Long-term reef fix to be selected soon: DEQ official

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette Lori Sherman, center, natural resources director for the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community and a member of the EPA’s Buffalo Reef Task Force, speaks during a meeting to get public input in Lake Linden in January. In back are the other task force members: Left, Steve Casey, U.P. district supervisor of the DEQ’s Water Resources Division, and Tony Friona, Great Lakes liaison for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

LAKE LINDEN — The task force looking at long-term solutions for combating the migration of stamp sands to Buffalo Reef is trying to narrow down alternatives by the end of April, said the task force’s head.

Over the past century, sands have washed off the shore of Gay and been pushed downstream about 5 miles south. There, they’ve encroached on the harbor as well as Buffalo Reef, an important spawning ground for fish locally.

The Environmental Protection Agency hosted a public forum in January at which members of the public weighed in on alternatives.

Steve Casey, task force head and district coordinator for the Department of Environmental Quality in Marquette, said the task force is analyzing costs and benefits to see which alternatives are the most feasible.

Suggestions at the forum included shipping the stamp sands into deeper waters in Lake Superior or putting the sands into unused mine shafts.

Originally planned for the end of March, the task force is projected to complete its alternative by the end of April, Casey said.

“We’re pleased with the input that we’ve had,” he said. “We’re looking forward to narrowing the field down so we can get serious about the best alternatives.”

The task force will then publish a draft version of its recommendations explaining them and how they were derived.

Another public forum will take place sometime this summer.

After another round of input, the task force will finalize recommendations for two to four alternatives. From there, it will finalize a management plan, expected in 2019.

Final government approvals have also been granted for a $3.1 million dredging project at the Grand Traverse Bay Harbor and Traverse River this summer.

The dredging is expected to buy five to seven years of protection.

There is not a hard date for the start of this summer’s dredging project, but it is expected to start soon, Casey said.

“Once it’s out to bid, there’s a window to do the work, but that’s dependent on the contract,” Casey said.