Minnesota is the headwaters state for the Great Lakes, counting 190 miles of rugged Lake Superior coastline among its natural assets. The North Shore contains 246 trout streams and eight state parks. While Minnesota’s Great Lake is widely viewed as the cleanest of the five Great Lakes, it can also be viewed as the most threatened by human activities. Consider these facts:
• Lake Superior is the fastest-warming large lake in the world;
• the port of Duluth-Superior is the busiest inland port in the country — and more ballast water is discharged here than at any other port on the Great Lakes;
• development along the North Shore and its streams is reducing forest cover and causing increases in stream temperatures, erosion and habitat destruction;
• The water quality in a watershed’s streams and rivers drops significantly when the area logged in the past 16 years, added to the area cleared – for buildings, lawns, roads, parking lots, etc. – exceeds 50% of the watershed’s land area;
• expanded mining activity all around Lake Superior threatens to reverse years of progress and actually increase mercury, sulfides and other toxic pollutants entering the lake; and
• infants born on the Minnesota North Shore have unusually high levels of mercury in their blood.
A PERFECT MATCH FOR LAKE SUPERIOR CLEAN-UP
The Great Lakes region’s business leaders, mayors, governors, tribes and conservation and environmental communities have worked together since 2005 to implement a science-based plan of action known as the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI). The GLRI is a five-year plan (2010-2014) to protect and restore the Great Lakes while stimulating the region’s economy. The first three years of funding provided Great Lakes projects in Minnesota with an estimated $10 million in grants, with an emphasis on the Saint Louis River Area of Concern. The GLRI has also funded North Shore trout stream restoration, education about aquatic invasive species and support for tribal engagement.
The GLRI is a powerful one-time opportunity to address our state’s restoration needs. Solutions will only become more expensive the longer we wait. We must take advantage of the federal funding that is available now by leveraging state dollars, including funds from the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment. We can make great progress addressing problems that have been awaiting action for decades.
OTHER PRIORITY ACTIONS TO IMPROVE THE HEALTH OF LAKE SUPERIOR
• Continue to work for state and federal ballast water programs that are protective of Lake Superior and include lake carriers.
• Encourage adoption and enforcement of laws that limit the impact of development along North Shore streams, including impacts of sediment.
• Advocate for laws that improve the speed and effectiveness of clean-up of polluted North Shore streams.
• Ensure that Minnesota follows through on fully implementing the Great Lakes-Saint Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact.
• Work with our allies to prevent the spread of Asian Carp into the Great Lakes.
For more information on these issues, contact Andrew Slade, MEP’s Northeast Program Coordinator, in our Duluth Office:
MEP Member groups active in Northeast Minnesota include:
Clean Water Action Alliance
Duluth Audubon Society
Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness
Friends of the Cloquet Valley State Forest
International Wolf Center
Izaak Walton League of America
League of Women Voters
Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy
Minnesota Council of Nonprofits
Minnesota Land Trust
National Wildlife Federation
Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness
Parks and Trails Council of Minnesota
Save Lake Superior Association
Sierra Club North Star Chapter
The Conservation Fund
The Nature Conservancy
The Trust for Public Land
Voyageurs National Park Association