Month: May 2019

A Tribal Menu of Climate Adaptation Strategies

This piece was designed to represent Ojibwe clans and their role in caring about the earth. The turtle in the centre is a representation of Turtle Island: our lands, waters and home. Artwork by Ziigwanikwe (Katy Bresette), digitized by Bazile Panek.

Adaptation Strategies Include Tribal Perspectives


A team of individuals from a variety of agencies, tribes and academic institutions on the U.S. side of Lake Superior have put together a document that provides valuable information about climate change. A plethora of documents deal with climate change, but this document is unique in that Indigenous perspective is incorporated into a broad “menu” of adaptation strategies and approaches. The 52 page document, titled Tribal Climate Adaptation Menu, is published by the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission (GLIFWC) and is available on their website. GLIFWC represents eleven Ojibwa tribes in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan.

Go Directly to the Tribal Climate Adaptation Menu.

As the Adaptation Menu itself states, the document “provides a framework to integrate Indigenous and traditional knowledge, culture, language and history into the climate adaptation planning process.” In the abstract at the beginning of the document, the authors state that the menu is based on Ojibwe and Menominee knowledge but is also intended to be adaptable to and useful for other Indigenous communities.

Tribes on the U.S. side of Lake Superior are constantly sharing information and working together on environmental programs. Some cross-border cooperation is also taking place. The Red Rock Indian Band, located at Nipigon, Ontario has been working on environmental initiatives related to climate change, watershed planning and environmental monitoring. Over the past couple of years, the Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa in Minnesota has worked with the Red Rock Band in a kind of mentoring capacity. Band and tribal representatives have visited back and forth, some 185 km./114 mi. apart, across the international boundary. In similar fashion, hopefully, strategies and information outlined in the Tribal Climate Adaptation Menu can be shared between tribes and bands around the entire lake.


Cultural and Practical Perspectives


Strategies outlined in the document provide both cultural and practical perspective including the following:

  • Consider cultural practices and seek spiritual guidance
  • Support tribal engagement in the environment
  • Reduce the risk and long-term impact of disturbances
  • Promote connectivity across the landscape
  • Maintain and enhance genetic diversity
  • Accommodate altered hydrologic processes

The Adaptation Strategy Should be Useful for All People Around Superior


The Tribal Climate Adaptation Menu is well written and an excellent means for learning about climate change adaptation and Indigenous environmental perspective. It should be of use to all people around Lake Superior.

The document closes by stating:

From the lands of the Lake Superior Ojibwe and Menominee Nations, we hope this document provides constructive guidance and insight as we all work to find our place and purpose in supporting a more ecologically sound, just, and equitable future for all aspects of creation. Miigwech—Waewaenen—Thank you


Citation


Tribal Adaptation Menu Team. 2019. Dibaginjigaadeg Anishinaabe Ezhitwaad: A Tribal Climate Adaptation Menu. Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission, Odanah, Wisconsin. 54 p.


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AOC ABCs – An Introduction to Lake Superior “Areas of Concern”

Environmental Areas of Concern, or “AOCs” are dotted around the entire Great Lakes system.

WHAT IS AN “AREA OF CONCERN?”

Environment and Climate Change Canada defines an Area of Concern, or “AOC,” as a location on the Great Lakes which has “experienced high levels of environmental harm.” Cleanup or “Remedial Action Plans” were developed to deal with issues identified at each of these locations. 

WHERE ARE AREAS OF CONCERN?

AOCs are found at specific locations around the entire Great Lakes. Forty-three such locations were identified in 1987, 12 of which are in Canada, 26 of which are in USA and 5 of which straddle the border in “binational” interconnecting waterways like the St. Marys River draining Lake Superior.

On Lake Superior, AOCs are found at the following locations:

Canada

USA

  • St. Louis River (Duluth-Superior Harbour including the lower St. Louis River)
  • Torch Lake (on Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula)
  • Deer Lake (Marquette County, Michigan and removed from the list of AOCs in 2014 after cleanup completion)

Binational

WHAT ARE THE ENVIRONMENTAL PROBLEMS?

Former fine papers mill on the Current River section of the Thunder Bay waterfront. Many environmental problems in Great Lakes Areas of Concern deal with legacy issues from extensive waterfront industrialization. (Photo: Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks)

A clean environment allows us to drink the water, swim in the water and eat the fish. Remedial Action Plans have the primary goal of restoring such beneficial uses of the environment. Each Area of Concern has unique problems, some of which have already been addressed through remedial actions. The overall list of impairments for Great Lakes Areas of Concern includes the following:

  • Restrictions on Fish and Wildlife Consumption 
  • Tainting of Fish and Wildlife Flavour
  • Degraded Fish and Wildlife Populations
  • Fish Tumours or other Deformities
  • Bird (or other Animal) Deformities or Reproduction Problems
  • Degradation of Benthos (bottom dwelling organisms)
  • Restrictions on Dredging Activities
  • Eutrophication or Undesirable Algae
  • Restrictions on Drinking Water Consumption or Taste and Odour Problems
  • Beach Closings
  • Degradation of Aesthetics
  • Added Costs to Agriculture or Industry
  • Degradation of Phytoplankton and Zooplankton Populations
  • Loss of Fish and Wildlife Habitat

WHAT HAS BEEN ACCOMPLISHED?

