Month: October 2019

Relocated Caribou Show Positive Signs

Caribou tracks were observed on all of the beaches visited on Lake Superior’s Caribou Island. (Photo: Leo Lepiano)

A group from the Wawa area has a positive report regarding status of caribou relocated to a Lake Superior island. 

Six caribou, 4 females and two males, were relocated from Michipicoten Island to Caribou Island in February and March of 2018. The transfer was part of efforts to ensure survival of the Lake Superior caribou population after wolves decimated their numbers. This decimation resulted after ice bridges in 2014 enabled wolves to reach Michipicoten Island and also the Slate Islands. The caribou on these islands were considered the anchor populations for the Lake Superior range.

Michipicoten Island is located on Lake Superior some 13 km/8 mi. offshore in the Wawa, Ontario area. Caribou Island is located due south of Michipicoten Island, 72 km/44 mi. north of the Michigan mainland and 60 km/37 mi. south of the Canadian mainland (not to be confused with the much smaller Caribou Island near Thunder Bay, Ontario). The Slate Islands are located some 12 km/ 7 mi. offshore from Terrace Bay, Ontario.


This photo helps to display the size of some of the caribou tracks. (Photo: Leo Lepiano)

Visiting Caribou Island by Boat – Calves, Tracks and Trails

In August this summer, a small group from the Wawa area visited Caribou Island by boat to ascertain the status of the relocated animals. The group landed at four different points on Caribou Island’s shoreline, purposely refraining from visiting the interior of the island so as not to disturb the caribou.

The group did not see caribou but did see many signs including:

• caribou scat

• caribou tracks on all beaches visited

• calf tracks

• a caribou trail


Some tracks were clearly from calves. (Photo: Leo Lepiano)

Group members reported that some of the tracks were clearly from calves, indicating that at least one bull survived and that there was breeding during the past year. Group members also reported excellent lichen coverage in areas near the shore and in trees. Lichen is the primary food source for caribou.


Considerable lichen, a caribou food source, was observed near the Caribou Island shoreline. (Photo: Leo Lepiano)

Leo Lepiano of Wawa, who was one of the group members visiting the island, said that information gained through the use of radio collars made it clear that four females were alive. He added at least one bull and one calf, for a count of at least six animals. He said the maximum number of caribou likely did not exceed fourteen.


A caribou trail was clearly visible at one island location. (Photo: Leo Lepiano)

Caribou Island – A Base for Population Expansion

Leo said the animals on Caribou Island might be looking for a new home in future, if their population “outgrows” the island. He cited Michipicoten Island, 47 km due northward from Caribou as one such potential new home. He pointed out that Michipicoten Island would have to be wolf free before this could take place and that a couple of wolves were still on Michipicoten. Leo maintained that re-establishing a population on Michipicoten could be a pre-cursor to re-establishing the population in other Lake Superior coastal areas. Caribou were very prevalent on and around Lake Superior until the late eighteen hundreds.


Signs of caribou were observed in several shoreline areas. (Photo: Leo Lepiano)

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Enbridge Line 3 Final Environmental Impact Statement Review Process Restarts

An interactive map of the proposed Enbridge Line 3 (red) and the existing Line 3 (black) is accessible from the Honor the Earth website: http://www.honorearth.org/stop_line_3

The following Tribal and environmental groups have actively opposed the Enbridge Line 3 project, which transports oil products from the Hardisty, Alberta tar sands, to refineries in Superior, Wisconsin.

Their continuous legal action has most recently pushed the development of line five into 2020, at least. Several groups submmited appeals that were ruled on by the Minnesota Court of Appeals (Court of Appeals) on June 3, 2019. One appeal led to reversal of a decision made by the the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (MPUC) in May that determined the Final Environmental Impacts Statement (FEIS) developed by the Minnesota Department of Commerce (DOC) was adequate.

Enbridge has powered through previous delays

The Final Environmental Impacts Statement (FEIS) for the Enbridge Line 3 project was first submitted to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission on August 17, 2017. After the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (MPUC) determined that the FEIS was inadequate, the statement was revised and resubmitted on December 14, 2017. The MPUC determined that the revised FEIS was adequate on May 1, 2018. Petitions to reconsider this determination from opposing Tribal and environmental groups was denied on July 3, 2018. The MPUC proceeded to grant Enbridge’s Line 3 project with both a Route Permit and a Certificate of Need.

Minnesota will be restarting the pipeline review process after a court ruled, on June 3, 2019, in favour of one of three certiorari appeals against the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission’s (MPUC) determination of FEIS adequacy. Honor the Earth, Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, White Earth Band of Ojibwe, Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians, and Friends of the Headwaters attempted to provide sufficient evidence that the FEIS did not adequately identify alternatives to the project including a “no action” alternative or analyze environmental impacts. They also claimed that there were signs that the MPUC did not take a “hard look” at the adequacy question.

June 3, 2019: Court of Appeals Consolidated Filing of Ceritorari Appeals

Pipeline opposition celebrates incomplete success

Although the court ruled against two of the certiorari appeals (signs that MPUC did not take a “hard look” at the adequacy question and identifying alternatives), it ruled in favour of the appeal that the FEIS did not adequately analyze environmental impacts. Specifically, the court found that the FEIS did not properly take into account the impact that a spill would have in the Lake Superior Watershed. This court decision reversed the adequacy determination made by the MPUC on May 1, 2018, and it restarts the review process. After review, there will be another opportunity for public comment and then the Certification of Need and Route Permit will have to be re-issued in order for construction to begin.

