will be the single largest restoration initiative in the Twin Ports under the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. The project is one of many being undertaken to restore industrial damage to ecosystems in the Great Lakes, thereby removing Duluth as an environmental area of concern (AOC). The St. Louis River estuary is located at the extreme western end of Lake Superior between the cities of Duluth, Minnesota and Superior, Wisconsin. It is one of 43 areas of concern on the Great Lakes, facing similar industrially-sourced environmental problems as Thunder Bay, Nipigon Bay, Jackfish Bay, and Bruce Peninsula. (To see more information on North Shore areas of concern, click here.)
Of the half-million cubic yards of sawmill waste at Grassy point, 300,000 (25,000 dump truck loads) will be cleaned up during the project. It will be carted to shore, dried, and burned as biomass to generate electricity at the Hibbard Renewable Energy Center. In places where the wood waste cannot all be removed, the Kingsbury Creek sediment will be brought in to cover it at a desired depth for fish habitat. The sediment will also be used to build an upland island, with wood waste forming the base of the island.
The initiative is expected to benefit people, as well as ecosystems and wildlife. The project includes plans for a fishing pier, walking trails, kayak landings, and increased public access to connect the estuary with nearby neighborhoods. The Tribune reports that the cost for these additions will be picked up by the city of Duluth when money becomes available.
The St. Louis River Alliance, a local nonprofit organization has been working for several decades to restore, protect and enhance the St. Louis River.
A public information/input session was held last Wednesday, May 24 at the Civic Center West/Evergreen Center in Duluth.