Buffalo Reef Task Force Schedules Public Meeting To Discuss Dredging

The Buffalo Reef Task Force has scheduled a public meeting in Lake Linden, Michigan, to discuss three dredging alternatives for managing historic copper mine tailings threatening to destroy spawning habitat areas in and around Buffalo Reef in the Keweenaw Peninsula.

The meeting is set for 6:00 p.m. EDT July 31 at the Lake Linden-Hubbell High School, located at 601 Calumet Avenue in Lake Linden.

The reef is situated off the mouth of the Big Traverse River in Houghton County.

Mine tailings, called stamp sands, were dumped a century ago into Lake Superior at Gay, Michigan, during processing of copper ores. Since that time, the sands have moved south along the shoreline with wave action toward the reef.

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Earlier this year, the task force sought public comment on whether there were additional management strategies the group should consider and whether any adjustments should be made to the management strategies or risks described in the draft analysis.

In May, the task force released a responsiveness summary to public comments on the analysis of the alternatives.

On June 20, the task force met to review the 13 alternatives and hone the finalists down to three options that include:

  • Maintenance dredging at the Grand Traverse Harbor and an underwater trough area, with a stone revetment built to retain the stamp sands.
  • Dredging the entire area, with placement of the stamp sands in a newly constructed landfill to be located nearby.
  • Dredging 15 million cubic yards of stamp sands with placement in the White Pine Mine tailings basin in Ontonagon County.

“At the public meeting, we will discuss the selection process, request public input on the choice of the three finalist alternatives and on moving forward with these choices for full review and development,” said Stephanie Swart, a Buffalo Reef Task Force Steering Committee member and Lake Superior coordinator with the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy. “We will also provide the public with an update on this summer’s dredging work.”

Maintenance dredging has been ongoing this summer in the harbor and the trough area, buying time to develop a long-term solution to the stamp sands issue.

The detailed analysis of the final top options will begin in the fall of this year.

To find out more about the effort to save Buffalo Reef, including links to reports and video, media photos and more, visit