In light of the June 3rd Court of Appeals decision, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) issued a news release on September 27, 2019 stating that they could not provide Enbridge with a 401 Certification. They also stated that the MPCA must receive further information about “oil spill response monitoring, a pre- and post- construction monitoring plan for aquatic resources, and a revised proposal for mitigating more than 400 acres of forested wetlands that will be impacted during construction.” Enbridge can re-apply for 401 Certification.

LINKS

Minnesota Department of Commerce – Line 3 Pipeline Replacement

West Central Tribune – Hundreds of Line 3 Opponents Rally in Duluth

The Chronicle Herald – Minnesota Regulator Orders Revised Environmental Impact Statement for Enbridge Line 3

Financial Post – Pipeline victory for Enbridge as Minnesota court refuses to hear Line 3 challenges

Enbridge – Understanding Minnesota’s Regulatory Process for Pipeline Projects

Previous Infosuperior Articles:

Dec 14, 2018 – Updates: Enbridge Lines 3 and 5

Dec 14, 2016 – Right Through Here


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Wisconsin DNR Releases Draft Lake Superior Fisheries Management Plan

Lake Superior Fisheries management work on the Hack Noyes Research Vessel. (Photo: Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Flikr: Fisheries Management album)

Draft Fisheries Management Plan 2020–2029 available for public comment

Last month the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources presented their Draft Lake Superior Fisheries Management Plan 2020–2029. It was developed through Advisory Panel Meetings from the initial stakeholder meeting on June 26, 2017, through to the final Advisory Panel Meeting on March 5, 2018. The Outline was released for public comment until July 20, 2018. The Draft Lake Superior Fisheries Management Plan 2020–2029 is available for public comment until Oct 20, 2019.


Visit the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources webpage to review and comment on the new Draft Lake Superior Fisheries Management Plan 2020-2029


Previous management plan directed management from 1988 to 1998

Fisheries in Lake Superior have come a long way from damage due to industrial development, invasive species and poor management. The last management plan was established for 1988 to 1998 and it did a lot to improve the status of Lake Superior fisheries, but the emphasis in that plan was to achieve “optimum sustained harvest.” The 1988–1998 plan sought to ensure self-sustaining fish stocks, understand the economic value of these stocks, protect fish habitats, control sea lamprey and increase public fishing boat access.

New management plan accounts for improving technology and changing perspectives

Today we have a better understanding of fish habitat management thanks to scientific and technological advancement. As a result the Lake Superior Fisheries Management Plan was due for an update. The Draft 2020–2029 plan is more comprehensive and its goals are more focused on protection over harvest. The goals were laid out as follows in a presentation that can be viewed on the Wisconsin DNR webpage:

  1. Protect habitat
  2. Enhance diversity, sustainability and viability of state and tribal sport, commercial and subsistence fishing
  3. Enhance science and monitoring
  4. Maximize resiliency
  5. Maintain social value

[PDF] Draft Lake Superior Fisheries Management Plan


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IJC seeks comments after the Step In and Speak Out series

Great Lakes public meeting locations for Step In and Speak Out series that was run by the International Joint Commission. (Source: International Joint Commission website. https://ijc.org/en/ijc-invites-you-step-and-speak-out-great-lakes-public-meetings-set-june-september-2019)

The International Joint Commission (IJC) held public meetings from June through September, 2019, in six communities within the Great Lakes watershed (see image above). These gatherings were intended to create dialogue between all people interested in and affected by the ecological status of the Great Lakes. The IJC also completed these meetings as public consultation in the assessment of the United States and Canada’s progress towards the 2012 Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement goals. 

Wether you attended one of these meetings or not, you can now provide input online. The IJC is accepting public comments until October 31, 2019.

To submit a comment, you will have to log-in to, or create, an account on the IJC website. Links to do this are at the bottom of the IJC Invitation to Step In and Speak Out webpage.


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New Great Lakes Water Life Database

Screen capture of the home page of the new Great Lakes Water Life Database. Click the image to visit the site. (Source: Great Lakes Water Life database)

Environmental researchers and managers are invited to check out The Great Lakes Water Life (GLWL) database: an inventory of fauna that spend all or most of their life cycle in the waters of the Great Lakes and connecting tributaries. The database was developed by NOAA-GLERL in partnership with the U.S. EPA and the Great Lakes Sea Grant Network with funding from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

New database replaces old gallery

The GLWL database replaces the Great Lakes Water Life Gallery (GLWLG), which was home to a photo gallery and regional taxonomic lists and keys, along with links to local resources. These same lists and keys are present but the new database is a more comprehensive inventory of aquatic animals.

Visit the following link to learn how to provide feedback and contribute to the continuous development of the database: https://www.glerl.noaa.gov/data/waterlife/contribute.html


All information was collected from the Great Lakes Water Life database:

NOAA and USEPA. 2019 Great Lakes Waterlife. https://www.glerl.noaa.gov/data/waterlife/index.html Accessed on 09/25/2019.


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