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River restoration project open for comment

(Image: MPCA)

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) invites comments through Dec. 14 about a proposal to restore more than 300 acres of aquatic habitat in Duluth's St. Louis Bay.

The collaborative effort between the MPCA and Minnesota Department of Natural Resources would remove sediment from the St. Louis River's navigation channel and place it offshore at 40th Avenue West. This site was selected for its aquatic habitat restoration potential.

Project plans call for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Detroit District to dredge approximately 350,000 cubic yards of sediment between 2017 and 2020 for this beneficial aquatic re-use.

The district normally dredges approximately 150,000 cubic yards of sediment from the channel each year to maintain ship traffic requirements. Until 2016, dredge materials were re-used exclusively for land-based projects. The 40th Avenue West project would be the second river-based effort to benefit from these materials. The first is a three-year aquatic vegetation restoration effort, begun in 2015, at 21st Avenue West.

The proposed project would take place within the St. Louis River Area of Concern, one of 43 so-designated Great Lakes basin locations where historic shoreline alterations and industrial contamination caused impairments affecting its ability to support aquatic life. Successful completion of the 40th Avenue West project would create a healthier St. Louis River ecosystem by adding 317 acres of restored aquatic habitat to the 1,700-acre, AOC-wide goal of removing the beneficial use impairments for fish and wildlife habitat.

Project details are included in a draft Environmental Assessment Worksheet (EAW), a scoping document that is part of the agency's public process designed to disclose potential negative environmental effects of a proposed project before the project is permitted and built. State agencies use an EAW to decide whether a more complete Environmental Impact Statement is needed.

The EAW is available on the MPCA's webpage.

Written comments are due by 4:30 p.m. on Dec. 14, 2016 and may be sent to Patrice Jensen, MPCA, 520 Lafayette Road N., Saint Paul, MN 55155 or patrice.jensen@state.mn.us.

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