The following is a brief overview of key accomplishments:

Thunder Bay

A $20 million creosote cleanup project was completed in 2003. The project resulted in 32,000 cubic metres of highly contaminated sediment being contained or removed from the harbour. Five hectares of fish habitat were also created.

Nipigon Bay

The Nipigon Wastewatwater Treatment Plant was completed in 2011 leading to improved water quality in the Nipigon Bay Area of Concern. (Photo: infosuperior.com)

The Town of Nipigon constructed a new water pollution control plant thereby improving water quality in the lower Nipigon River. The Town of Red Rock will also be constructing a new water pollution control plant. Red Rock Town Council Minutes of March 4th indicate that Aegus Construction will build the new plant starting on May 1st. The minutes say the price tag is $21.5 million. (scroll to page 7927, Resolution #8).

Red Rock Town Council Minutes of April 1st indicate that start date for construction of the new plant will be May 1, 2019 (scroll to page 7938, items “K” and “L” under the Chief Administrative Officer’s Report).

Jackfish Bay

In May 2011, Jackfish Bay was officially re-designated as an Area of Concern (AOC) in Recovery, signifying that a long-term monitoring plan has been implemented to track and confirm environmental recovery. 

Federal and provincial pulp and paper regulations are fundamental to maintain progress. The Governments of Canada and Ontario continue to assess fish health and water and sediment quality, and will continue to enforce regulations to ensure the pulp and paper mill complies with the federal and provincial regulatory requirements.

Peninsula Harbour

A 7 million dollar remediation project at Peninsula Harbour was completed in 2012. The project was carried out to address contamination from mercury and other substances used in the pulp and paper industry. (Photo: infosuperior.com)

In 2012, a $7 million project placed 15 to 20 centimetres of clean sand on top of the most contaminated sediment in Peninsula Harbour. This process is known as thin-layer capping. The project was completed to address sediment contaminated with mercury and other substances used in the pulp and paper industry. Thin-layer capping creates clean fish habitat, stops the spread of contaminated sediment, and reduces risk to fish, fish-eating birds, mammals and people. 

Thunder Bay Harbour is contaminated with mercury and other substances associated with the pulp and paper industry at this site adjacent to a former mill in Current River. Concerted effort is being put forward by the Thunder Bay Remedial Action Plan to develop a cleanup plan for this site. (Photo: Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks)

NEXT STEPS

In Thunder Bay, an area of mercury contamination in the northern portion of the harbour remains a major challenge. Options have been identified for dealing with this material and a 13 member working group hopes to select a preferred cleanup method by 2020. The working group includes representatives from government, Indigenous communities, surrounding harbour land owners and the public.

In Nipigon Bay, construction of the new Red Rock Water Pollution Control Plant is scheduled to begin on May 1st.

At Jackfish Bay, intensive environmental monitoring is being carried out to better quantify environmental conditions. Once this information is in hand it will be presented to community members in the Terrace Bay – Schreiber area. At Peninsula Harbour, effort is now focused on environmental monitoring to determine the effectiveness of the thin-layer cap in assisting environmental recovery. This includes such aspects as recolonization of the harbour floor by bottom dwelling organisms.

Future Infosuperior articles will provide more detailed information about key Remedial Action Plan efforts. Such efforts include cleanup of contaminated sites in Lake Superior and rehabiliation of degraded habitat. 

SUPPORT FOR CLEANUP

Remedial Action Plans for Canadian Areas of Concern on Lake Superior are supported by Environment and Climate Change Canada, the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry and Lakehead University.

Remedial Action Plans for U.S. Areas of Concern on Lake Superior are supported federally by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and by state environmental agencies in each state bordering Lake Superior, namely Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan.


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Mckellar Island Bird Observatory

Eastern Bluebird about to be released at Mckellar Island Bird Observatory. (Credit: John Woodcock)

As the season changes from winter into spring, a variety of birds travel back to their northern homes on and near the shores of Lake Superior. If you are interested in learning about these migratory birds and participating in conservation efforts, there may be a bird banding station near you that accepts visitors and volunteers. Here in Thunder Bay, the McKellar Island Bird Observatory, established in 2014 by John and Maureen Woodcock, accepts volunteers and visitors in the Spring and Fall.

