Updated: August 21, 2019 10:37 PM
The Minnesota DNR is working on some major and important restoration projects at the Saint Louis River to bring back a healthy wildlife habitat to the area.
The project involves the restoration of Kingsbury Bay and Grassy Point. They are described as degraded wetlands which have been affected by wood waste and excessive sediment.
The Kingsbury Bay and Grassy Point projects that are 240 acres total will cost $15 million. Most of the funding is coming from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. The project is considered the largest contract for the DNR.
Excessive sediment at Kingsbury Bay was caused by urbanization of the watershed and major storm events over the years. This sediment shallowed much of the bay and brought non-native plants to the area. By removing it, the DNR will make deeper depths of variety of different habitats for fish wildlife and aquatic plants.
The DNR plans on making a shallow shelter bay. Kingsbury Bay was once a shallow shelter bay. A shallow shelter bay means its sheltered from wind and wave energy which gives a good opportunity for plant and fish habitat.
The shallow shelter bay will help support a coastal marsh habitat, a unique kind of habitat to the estuary.
Coastal marshes are characterized by the influence of seiche, water moving from the lake into the river, in and out. Seiche brings lots of oxygen and nutrients and helps make a dynamic ecosystem. Sjolund said throughout the years of development it's a habitat type that's been lost and is threatened in the state. Nearly all that habitat in the state is in the estuary.
"We have an excavator mounted on barges with a big clamshell. In there they have equipment and GPS coordinates that shows the design depth where we want it shallow and deeper," said Melissa Sjolund, a Minnesota DNR habitat coordinator. The hoppers are filled with 200 to 300 cubic yards of sediment.
This will also help improve flow of the 80 acre bay. A fishing pier will be made for recreational access as well. The excess sediment, which is actually rich in nutrients and is not contaminated, will be used for the Grassy Point and 40th Ave West restoration sights.
"The Saint Louis River is a resource worthy of protecting and making better. Also, Saint Louis River is important for Lake Superior. Lots of fish species from Lake Superior like to come into the river and use the area," Sjolund said.
The other project at Grassy Point involves removing lots of wood. Two historic sawmills from the late 1800s put 75 acres of wood waste at Grassy Point, making it a shallow area that has struggled to build a wildlife habitat.
"The sawmills operated here from 1890 to 1918. All the wood has been at the bottom since that time. It's not decomposing much. It's overwhelming the system," Pat Collins, the Minnesota DNR Saint Louis River restoration consultant, said.
DNR aquatic biologists are diving to retrieve the wood waste that is over 100 years old. By removing the wood, work will be done to deepen the area to make new habitat for aquatic plants and fish.
"It sank to the bottom. In some places its five to eight to 20 feet thick of just wood thats waste from the old sawmill operations," Collins said. "In a area that is two to four feet deep, you would expect a lot of vegetation growing that’s providing places for little bugs to live on and grow on and for fish to come in and eat the bugs. None of that is growing here."
The wood is being used to create an island to support an upland habitat as well for terrestrial plants and birds.
The project is expected to be done by December 2020.
Updated: August 21, 2019 10:37 PM
Created: August 21, 2019 06:09 PM
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