Public offers stamp sand fixes

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette Lindsay Ringuette of the Department of Environmental Quality office in Marquette discusses her work with historic preservation stakeholders at the Buffalo Reef and Grand Traverse Harbor during a public meeting in Lake Linden Tuesday.

LAKE LINDEN — A crowd of about 80 people gave ideas on everything from ways to remove Gay stamp sands from Grand Traverse Harbor, aka Big Traverse, to potential disposal sites during a Tuesday public hearing held by the Environmental Protection Agency.

An EPA task force is charged with finding the best long-term remedy for the erosion of the sands, much of which have migrated 5 miles south. There, at Grand Traverse Harbor and Buffalo Reef, sands threaten to encroach on fish habitats, boating recreation and fishing areas.

The most important component of any management plan will be finding a beneficial use for the stamp sands, whether through aggregate, as an ingredient in shingles, or recovering the copper from it, Casey said.

“If we can turn this into a beneficial product, and we aren’t paying to dispose of it, that would make the project a whole lot cheaper,” he said.

Some suggestions from the public included looking for unused quarry sites, shipping the material out of the area, or moving it to a central staging area nearby, where it could be held until further uses are found.

Disposal could also involve shipping the stamp sands into deeper waters in Lake Superior where the stamp sands are eventually headed, skipping ahead 150 years and sparing the environmental damage to the reef and harbor, Casey said.

Suggestions for beneficial use included finding a company that could use it as a a concrete additive, refilling the material into unused mine shafts or lining up state and federal funding to help small businesses that could use the product.

The mine shafts could take more time, Casey said, as most of them in the Keweenaw Peninsula were built at an angle, requiring the stamp sands to be pushed.

Funding ideas including a suggestion to push for a state constitutional amendment to allow them to tap the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund.

Task force members from the Army Corps of Engineers and Keweenaw Bay Indian Community also spoke Tuesday.

In March, the task force will identify the best two to four alternatives. A public meeting will be held in July for a status update and to hear from summer residents who couldn’t make it to Tuesday’s meeting.

The task force will refine alternatives over the next year before picking an alternative and seeking funding in March 2019.