February 20, 2019 | Jim Malewitz|  Michigan Environment Watch| Bridge Magazine

Here’s how your ideas could help save Lake Superior’s Buffalo Reef

Bob Regis, a Northern Michigan University geologist who owns a summer home in Lake Linden along Lake Superior’s Grand Traverse Bay, can no longer see the home from the water. That’s because more than 100 yards of mining waste have piled up on the shore, covering up native white sands. (Bridge photo by Jim Malewitz)

Millions of tons of copper mining waste are threatening to smother one of Lake Superior’s most productive fish spawning grounds.

How can officials thwart it?

A panel of federal, state and tribal officials wants your input.

The Buffalo Reef Task Force this month published a draft analysis of 13 options for confronting waste that covers a five-mile stretch of coastline along Lake Superior’s Keweenaw Bay and is inching toward Buffalo Reef, a vital spawning ground for lake trout and whitefish.

A slow-moving ‘disaster is threatening Lake Superior and a way of life
Mining waste and growing wetlands mean more mercury in fish in Upper Peninsula
Slideshow: ​In Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, mining waste threatens Buffalo Reef

The 50-page report considers a range of options, including walling off the waste along the shoreline, pumping it into Lake Superior’s deepest reaches, dumping it in wetlands or piling it in a new special landfill or at a historic copper mine.

The task force, which includes representatives of the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, will accept public comments through March 8. It’s asking for input on the proposals outlined in the report or any additional strategies it should consider. The panel will eventually select two to four ideas for more study — including their price tag.

How to comment:
Send comments to Steven Check, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Email: Steven.G.Check@usace.army.mil
477 Michigan Avenue
Detroit, Michigan 48226-2550
Read the analysis here.

Bob Regis, a Northern Michigan University geology professor who owns a bungalow along the shore that’s being overwhelmed by stamp sands, said he’s happy to see concrete action after years of fits and starts.

“This has been going on a long time,” he said. “To start seeing more and more activity and concern and alternatives actually being addressed … I see that as very encouraging.”

The report is the latest step in a government effort to address a slow-moving environmental crisis that dates back to 1932.

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Here’s how your ideas could help save Lake Superior’s Buffalo Reef | Bridge Magazine