St. Louis River AOC
- Project to Create Endangered Piping Plover Habitat in St. Louis River Area of Concern Begins August 2019
- EPA announces $13.8 million St. Louis River Area of Concern cleanup in Superior, Wisconsin
- BUI Fish Tumors or Other Deformities Removed in Early 2019
The St. Louis River AOC is one of the 31 U.S.-based Areas of Concern (AOC) across the Great Lakes created under the 1987 Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. Draining 3,634 square miles of watershed and encompassing a 1,020 square-mile area, the St. Louis River is the second largest U.S.-based AOC. It crosses state boundaries, including both the states of Minnesota and Wisconsin. The AOC boundary includes the lower 39 miles of the St. Louis River, from upstream of Cloquet, Minnesota to its mouth at the Duluth/Superior Harbor, and that portion of the watershed; the Nemadji River watershed; and the western portion of Lake Superior defined on its eastern edge by a line drawn from the eastern HUC 12 Dutchman Creek watershed boundary in Wisconsin where it intersects the Lake Superior shoreline north to where the eastern HUC 12 Talmadge Creek watershed boundary in Minnesota intersects with the Lake Superior shoreline north to the intersection of the Cloquet River HUC 8. As the largest tributary to Lake Superior, the St. Louis River is vital to the regional economy and encompasses the Port of Duluth-Superior, an essential port for Great Lakes shipping. The AOC also includes:
- The Interlake and U.S. Steel Superfund sites,
- Large boat slips,
- Important fish spawning habitat, and
- Spirit Lake—a site with spiritual significance to the Fond du Lac tribe.
- polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs),
- polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) (PDF), and
- other toxins.
- historical discharges,
- Superfund sites,
- discharges from wastewater and from landfills, and
- other point-sourcePoint sourceA stationary location or fixed facility such as an industry or municipality that discharges pollutants into air or surface water through pipes, ditches, lagoons, wells, or stacks; a single identifiable source such as a ship or a mine. discharges within the AOC.
Beneficial Use Impairments
An interim success of remediation and restoration work is removing beneficial use impairments. Beneficial use impairments are designations created by the International Joint Commission, representing different types of significant environmental degradation. As cleanup work is completed, and monitoring demonstrates sufficient environmental health improvements, BUIs can gradually be removed. The list below shows which BUIs have been removed, and which remain. Once all BUIs are removed, the process of delisting the AOC can begin.
- Restrictions on fish and wildlife consumption
- Excessive loading of sediment and nutrients
- Degradation of fish and wildlife populations
- Beach closings
- Fish tumors or other deformities - REMOVED 2019
- Degradation of aesthetics - REMOVED 2014
- Degradation of benthosBenthosPlants and animals that live in or on the bottom of an aquatic environment, including worms, shellfish and bottom-feeding finfish.
- Restrictions on dredging activities
- Loss of fish and wildlife habitat
- On the status of each BUI for this AOC, see the Wisconsin DNR’s 2018 St. Louis River BUI Restoration Report (PDF), ( 2 pp, 1.8 MB About PDF), Dec 2018 EXIT
- General information about BUIs: Beneficial Use Impairments for the Great Lakes AOCs
EPA has continually worked with federal, state and local partners to execute remediation and restoration work in the area with the ultimate goal of removing the AOC designation and revitalizing the surrounding communities.
- Documents on Restoring the St. Louis River AOC
- Remediation and Restoration Projects for the St. Louis River AOC
To delist the St. Louis River AOC, 75 sediment remediation and habitat restoration management actions have been identified and 25 have already been completed. Sediment remediation projects will remove contaminants such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and heavy metals from the environment. Habitat restoration that will be most beneficial for improving plant and animal populations include actions such as invasive species control, fish passage projects, wetland restoration, and increasing habitat connectivity. To delist this AOC, a goal of restoring 50 percent of lost habitat (17,000 acres) has been set. Not only will these projects enhance environmental productivity, but they will also add significant socioeconomic value to the surrounding communities.
Sediment Remediation Project Highlights: Minnesota Slip, Slip 3, and Slip C
- Restrictions on fish and wildlife consumption,
- Degradation of benthos.
Although these projects are vital to the health of the AOC, their location and process has also garnered unique attention. To complete the Minnesota Slip project, the SS William A. Irvin, a retired lake freighter now serving as a museum, has been temporarily relocated outside of the slip. Construction took place September through November 2018 and the freighter will return to Minnesota Slip in Spring 2019. Eighteen acres have been restored, and the waterfront is now cleaner for both fish and humans alike.
Habitat restoration projects target areas that will be most beneficial for improving the local habitat, plant and animal populations and include actions such as invasive species control, fish passage projects, wetland restoration and increasing habitat connectivity. In order to delist this AOC, a goal of restoring 50% of lost habitat (17,000 acres) has been set. Not only will these projects enhance environmental productivity, but they will also add significant socioeconomic value to the surrounding communities.
Habitat Restoration Project Highlights: 21st Avenue West and 40th Avenue West
- Restrictions on dredging activities,
- Loss of fish and wildlife habitat.
The following links exit the site Exit
- City of Duluth, Minnesota
- City of Superior, Wisconsin
- Fond du Lac Tribe
- Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant
- Minnesota Department of Natural Resources
- Minnesota Sea Grant
- Minnesota Pollution Control Agency
- Wisconsin DNR: St. Louis River Area of Concern