August 4, 2008

River Group Seeks Input to Remove Impaired Waters Label

By Anna Kurth, The Daily Telegram, Superior, Wis.

Aug. 4--The St. Louis River Citizens Action Committee hosts a series of four public meetings this August to inform residents about plans to delist the river as an area of concern.

The St. Louis River was identified as one of 43 areas of concern on the Great Lakes in the mid-1980s because pollution impaired the waters.

The St. Louis River has nine listed impairments including degradations to fish, wildlife and lake dwelling macro invertebrate populations, dredging restrictions due to excess sediment, fish consumption advisories, fish deformities, excessive nutrient and sediment loadings to Lake Superior, loss of habitat and degradation to natural beauty.

The citizens action committee meets with area residents between Thursday and Aug. 21 to provide information about targets for delisting the river as an area of concern and hear citizens' comments on the targets and uses of the river.

The St. Louis River Citizens Action Committee is working with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to develop the delisting criteria for each of the St. Louis River's nine impairments.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is requiring all areas of concern to submit a list of delisting targets by the end of the year.

Major improvements have been made in cleaning up the river since it was listed as an area of concern. Many areas have been cleaned or are in the process of being cleaned, but the health of other areas still needs to be assessed to determine if there is contamination that needs to be cleaned up, said Jolene Boe, executive director of the action committee.

The meetings are a way to inform the public about the St. Louis River's listing as an area of concern and what that means for both the health and economy of the area, she said.

"I think if the general public has a better understanding of what this means they'll take a more active role ... in making sure it gets cleaned up," she said.

The meetings are for anyone who's interested in the harbor, Superior Bay and the St. Louis River. The Wisconsin DNR, MPCA and the St. Louis River Citizens Action Committee are looking to find out what people want for this area and when it can be considered cleaned, said Nancy Larson, water team leader for the Lake Superior area for the Wisconsin DNR.

At the meeting area residents will have a chance to give input about what future uses they'll make of the river, said Suzanne Hanson, regional manager of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

A group cleaning up a superfund site would make it cleaner if it would be used as a playground than if it would be used as an industrial park. The same is true for the uses of the St. Louis River, she said.

The St. Louis River is one of five areas of concern in Wisconsin. Others are are on Lake Michigan.

"This is really a complicated area of concern," Larson said. The area has many good habitats in it and it also has industrial pollution. The other Wisconsin areas of concern are all in large metropolitan areas and are more focused on cleaning up industrial pollution than restoring habitat, she said.

"We're fortunate to have Lake Superior," Boe said. "I think it's critical that we protect it and clean up the river."

The four meetings are open to anyone. For more information about these meetings, contact the St. Louis River Citizen Action Committee at (218) 733-9520.

Anna Kurth covers education. Call her at (715) 395-5019 or e-mail [email protected]


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