Thursday, August 03, 2017

DNR to host public meeting Aug. 3 on proposed stamp sands dredging work in Houghton County

A U.S. Army Corps of Engineers map shows the stamp sands area in Houghton County. Click on map for larger version. (Photo © Charles Kerfoot and courtesy Michigan Department of Natural Resources)

LAKE LINDEN -- The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) will host a meeting to tell the public about a proposed dredging project designed to restore the Grand Traverse Harbor channel and help protect Buffalo Reef.

The meeting will be at 6 p.m. TONIGHT, Thursday, Aug. 3, at the Lake Linden-Hubbell High School Auditorium, 601 Calumet Street in Lake Linden.

Public input from this meeting will be considered before the project application is finalized.

Representatives of several agencies cooperating with the DNR on the proposed project will attend the session, including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

Tailings, or waste rock from mining, known locally as "stamp sands," were dumped into Lake Superior near the community of Gay, more than 100 years ago. These sands have moved, with the action of the lake, about 5 miles south along the coast and in nearshore areas.

In this image, the dashed line shows the area of stamp sand near the stack in Gay (upper right) has diminished since 1938 as that toward Big Traverse has grown. Number 1 marks primary stamp sands on the shore near the location of the former mill at Gay, and number 2 marks secondary stamp sand that is carried by the current and redeposited on the shore southwest of Gay and in the lake. Click on image for larger version. (File photo courtesy Keweenaw Geoheritage Web site and Bill Rose. Reprinted with permission.)*

The stamps sands are now filling in Grand Traverse Harbor and threaten Buffalo Reef, an important spawning area for lake trout and whitefish.

The DNR is applying for a permit from the DEQ, under the Great Lakes Submerged Lands Act, to allow the Army Corps to remove some of the stamp sands from the lake. Doing this will reestablish the Grand Traverse Harbor channel and provide 5-7 years of protection for Buffalo Reef.

The EPA has provided funding for the Army Corps to design and carry out the dredging work to remove 205,000 cubic yards of stamp sand—about 35,000 cubic yards from in or near the harbor and 170,000 cubic yards to protect Buffalo Reef.

Over the next couple of years, a task force will be convened by the EPA to develop a long-term plan for protecting the harbor and reef.

The project is proposed to take place in Schoolcraft Township in Houghton County. Some of the placement of the stamp sands removed from the lake is tentatively planned for Sherman Township in Keweenaw County.

* Learn more about the Gay stamp sands on Bill Rose's Geoheritage Web site, which also has links to scholarly articles on the stamp sand, photos and more. See also our Nov. 17, 2014, article, "Geology expert notes concerns about arsenic in Gay stamp sands as DEQ accepts comments on stamp sand removal proposal."

1 comment:

Mary Jane Williams said...

Despite the arbitrary declaration that stamp sands are "harmless" by the Michigan Legislature stamp sands ARE hazardous -- or the EPA would not have declared the whole area a Superfund Cleanup site.

Since when has the designation "hazardous" or "not hazardous" been left to legislatures rather than environmental departments with scientific expertise?

Stamp sands contain arsenic. They contain copper and perhaps other toxins. If these toxins are soluble in water they potentially poison water supplies. Prof. Bill Rose says Keweenaw water is not adequately tested for arsenic. Yoopers are potentially drinking poisoned water.

Oh, this amount of toxicity does not kill you instantly. But it could shorten your life! It could affect your and your children's health or IQ, like the lead in Flint's drinking water is doing.

Just because you've lived around stamp sand all your life does not mean it's harmless.

When I lived on the Keweenaw I investigated and found that houses built near stamp sand contaminated waters are not allowed to drill private wells. When I asked were these deed restrictions enforced by any agency I was told no!

Obviously if there are deed restrictions placed on drinking water wells, it has been found that water exposed to stamp sands should not be drunk.

I wish yoopers would fight to reverse that unscientific, arbitrary overreach by Michigan legislators declaring stamp sands to be "harmless."

More testing of ground water and lakes should happen. On an ongoing basis.

I know. Money is short. Towns want to use stamp sands on the roads in winter. (Unbelievable, that short sightedness.) And businesses want to use free stamp sands to manufacture things out of. Well, none of these uses should be allowed.

Yoopers, please. Replace your foolish politicians with people who take the long view and will protect drinking water for future generations.