St. Louis River Restoration Initiative
$2,290,000 in the second year is to the commissioner of natural resources to restore habitat in the lower St. Louis River estuary. Of this appropriation, up to $500,000 is for an agreement with Minnesota Land Trust. A list of proposed restorations must be provided as part of the required accomplishment plan.
Healthy populations of endangered, threatened, and special concern species as well as more common species - Fish and wildlife population outcomes will be measured by State and federal resource management agencies as part of the remedial action planning process for the St. Louis River AOC..Greater public access for wildlife and outdoors-related recreation - This will be measured as acres of aquatic habitat restored to a condition that is accessible to angling and other outdoor based recreational activities. .
MDNR will implement a programmatic approach to complete prioritized aquatic habitat restoration projects in the Lower St. Louis River Estuary through a partnership between Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and OHF to recover this nationally important fishery and migratory bird corridor.
The St. Louis River Restoration Initiative (SLRRI) is a programmatic approach to restore more than 1,400 acres of aquatic, wetland and terrestrial habitat within the Lower St. Louis River Estuary over the next 15 years. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (MNDNR) is working in conjunction with more than 15 partner agencies and organizations, including the MN Pollution Control Agency (MPCA), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Minnesota Land Trust (MLT), Wisconsin DNR, the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), the US Environmental Protection Agency, and the St. Louis River Alliance to prioritize and construct projects that will restore the fisheries and migratory waterfowl habitat of the Estuary. The partnership recently completed the Implementation Framework Project, which resulted in the production of the Stage II Remedial Action Plan (RAP) Update. The update and attached prioritized list of actions establishes the institutional pathway to delist the St. Louis River Estuary as a Great Lakes Area of Concern (AOC). The prioritized list of actions comprises what is being defined as the “St. Louis River Restoration Initiative”, which describes projects that will be critical to return the St. Louis River estuary to one of Minnesota’s and the Great Lakes’ premier recreational fisheries. The two projects described in this accomplishments plan are being completed through a funding and implementation partnership between MNDNR, NOAA, MLT and OHF. MNDNR has been accepted for a partnership that identifies approximately 4.0 million dollars from NOAA’s Great Lakes Regional Partnership Grant Program. The program establishes long-term relationships with state resource management agencies that are completing restoration work in Great Lakes Areas of Concern (AOC's). The two projects are included in the NOAA Partnership agreement, with funding described in FFY 2014 and 2015. MNDNR will implement the two projects in cooperation with the MLT.
Grassy Point Restoration Project:
Implement Phase I restoration activities within the 180 acre Grassy Point project area. Grassy Point is a 3-4 phase project with objectives accomplished during a timeline that is anticipated to run from SFY 2015 through SFY 2019. The initial phase of engineering design, environmental review and permitting for the Grassy Point project, which was accomplished with a USFWS grant awarded to MLT, was completed in February of 2014. Additional design, environmental review and permitting is now being accomplished with funds from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. These pre-implementation partnerships will advance elements of the project to being construction ready by late 2015. Phase I project implementation is scheduled to begin during the winter of 2015/2016 and continue through 2016. In this Phase approximately 40,000 cubic yards of coarse wood debris will be removed from a 114 acre portion of the project area. The initial phase of the Grassy Point Project will excavate large wood waste from the project site and remove it to an off-site facility for disposal. Future phases of the project will complete additional restoration objectives, which may be within the same surface area. the additional activities will include softening of shorelines, additional excavation to achieve desired bathymetry, placement of clean organic material and creation of an island. It is anticipated that future phases of the project will be completed through a continuing funding partnership between the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and OHF. This accomplishment plan covers only completion of Phase I objectives, which are estimated to be approximately 45 acres. The final restoration goal of 180 acres will be achieved when all phases of the project are completed.
Grassy Point Phase I Project outcomes will include:
1) Restoration of submerged aquatic vegetation beds on a site degraded by historic log milling activities improving the quality and quantity of habitat for species such as muskellunge, smallmouth bass, walleye and lake sturgeon.
2) Enhanced access for recreational anglers and boaters.
Shoreline Restoration in Fond du Lac/Chambers Grove:
MNDNR has identified an opportunity to restore and enhance approximately 800 feet of shoreline and 7 acres of spawning habitat within the St. Louis River immediately upstream of the Highway #23 Bridge. The area between Hwy 23 Bridge and Fond du Lac dam is a special management area for protecting one of the primary spawning areas for Lake Superior/St. Louis River Estuary migratory fish such as walleye, lake sturgeon and longnose sucker as well as resident species such as smallmouth bass and muskellunge. Currently, the river bank is lined by a sheet pile wall and gabion baskets that were intended to protect the shoreline from erosion and provide pedestrian access to the river. This structure is severely damaged and considered unsafe. Restoring a natural streambank and establishing enhanced spawning structures within the stream channel will provide additional spawning and fry rearing habitat in this critical spawning area. The MNDNR is coordinating with the City of Duluth, the adjacent landowner, so that the shoreline restoration is integrated with ongoing management of Chambers Grove Park.
Fond du Lac/Chambers Grove streambank restoration project outcomes include:
1) Restoration of natural streambank features including rocky substrate, littoral zones, streamside vegetation and an accessible floodplain.
2) Enhanced in-channel spawning habitat for walleye, lake sturgeon, smallmouth bass and longnose sucker.
3) Establishment of angler and other public access to quality fisheries habitat features.