The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has provided $3.7 million in Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) funds to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) for the removal of stamp sands in Grand Traverse Harbor near the Town of Gay, Michigan.
Dredging is underway and expected to continue through the end of the calendar year, said EPA.
This work is part of the ongoing effort to save Buffalo Reef, an invaluable part of Lake Superior’s habitat.
“This GLRI funding will help protect one of Lake Superior’s most productive fish spawning areas from encroaching mining waste,” said Regional Administrator and Great Lakes National Program Director Cathy Stepp. “Years of collaboration between EPA and its partners have resulted in on-the-ground action that will deliver meaningful results for Lake Superior’s fish population, beach-front communities and fishing and recreational industries.”
“This work will help restore and preserve an ecological treasure in the heart of the Great Lakes – the world’s greatest freshwater ecosystem,” added Liesl Clark, Director, Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes & Energy. “It also demonstrates the value of federal, state, and local partnerships and the importance of Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funding.”
“This summer’s dredging activity will not only help hold back the stamp sands from encroaching on Buffalo Reef but will also protect unaffected beach areas south of the Grand Traverse Harbor,” said Dan Eichinger, Director, Michigan Department of Natural Resources. “This action will also aid lake trout and lake whitefish populations and buy us a few years’ time to ultimately determine a long-term solution for the stamp sands problem.”
Stamp sands are a waste product from copper processing, which historically took place at a mill in the Town of Gay.
Milling operations ended in 1932 but over time, the stamp sands drifted to Grand Traverse Harbor, covering approximately 1,400 acres of white sand shoreline and lake bottom.
The waste threatens to cover Buffalo Reef, a 2,200- acre reef in Lake Superior that serves as a spawning habitat for lake trout and whitefish.