Plan to save Lake Superior Reef to be unveiled at UP meeting


HOUGHTON COUNTY, MI – A public meeting will be held in the Upper Peninsula town of Lake Linden to outline plans to clear large amounts of crushed copper ore that is slowly swallowing up a portion of Lake Superior’s shoreline.

The Buffalo Reef Task Force will hold the in-person meeting at the auditorium of Lake Linden-Hubbel High School, 601 Calumet Street, at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, July 12.

Since 2019, the task force has been developing plans to save Buffalo Reef, a 2,200-acre trout and whitefish spawning reef that is covered in “buffer sands,” which are legacy mining wastes that slowly erode along of the Keweenaw Peninsula coastline for a century. .

After: A billion-dollar eco-disaster is swallowing the coast

The project will involve dredging the sands from the lake bed and either returning them to the original pile with a dyke built around it, or constructing a new inland landfill.

Relocating the sands to an existing tailings pond at the White Pine mine in Ontonagon County was considered among a trio of final options, but is likely too costly, officials say.

The task force is leaning toward building a new landfill as its preferred option. State and federal officials say the effort is expected to exceed $1 billion in total cost.

Plans were winnowed from over a dozen options developed as of 2019.

“Although our plan has been selected, we still need to identify a non-federal sponsor and one or more sources of funding before we can move forward with implementing our strategy,” said Jay Parent, district supervisor. for the Michigan Department of Great Lakes, Environment and Energy. (EGLE) in Marquette. “The scope of our plan may also change as the project matures.”

The goal is to save Buffalo Reef and preserve its use for commercial fishing in the area as well as prevent the Traverse River Safe Harbor from being filled in by sand erosion.

More than 50 billion pounds of crushed copper ore were dumped on the shore of the town of Gay by the Mohawk and Wolverine mines between 1901 and the mid-1930s.

The wide stretch of sand-covered shoreline between Gay and the mouth of the Traverse River is easily visible from space on Google Maps. About half of Stamp Sands is underwater, where it smothers Buffalo Reef and nearshore whitefish recruitment areas. Copper and other mineral residues in the sand are also toxic to aquatic life.

About $14.7 million has been spent since 2010 in an attempt to dredge and manage the sands through state and tribal funds and the federal Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI).

The effort involves EGLE, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC), and the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission (GLIFWC).

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