Michigan DNR: Developing Long-Term Stamp Sands Management Plan

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) recently completed an emergency dredging project in Keweenaw County to restore the Grand Traverse Harbor channel for commercial and recreational boating.

The $246,230 dredging project, undertaken by Marine Tech, LLC of Duluth, Minnesota, through the DNR’s Parks and Recreation Division, pumped 9,000 cubic yards of sand to a beach area north of the harbor.

Previous dredging at the harbor was done by the DNR in 2015 and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 2009 and 2003.

“Meanwhile, more extensive sand removal and containment efforts are needed to protect important lake trout and whitefish spawning habitat on Buffalo Reef and a juvenile whitefish area south of the Grand Traverse Harbor, which is situated on the east side of the Keweenaw Peninsula, northeast of Lake Linden,” said DNR in its release.

The DNR has applied for a permit from the DEQ, under the Great Lakes Submerged Lands Act (Part 325 of Michigan’s Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act), to allow the Army Corps to remove more of the stamp sands from Lake Superior.

Image source: DNR

The EPA has provided $3.1 million to the Army Corps to design and carry out the dredging work, scheduled for May 2018.

A public comment period on this permit closed November 1. No public hearing for this permit application is planned, with a permitting decision deadline set for December 14.

Under the permit, a total of 172,500 cubic yards of stamp sands are expected to be removed from an underwater bedrock trough, moving the sand to a 37-acre placement site that has the capacity to store 380,000 cubic yards. This 2,350-foot-long by 700-foot placement area, located about 1.5 miles from the dredge location, would be north of Buffalo Reef, behind a temporary berm.

Another 20,000 cubic yards of sand would be removed from Grand Traverse Harbor, while 10,000 cubic yards of material would be dredged from an upland area next to the harbor, on the beach.

“This dredging project would buy 5 to 7 years of protection for the reef and the whitefish juvenile recruitment area south of the harbor,” said Steve Casey, Upper Peninsula district supervisor for the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s Water Resources Division.

“In the meantime, we need to develop a long-term, adaptive management plan, a solution, for the Gay stamp sands problem.”

The EPA has formed a cooperative multi-entity task force to develop that plan over the next couple of years, which will solicit input from many stakeholders, including the public.

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