The following article, provided by John & Maureen Woodcock, outlines what they do and how you can get involved:


Mckellar Island Bird Observatory is located in Thunder Bay, ON on Mckellar Island, which is bordered by the Kaministiquia River, the McKellar River and Lake Superior. Click the image above to view the location in Google Maps. (Credit: John Woodcock)

McKellar Island Bird Observatory is a bird migration monitoring and banding station. We do daily counts of migrating landbirds during May, August, September and October. We also use an array of 20 nets set in a forested environment to capture birds (every morning, 7 days a week, weather permitting), following a standardized protocol. Every 30 minutes the nets are checked and data is collected on the birds that are captured. They are then banded and released. Visitors are always welcome and have the opportunity to accompany us when we check nets and then release one of the birds that has been banded. Inquire about volunteer opportunities.


Volunteer Nathan examines a mist net at Mckellar Island Bird Observatory. Nets are checked every 30 minutes and data on captured birds is recorded before banding and release. (Credit: John Woodcock)

McKellar Island Bird Observatory (MIBO) is a contributing member of the Canadian Migration Monitoring Network (CMMN) (https://www.bsc-eoc.org/birdmon/cmmn/main.jsp) working in collaboration with Bird Studies Canada. Banding birds is an integral part of the migration monitoring program. The main objectives of the migration monitoring program at MIBO are:

A) To collect data suitable for trend analysis with the aim of documenting changes in populations of small landbirds that migrate through northwestern Ontario, as a contribution to the Canadian Migration Monitoring Network (CMMN)

B) To provide volunteers with opportunities to learn new skills

C) To engage in public outreach through demonstrations and on-site visits


The White Throated Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco and Yellow Rumped Warbler are among the top 5 species banded at the Mckellar Island Bird Observatory in the Spring. (Credit: John Woodcock)


Every year thousands of birds stop to rest and eat at McKellar Island during their annual migration. In the spring an average of 328 birds of 44 species are banded with the top 5 species banded being: White-throated Sparrow, American Goldfinch, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Dark-eyed Junco and Palm Warbler. In the fall an average of 2,300 birds of 67 species are banded with the top 5 species banded being: Tennessee Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Nashville Warbler, White-throated Sparrow and Dark-eyed Junco. An average of 25 birds is banded daily throughout the fall. Visit our field station and tag along with a bird biologist to get an “up-close and personal” educational experience with wild birds. See how birds are captured, banded and then released.  Learn about migration monitoring and bird watching in general. This is your chance to ask an expert about bird related issues. Excellent photo opportunities. See us at www.Facebook.com/mckellar Contact us at mckellar@hotmail.ca


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Great Lakes Experiencing Dangerously High Water Levels

Water levels in all five Great Lakes are above monthly averages this month. (Credit: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Detroit District)

High Water Levels Impacting All 5 Great Lakes


According to a report from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and a news release from the International Lake Superior Board of Control (ILSBC) water levels in each of the Great Lakes were higher than their monthly averages on May 3rd. Above average precipitation during April is responsible for these high water levels and further precipitation is expected in the coming weeks. High water levels coupled with storm activity have the potential to create major erosion issues for Great Lakes coastal properties and the ILSBC warns those affected to prepare for coastal impacts. The Government of Canada LevelNews report warned of the potential for dangerously high water levels as early as February 2019.

Outflow levels from each of the great lakes into their respective major tributaries are also predicted to be above their monthly average this May. The ILSBC has requested permission from the International Joint Commission (IJC) to deviate from Lake Superior Regulation Plan 2012 and increase outflow from Lake Superior into the St Mary’s Rapids. According to the International Lake Ontario-St Lawrence River Board, high Lake Ontario outflows continue in accordance with Plan 2014 in response to flooding that occurred in 2017. The outflow has been increased but this has a very minor effect on overall lake levels, and with more precipitation on the way flooding in the Lake Ontario and St Lawrence system will only be getting worse.


Water Levels Resource Links:


Government of Canada – Great Lakes Water Levels and Related Data

Government of Ontario – Flood Forecasting and Warning Program

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers – Great Lakes Information

International Joint Commission Boards, Studies and Committee

International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board

International Lake Superior Board of Control

International Niagara Board of Control


In the News


The Weather Network – Lake Ontario level expected to surpass 2017’s record

Windsor Star – City prepares for potential flooding from record lake and river water levels

The Times Herald – Lake Huron-Michigan water levels above average predicted rise

St Thomas Times Journal – Lake Erie average water level hits all time high


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GLRI Action Plan III Seeks Public Input


The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) is seeking public input until May 24, 2019 on a draft version of Action Plan III. This draft outlines priorities for the GLRI for fiscal years 2020-2024.

Action Plan III covers five main focus areas based on input about Action Plan II from Great Lakes States and Indian tribes and other non-Federal stakeholders:

  • Cleaning up toxic pollutants.
  • Keeping Asian carp out of the Great Lakes and controlling existing invasive species.
  • Reducing the causes and extent of harmful algal blooms.
  • Protecting and restoring important habitats for fish, birds and other species.
  • Continuing Great Lakes education and outreach efforts and filling in critical knowledge gaps.

Read the draft Action Plan III:

Draft Action Plan III

More information about submitting feedback is available here:

GLRI Action Plan III seeking public input on draft until May 24,2019


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