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News Releases from Region 05

EPA Marks Major Progress in St. Louis River Area of Concern on Lake Superior

Contact Information: 
Peter Cassell (cassell.peter@epa.gov)
312-886-6234, 312-859-9614


No. 15-OPA169

DULUTH (Nov. 20, 2015) -U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Regional Administrator Susan Hedman today announced the completion of a major habitat restoration project and additional funding for another habitat project in the St. Louis River Area of Concern on Lake Superior. Hedman was joined by U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan and Mayor Don Ness for a tour of the completed project in Chambers Grove Park in Duluth. The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funded restoration work in the park and will contribute an additional $2 million to support the other habitat project at 21st Avenue West in Duluth Harbor.

"Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funding has played a major role in the significant progress that has been made in the St. Louis River Area of Concern during the past five years -- and it will play an even greater role in the future." Hedman said. "Federal, state and local partners are working together to restore habitat and to clean up contamination that accumulated in the river and harbor during decades of industrial activity that occurred before modern environmental laws were enacted."

The federal government has spent over $34 million to clean up and restore the St. Louis River Area of Concern. This includes over $26 million from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and approximately $5.7 million from the Federal Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, which the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers uses for critical dredging projects. Minnesota Legacy Fund resources totaling $10 million have also been used for work in the St. Louis River Area of Concern.

"The Great Lakes are a part of Minnesota's heritage and history, and we must continue working together to preserve them for future generations," said U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar. "This funding will help protect our vital water resources from pollution and invasive species as well as restore the Great Lakes wetlands."

"The progress that's been made through the Chambers Grove and St. Louis River projects is a remarkable testament to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, the hard work of the EPA and the commitment of people throughout our region," said Rep. Nolan. "Now the work continues to complete restoration projects by 2020 - and to secure full federal funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative going forward so we can continue to clean up old pollution, restore habitats, wetlands and shorelines and battle invasive species throughout the entire system."

"The future health of Duluth is dependent on our stewardship of Lake Superior and improving the integrity of the St. Louis River," said Mayor Ness. "The river continues to be the backbone of Duluth's economic health which is made stronger through partnerships with the EPA Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and our state partners: the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Pollution Control Agency and Minnesota Land Trust. The ingenuity of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has stabilized the St. Louis River estuary in Chambers Grove Park that was severely impacted by the 2012 flood and moves us in a positive direction as the City plans park improvements of up to $1 million next year to enrich the outdoor experience for all visitors to this critical gateway park."

The United States and Canada identified 43 Areas of Concern pursuant to the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. These sites are primarily rivers and harbors on the Great Lakes where habitat is degraded and contaminants have accumulated in sediment as a result of decades of industrial activity.

The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative was launched in 2010 to accelerate efforts to protect and restore the largest system of fresh surface water in the world. Since then, three U.S. Areas of Concern have been cleaned up and taken off the bi-national list: Presque Isle Bay (on Lake Erie in Pennsylvania), Deer Lake (on Lake Superior in Michigan) and White Lake (on Lake Michigan in Michigan).

Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funding has also been used to complete all necessary restoration actions at three additional Areas of Concern: Waukegan Harbor (on Lake Michigan in Illinois), Sheboygan River (on Lake Michigan in Wisconsin) and Ashtabula River (on Lake Erie in Ohio). Environmental monitoring is ongoing at these sites to assess their eligibility for delisting.

Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funding is being used to accelerate cleanup work in the St. Louis River Area of Concern and the other remaining Areas of Concern on the U.S. side of the border. The St. Louis River Area Concern includes the lower 40 miles of the St. Louis River in Minnesota and Wisconsin and extends into the harbor area in Lake Superior. All of the work required to clean up and restore the St. Louis River Area of Concern is expected to be completed by 2020.

More information about the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is available at: www.glri.us.