Public invited to comment on draft plan to remove first of nine impairments in St. Louis River

Contact: Anne Perry Moore, 218-302-6605

Duluth, MN -- The St. Louis River is one step closer to becoming healthier than it has been in a generation. And today’s river enthusiasts are invited to comment on the plan designed to achieve that goal.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA), Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR), and their partners have developed a plan to remove the first of nine impairments to the river’s health that have kept it from being suitable for habitat and recreational uses it should support.

The draft plan to remove the aesthetic impairment is being offered for public comment from July 3 through July 17, 2014. On July 10, the agencies will host an open house and informational event from 4:30 – 6:00 p.m. at the Superior Public Library, 1530 Tower Ave., Superior, WI 54880 to share more details and take comments. The MPCA and WDNR will submit the draft aesthetic impairment removal plan to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency at the end of the public comment period.

The other eight beneficial use impairments are: restricted fish consumption, threats to fish and wildlife populations, loss of fish and wildlife habitat, incidences of fish tumors and deformities, lack of diversity among bottom-dwelling organisms, restrictions on dredging activities, decreased water quality due to high nutrient and sediment levels and high levels of E. coli and fecal coliform bacteria that, when elevated, may generate advisories limiting beach water contact for swimmers and boaters.

Since 1987, when the river was named an Area of Concern as one of 43 most-highly-contaminated areas on the Great Lakes, the St. Louis showed all of the signs as a water body in trouble. One hundred years of unregulated industrial pollution had taken its toll.

During the intervening years, the MPCA, WDNR and many multi-level governmental and non-governmental partner agencies have collaborated to improve the quality of the entire estuary system. The removal of the first beneficial use impairment marks a critical milestone in celebrating how far the river has come and how hard all the partners and stakeholders in the river have worked to restore the river to a healthier condition.

This effort is the latest in 30 years of significant environmental improvements on the St. Louis River. Among the most significant effort benefitting the river’s aesthetic quality are:  improved municipal wastewater treatment facilities and significant reductions in sewage overflows, upgraded stormwater infrastructure and polluted sites’ cleanups (including Wisconsin’s Hog Island inlet and Newton Creek, and the Minnesota’s St. Louis River / Interlake / Duluth Tar site).

Copies of the draft removal plan will be available for review starting July 3, 2014 on the MPCA’s web site at www.pca.state.mn.us and at the Duluth Public Library, 520 W. Superior St. Duluth, MN 55802.

Written comments on the draft removal plan should be submitted by 4:30 p.m. on July 17, 2014 to Matt Steiger, WDNR, 1701 N 4th St., Superior, WI 54880 or be faxed to Steiger at (715) 392-7993. Related questions should be directed to Steiger at (715) 395-6904.