• STAMP SANDS • The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) recently completed an emergency dredging project in Keweenaw County to restore the GrandTraverse Harbor channel for commercial and recreational boating. The $246,230 dredging project,undertakenbyMarineTech,LLCofDuluth,Minnesota,throughtheDNR’s Parks and Recreation Division, pumped 9,000 cubic yards of sand to a beach area north of the harbor. Previous dredging at the harbor was done by the DNR in 2015 and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 2009 and 2003. Meanwhile, more extensive sand removal and containment efforts are needed to protect important lake trout and whitefish spawning habitat on Buffalo Reef and a juvenile whitefish area south of the Grand Traverse Harbor, which is situated on the east side of the Keweenaw Peninsula, northeast of Lake Linden. “Buffalo Reef is a 2,200-acre spawning reef located down drift of stamp sands that have eroded into Lake Superior since the early 1900s,” said Phil Schneeberger, DNR Lake Superior Basin coordinator. “It is currently estimated that this reef, critical to both lake trout and lake whitefish populations in the area, is currently 35 percent unusable by spawning fish due to sand that has filled spaces between rocks, which are necessary for successful fish egg deposit and incubation. Fur- thermore, migrating sands along the shore have made nursery areas unusable by newly-hatched fish.” Nearly a quarter of the annual lake trout yield from Lake Superior’s Michigan waters comes from within 50 miles of Buffalo Reef. GLIFWC estimates the annual economic benefit of the reef at $1.7 million. “The Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC), as well as other tribes located around Lake Superior, are and have always been, fishing tribes,” said KBIC President Chris Swartz. “Since time immemorial, these tribes have used the resourcesprovidedbygitchi-gami(orLakeSuperior)tosustaintheircommunities. This sustenance is not only physical; it is also spiritual, cultural, medicinal and economic.” Swartz said modeling predicts that by 2025, 60 percent of the reef will no longer be viable for lake trout and whitefish spawning. In this part of the Keweenaw Peninsula, the coarse, black stamp sands threat- ening the reef were created as a by-product of century-old copper mining at the Mohawk and Wolverine mines. The mines hauled copper ore from near Calumet 13 miles to a four-stamp mill in the community of Gay, where ore was crushed by the stamps and the copper separated through a flotation process. Stamp sands are the waste material resulting from the milling work.They were dumped into Lake Superior and on the shoreline. Over the past roughly 80 years, the stamp sands have shifted south — moved by winds, waves and nearshore lake currents—about five miles to the Grand Tra- verse Harbor, covering 1,426 acres of shoreline and lake bottom. “Withouttakingmeasurestoslowthemovementanddown-driftaccumulation of the stamp sands, they will eventually move past the harbor and deposit on the natural white sand beach south of the jetty, at the mouth of theTraverse River,” said StevenCheck,aprojectmanagerwiththeU.S.ArmyCorpsofEngineersinDetroit. The DNR has applied for a permit from the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), under the Great Lakes Submerged Lands Act (Part 325 of Michi- gan’s Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act), to allow the Army Corps to remove more of the stamp sands from Lake Superior. The EPA has provided $3.1 million to the Army Corps to design and carry out the dredging work, scheduled for May 2018. A public comment period on this permit closed Nov. 1. No public hearing for this permit application is planned, with a permitting decision deadline set for Dec. 14. Under the permit, a total of 172,500 cubic yards of stamp sands are expected to be removed from an underwater bedrock trough, moving the sand to a 37-acre placement site that has the capacity to store 380,000 cubic yards. This 2,350-foot- long by 700-foot placement area, located about 1.5 miles from the dredge location, would be north of Buffalo Reef, behind a temporary berm. Another 20,000 cubic yards of sand would be removed from Grand Traverse Harbor, while 10,000 cubic yards of material would be dredged from an upland area next to the harbor, on the beach. “This dredging project would buy five to seven years of protection for the reef and the whitefish juvenile recruitment area south of the harbor,” said Steve Casey, Upper Peninsula district supervisor for the DEQ’s Water Resources Divi- sion. “In the meantime, we need to develop a long-term, adaptive management plan, a solution, for the Gay stamp sands problem.” The EPAhas formed a cooperative multi-entity task force to develop that plan over the next couple of years, which will solicit input from many stakeholders, including the public. (Editor’s note: This Michigan Department of Natural Resources news release is issued in conjunction with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, Keweenaw Bay Indian Community and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.) DNR dredging buys time, $3.1 million effort begins to protect Buffalo Reef in Keweenaw County EPA forms task force to develop long-term stamp sands management plan A view looking south shows the stamp sands deposited in the foreground, the Grand Traverse Harbor in the center and the natural sand beaches and homes south of the harbor in the background. (Michigan DNR photo) Stamp Sands Project Area. (Michigan DNR graphic) Ceded Territory news briefs Mercury pollution at Grassy Narrows spans some 50 years A study by Japanese researchers reveals that an alarming 90% of Grassy Narrows First Nation residents in northwest Ontario exhibit signs of mercury poisoning. The results back up what the Asubpeeschoseewagong people have believed for decades—industrial contamination continues to cause serious health problems. Upstream from the Ojibwe reserve on the English-Wabigoon river system, paper mill operators began dumping mercury in 1962 and continued into the 1970s. A byproduct of the paper-bleaching process, mercury transforms into the neurotoxin methylmercury when released into the environment. By ingesting mercury-tainted walleye, community members experienced numbness, imbalance, headaches, sensory impairments and a range of disabling conditions. It has been especially harmful to developing children. While Ontario officials have been slow to fully address the toxic legacy of the old paper mill, authorities are establishing groundwater monitoring sta- tions in an effort to locate mercury-filled drums reportedly buried after direct discharge into the river ended in the 1970s. At Mazina’igan press time, Indigenous Services Minister Jane Philpott announcedthegovernmentwouldfundthecreationofatreatmentcenterforcom- munity members suffering from mercury poisoning. —CO Rasmussen NCAI 2017 mid-year conference TheNationalCongressofAmericanIndiansheldtheirmid-yearconference in downtown Milwaukee October 15-20. Tribes from all over the United States attended and leaders shared their views at various consultations and working sessions. Over 1,700 people attended more than fifty different sessions. Among the conference standouts, over 90 tribal youth ambassadors par- ticipated in the youth track. A number of sessions included a special youth and elder roundtable, which spurred conversation between the two generations. Many former federal government appointees and new administration offi- cials spoke out on issues and listened to tribal concerns.Atotal of 50 resolutions were passed throughout the week. —D. Jennings PAGE 7 MAZINA’IGAN WINTER 2017/2018