Dredging Contract Awarded to Protect Buffalo Reef
Posted on: October 15, 2018


Stamp sands near Gay, Michigan. (Photo: Michigan Technological University)
A big step to address an environmental disaster that is slowly advancing on Lake Superior will now move forward. The Detroit District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has announced a contract for dredging of stamp sand—fine sand produced when crushing rock to extract copper—in the Keweenaw Peninsula between the small unincorporated town of Gay, Michigan and the Grand Traverse Harbor.



Michigan Technological University footage above. The university is searching for solutions to address 22 million metric tons of mine waste encroaching on Buffalo Reef.

The goal of the dredging project is to stop the stamp sands from smothering the nearby Buffalo Reef located in Grand Traverse Bay on the eastern side of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula of Lake Superior. It is estimated that nearly a quarter of the lake trout caught in Lake Superior’s Michigan waters come from within 50 miles (~80.5 kilometres) of Buffalo Reef, where fish lay, fertilize and incubate eggs.



Petersen Companies, Inc., of Minocqua, Wisconsin, will dredge approximately 27,500 cubic yards (~21,025 cubic metres) of stamp sands from in and around the Grand Traverse Harbor. Additionally, 80,000 cubic yards (~61,164 cubic metres) of stamp sands will be dredged from the ancient riverbed, north of Buffalo Reef, known as the ‘trough’. Dredging north of Buffalo Reef should delay further drift and sedimentation into the reef and protect the juvenile whitefish recruitment area south of Grand Traverse Harbor. Dredging is scheduled to be completed during summer 2019 at a cost of almost three million U.S. dollars.


In a news release from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Steve Check, project manager, explained:
This environmental improvement project is a perfect example of our district mission to protect the environment and be good stewards to vulnerable habitats that are vital to the Great Lakes ecosystem. Dredging will buy time for the multi-agency team to develop a long-term, adaptive management plan to deal with the estimated 15 million cubic yards of stamp sands that continue to threaten the reef.


This Great Lakes Restoration Initiative project is being executed cooperatively by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.


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