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Great Lakes

Lake Superior Facts
outline of Lake Superior

Average Depth*: 483 ft.
Maximum Depth*: 1,332 ft.
Volume*: 2,900 cubic mi.
Water Area: 31,700 sq. mi.
Land Drainage Area: 49,300 sq. mi.
Shoreline Length (including islands): 2,726 mi.
Retention Time (the mean time that water spends in the lake): 191 yrs.
* measured at low water

Lake Superior

Lake Superior is the largest of the Great Lakes in terms of water volume. It is also the deepest and coldest of the five Great Lakes. Most of the Lake Superior basin is forested, with little agriculture because of a cool climate and poor soils. The forests and sparse population result in relatively few pollutants entering Lake Superior, except through airborne transport.

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Lake Superior Environmental Monitoring Collaborative

On November 19-20, 2014, EPA hosted a meeting in Duluth, Minnesota to kick off a Lake Superior Environmental Monitoring Collaborative. Ten tribes, eight federal agencies and the states of Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin participated in the meeting. Technical experts from state and federal agencies and tribes made presentations describing ongoing environmental monitoring work in the Lake Superior Basin and discussed opportunities to improve access to this information.

Environmental Monitoring Collaborative Contacts

Wendy Carney (carney.wendy@epa.gov) 312-353-6553

Eileen Deamer (deamer.eileen@epa.gov) 312-886-1728

At the end of the meeting, participants agreed on several next steps:

  • Agencies and tribes will submit information about their Lake Superior basin environmental monitoring work to an on-line catalogue being developed by the U.S. Geological Survey.
  • The Lake Superior Binational Program will convene a workgroup to propose directions for future environmental monitoring work in the Lake Superior Basin.
  • EPA will convene additional meetings over the coming months to discuss the Lake Superior Environmental Collaborative with academia, non-governmental organizations, and the regulated community in the Lake Superior Basin.

Materials from November 2014 Meeting

You will need Adobe Reader to view some of the files on this page. See EPA's PDF page to learn more.
Environmental Monitoring Presentations
Data Sharing Presentations

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Lake Superior Binational Program

Lake Superior Binational Program Contact

Elizabeth LaPlante (laplante.elizabeth@epa.gov) 312-353-2694

Lake Superior is a vast fresh water resource that has not experienced the same levels of development, urbanization and pollution as the other Great Lakes. Recognizing the unique qualities of this resource, the United States and Canada developed A Binational Program to Restore and Protect the Lake Superior Basin. This program focuses on the entire Lake Superior ecosystem - air, land and water – to restore degraded areas and protect this unique headwater lake for the people and wildlife that use it.

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What is a beneficial use impairment?

Impairment of beneficial use is a change in the chemical, physical, or biological integrity of the Great Lakes system sufficient to cause any of the following 14 use impairments:

  • restrictions on fish and wildlife consumption
  • tainted fish and wildlife flavor
  • loss of fish or wildlife habitat
  • degraded fish and wildlife populations
  • fish tumors or other deformities
  • bird or animal deformities or reproductive problems
  • degradation of benthic macroinvertebrate communities
  • restrictions on dredging activities
  • eutrophication or undesirable algae
  • restrictions on drinking water consumption or taste and odor problems
  • beach closings
  • degradation of aesthetics
  • added costs to agriculture and industry
  • degradation of phytoplankton and zooplankton

What is a remedial action plan?

The remedial action plan, or RAP, is a process to clean up the waterfront, rivers, habitats and waters. The United States and Canada, as part of the Great Lake Water Quality Agreement, committed to cooperate with State and Provincial Governments to ensure that RAPs are developed and implemented for all Areas of Concern in the Great Lakes basin. Forty-three AOCs have been identified: 26 located entirely within the United States; 12 located entirely within Canada; and five that are shared by both countries. RAPs address impairments to any one of 14 beneficial uses (e.g., restrictions on fish and wildlife consumption, dredging activities, or drinking water consumption) associated with these areas.

What is a delisting target?

In order to move towards formal delisting, RAPs need delisting targets to gauge their success:

  • Delisting targets should be premised on local goals and related environmental objectives for the watershed; they should be consistent with the applicable federal and state regulations, objectives, guidelines, standards and policies, when available, and the principles and objectives embodied in Annex 2 and supporting parts of the GLWQA.
  • Delisting targets should have measurable indicators.
  • Delisting targets should be developed and periodically reviewed on a site specific basis (allowing for flexibility in addressing local conditions) by the respective state agencies, in consultation with local stakeholder groups. This is particularly important if new information becomes available.

More information about the delisting process>>

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