Dredging Restrictions Lifted in the St. Marys River

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Anglers on the shore of the St. Marys River

Jan 17, 2018

Contact: Rachel Coale, 517-290-4295

Dredging restrictions lifted in the St. Marys River

The Michigan Office of the Great Lakes today announced a milestone in progress to restore the St. Marys River.

The St. Marys River flows from Lake Superior to Lake Huron through the famed Soo Locks. Due to environmental degradation from industrial and municipal pollution, the river was designated as a binational Area of Concern under the 1987 Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. Negative impacts to the river – things that affect communities by inhibiting economic activity, outdoor recreation and environmental health – were labeled “Beneficial Use Impairments” (BUIs).

“It’s incredibly important for us to remove impairments from our Great Lakes waters. People should be able to safely swim in the water and eat the fish they catch, as well as enjoy productive, working waterfronts,” said Office of the Great Lakes Director Jon W. Allan.

Office of the Great Lakes experts worked with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the St. Marys River Binational Public Advisory Council to restore the U.S. side of the river and remove the “Restrictions on Dredging Activities” BUI. Dredging is the process of removing solids from the bottom of the riverbed to ensure the navigation channel is deep enough for ships to safely pass.

To restore the St. Marys River, sediments contaminated with heavy metals and polyaromatic hydrocarbons (a class of carcinogenic chemicals) were removed from the river. Now, no special treatment of dredge material is required to maintain the navigation channel. A portion of funding was provided through the Great Lakes Legacy Act and Superfund programs.

Management actions to restore the U.S. side of the river are now complete. Canada has a separate process for its part of the river.

“The St. Marys River is essential to the communities of Sault Ste Marie, Michigan and Ontario, Canada for a significant maritime shipping industry, outdoor recreation and world-class sport fishing,” said Allan. “Restoring the river maintains a healthy ecosystem, reverses damage from historic pollution and supports sustainable economic activity.”

This accomplishment is Michigan’s 47th BUI removal from an original 111. Five out of 10 impairments have been successfully restored in the St. Marys River. With the contaminants removed, Office of the Great Lakes staff expect that remaining impairments to the river will naturally recover over time. More information can be found on Michigan’s St. Marys River AOC webpage.

Learn more about the Office of the Great Lakes’ work to protect, restore, and sustain Michigan’s waters at www.michigan.gov/deqogl. For more information, contact Rachel Coale or John Riley.

The Office of the Great Lakes works in partnership with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

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