Open for comment: Environmental worksheet for aquatic habitat restoration in Duluth

Contact: Anne Perry Moore, 218-302-6605

Duluth, Minn. — The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) is proposing to restore approximately 350 acres of aquatic habitat toward a shallow, sheltered bay in the 21st Avenue West channel in northeastern St Louis Bay in Duluth, Minn. An Environmental Assessment Worksheet (EAW) on the project is open for comment through Oct. 28, 2015.

State agencies use an EAW to decide whether a more in-depth Environmental Impact Statement is needed. The worksheet covers site location details, nearby resources and other elements, including land use, soils, water resources, existing sites with contamination, fish, wildlife, plant communities and sensitive ecological resources, historic properties, air and noise emissions, traffic, etc.

Construction activities associated with the project will be conducted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which dredges the navigational channels annually, include using the dredged sediment to improve aquatic habitat features including optimal water depth and flow conditions to help establish aquatic vegetation needed to support fish and sediment-dependent organisms. Other habitat improvements will include softened shorelines, additional shoals or islands to help protect areas in the bay from excessive wave action.

The project is taking place within the St. Louis River Area of Concern, one of 43 designated locations in the Great Lakes Basin where historic alterations and contamination caused impairments affecting its ability to support aquatic life. This project’s goal is to create a healthier ecosystem by adding 350 acres of restored aquatic habitat to the 1,700-acre, AOC-wide goal of removing the beneficial use impairments for fish and wildlife habitat.

Permits and authorization for this work are required by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (work in public waters, invasive species and coastal program), the MPCA (water quality, stormwater construction), the Minnesota State Historic Preservation Office (Section 106), the USACE (Section 10) and the city of Duluth (floodplain).

The full environmental assessment worksheet is available on the MPCA's Environmental Assessment Worksheet webpage. Comments, which must be in writing, are due by 4:30 p.m. on Oct. 28, 2015 to Patrice Jensen, (651-757-2465), MPCA, 520 Lafayette Road N., Saint Paul, MN 55155 or patrice.jensen@state.mn.us.