Lower Menominee River removed from Areas of Concern List, three other areas in the UP remain

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CORRECTIONS: The original Title of this story was “Lower Menominee River removed from EGLE Areas of Concern List, three other areas in the UP remain.” The Areas of Concern list is not just the EGLE’s list it is a program under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, the EPA must approve delisting.

Wisconsin DNR and Eagle Creek Renewable Energy collaborated with EGLE on the sturgeon lift, the story did not originally have them listed.

Wastewater in the St. Marys River was not mismanaged it was inadequate wastewater treatment.

In the paragraph about what determines if an AOC can be taken off the list, in the case of the LMR, the project will be monitored to determine if the restoration work was successful, not to determine that the BUIs do not come back.

Menominee, MICH., (WJMN) – The lower Menominee River was recently removed from the Areas of Concern Program.

The Area of Concern Program was formed by the United States and Canada under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement in 1987. Fourteen of the forty-three areas of concern were in Michigan. Michigan now only has 11 areas of concern.

Richard Hobrla, head of the Great Lakes Management Unit in the water resources division at EGLE, says Areas of Concern are areas of rivers and lakes that have at least one beneficial use impairment as defined by the Environmental Protection Agency.

“They are basically geographic areas in which one or more of the beneficial uses are impaired as a result of human activities,” said Hobrla

Recently the Lower Menominee River was delisted from the Areas of Concern. Stephanie Swart was EGLE’s staff lead on the Lower Menominee River Area of Concern clean-up. She says they addressed several different issues on the river.

“The primary contaminants were arsenic, coal tar and then some paintballs,” said Swart. “So some of the work we did was removal of sediments from the river primary and then in addition to that we did a lot of habitat restoration work “

One of the bigger projects taken on by EGLE, Wisconsin DNR and Eagle Creek Renewable Energy was the sturgeon lift. According to Swart, the Menominee River is one of the last places in Lake Michigan to have native spawning lake sturgeon.

To determine whether the river could be taken off the list, they kept track of how well the area was doing by collecting data on improvement in the beneficial use impairments. Swart says the river will be tracked for one more year to ensure the restoration was successful.

“There will be what we’re hoping to be groups of citizens or people working with the University of Wisconsin and then our original contractor that helped us do invasive species removal is staying on for an additional year to help us keep track that we are maintaining the levels of decrease in invasive species but then also the plants that we planted are staying alive,” said Swart.

Three remaining areas of concern that remain in the Upper Peninsula are Torch Lake, the Manistique River and the St. Mary’s River. According to Hobrla the Manistique River and St. Marys river both have been impacted by manufacturing and industrial work. The St. Mary’s river he says has been affected also by inadequate wastewater treatment.

In Houghton County, Torch Lake remains an Area of Concern because of former mining operations in the area. Swart is overseeing this cleanup project as well and says that the main concerns are from years of mining in the area.

“Our biggest concerns have been of course the long term mining impacts to the lake which have affected the fish consumption advisories in the lake, and then affected the benthos which are the insects and animals that live in the bottom of a lake that provide either additional capacity for fish or for plantlife,” said Swart. “We don’t see a lot of those because of the high levels of copper and PCBs in the lake which are all left over impacts from the mining industry.”

Hobrla says they’ve been able to make more progress in the past ten years on all Areas of Concern because of funding from the federal government.

“Finally, starting with the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative the federal government stepped up and began to put some substantial federal funding into the program and that has allowed us to make far more progress over the last decade than we were able to in the first couple of decades,” said Hobrla

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