EPA, MPCA to invest more than $3M to restore, protect St. Louis River

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DULUTH, MN, June 24, 2013 -- The St. Louis River Area of Concern will receive more than $3 million from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) to restore and protect Lake Superior's largest U.S. tributary. The EPA will provide $2.2 million in Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) funds and MPCA will provide an additional $1.1 million through the Minnesota Clean Water Fund.

The money will be used to fund a variety of activities to guide clean-up work within the St. Louis River Area of Concern, one of 38 such areas within the Great Lakes region. The $3 million will be used to assess cleanup options at three sites; develop engineering plans for the restoration of seven sites; evaluate the potential use of dredged river sediment for use in local habitat restoration projects; and conduct ecosystem monitoring activities.

"I am pleased to announce that EPA is providing an additional $2.2 million to help restore the headwaters of the Great Lakes," said EPA Regional Administrator and Great Lakes National Program Manager Susan Hedman. "EPA and MPCA are jointly funding the next phase of work needed to reverse over one hundred years of environmental degradation in the St. Louis River Area of Concern."

"The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is delighted to be working with our federal partners, including EPA, to secure funding to address legacy pollutants, a result of historic practices in the St. Louis River Area of Concern. With the help of our local partners, we are putting finishing touches on a detailed, multi-million dollar clean up and restoration plan to delist this Area of Concern by the year 2025," said John Linc Stine, Commissioner for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

The St. Louis River Area of Concern is extensive, consisting of portions of the St. Louis River watershed in Minnesota, the Nemadji River watershed in Wisconsin and the western tip of Lake Superior. Much of the environmental degradation is concentrated in the lower 20 miles of the river. Environmental problems affecting this stretch of the river include restrictions on consumption of fish and wildlife, fish tumors, contaminated sediments, beach closings, loss of habitat and restrictions on dredging. The St. Louis River was identified or "listed" as an Area of Concern in 1989 under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement between the U.S. and Canada. Of the 43 Areas of Concern identified by the United States and Canada, only two on the U.S. side of the border have been "delisted." GLRI funds are being used to accelerate cleanup work in the remaining Areas of Concern.

EPA has been working closely with Minnesota, Wisconsin and the St. Louis River Alliance to protect, restore and enhance the St. Louis River. The goal of these efforts is to address environmental problems affecting the watershed and, ultimately, delist the St. Louis River Area of Concern. In addition to the activities being funded by the $3 million announced today, a Great Lakes Legacy Act funded assessment of cleanup options for the contaminated sediments in Spirit Lake is already underway. Cleanup of the Spirit Lake area, including habitat restoration, could start as early as 2015. U.S. Steel is the nonfederal partner in this project. In addition, U.S. Steel, overseen by EPA and MPCA, is currently investigating contamination on its property near the river. Any cleanup of the property will be coordinated with future sediment removal and redevelopment opportunities. The Duluth Port Authority has proposed redeveloping 130 acres of the U.S. Steel property.

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