Once-polluted waterway becoming natural playground

Project Summary: Restoration of fish and wildlife habitat on Hog Island is transforming a Great Lakes Area of Concern into a haven for anglers, fish and wildlife, including the federally endangered piping plover. Wild rice, which has ecological and cultural significance for Native Americans, has also been planted.

Project name: Hog Island Inlet/Newton Creek Habitat Restoration.

Location: Several sites in Superior, Wis., at the headwaters of Lake Superior.

Description: Sediment contamination and the loss of fish and wildlife prompted federal officials in 1987 to declare the St. Louis River a Great Lakes Area of Concern. Hog Island, Hog Island Inlet and Newton Creek are located

Wild rice, like the kind pictured above, is now able to grow in the Hog Island inlet. Wild rice has ecological and cultural significance for Native Americans. Photo from Flickr/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service-Midwest Region.

Wild rice, like the kind pictured above, is now able to grow in the Hog Island inlet. Wild rice has ecological and cultural significance for Native Americans. Photo from Flickr/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service-Midwest Region.

in the St. Louis River estuary, located between Superior, Wis., and Duluth, Minn. Federal officials spent $6.3 million to dredge 50,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment from Newton Creek and parts of Hog Island Inlet in Wisconsin. Once that cleanup was complete, government agencies and local conservation organizations set out to restore fish and wildlife habitat on the island, the inlet and Newton Creek. The habitat work underway will restore 64 acres of wetlands and coastal habitat at several sites in this area. The project is advancing efforts to restore ecological function and biological diversity to a previously contaminated portion of the harbor. Restoring fish and habitat will bolster efforts to get the St. Louis River de-listed as a Great Lakes Area of Concern.

Approximate cost of project: $630,000, which came from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Great Lakes Habitat Restoration Program. Matching cash and in-kind services exceeded $300,000.

Wild rice was absent from the inlet when the project began. A fenced area was installed to birds from eating the new wild rice plants.

Wild rice was absent from the inlet when the project began. A fenced area was installed to keep birds from eating the new wild rice plants.

Resource challenges addressed: Loss of fish and wildlife habitat, degraded water quality, habitat degraded by invasive species and the loss of recreational opportunities.

Key partners (public and private): The Great Lakes Commission, Douglas County Land Conservation Department, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, University of Wisconsin, Superior, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, City of Superior, Wis., Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the St. Louis River Alliance.

Types of jobs created: Biologists, ecologists, landscapers, heavy equipment operators and general laborers.

Results and accomplishments: Local anglers have said fishing has improved in the Hog Island inlet, Newton creek and Allouez Bay. Sixty-four acres of wetland and associated shoreline habitat are  being restored on Hog Island and in Hog Island inlet. Among the improvements:  More than eight acres of invasive plants were removed, 18 acres of native, vegetative buffers were planted and more than 20 acres of wetlands were restored. The work provides habitat for fish and migratory birds, including the federally endangered piping plover.

Web site: http://bit.ly/r8y8GP

Originally Published: April 16, 2012

 

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