EPA Provides Funds for Stamp Sand Removal in Grand Traverse Harbor

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has provided $3.7 million in Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) funds to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the removal of stamp sands in Grand Traverse Harbor near the town of Gay, Michigan. Dredging is underway and expected to continue through the end of the calendar year. This work is part of the ongoing effort to save Buffalo Reef, an invaluable part of Lake Superior’s habitat (see International Dredging Review article July 2018

Stamp sands are a waste product from copper processing, which historically took place at a mill in the town of Gay. Milling operations ended in 1932 but over time, the stamp sands drifted to Grand Traverse Harbor, covering approximately 1,400 acres of white sand shoreline and lake bottom. The waste threatens to cover Buffalo Reef, a 2,200-acre reef in Lake Superior that serves as a spawning habitat for lake trout and whitefish. Nearly a quarter of the annual lake trout yield from Lake Superior’s Michigan waters comes from within 50 miles of Buffalo Reef.

GLRI funding will be used to dredge Grand Traverse Harbor, remove sands that have accumulated along the harbor breakwall and dredge a trough, which provides a natural sediment trap just north of the reef. An estimated 157,000 cubic yards of stamp sands will be dredged.

In addition to the GLRI funding, the state of Michigan recently appropriated $3 million to be used for other improvements and additions to the Buffalo Reef project.

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The GLRI was launched in 2010 to accelerate efforts to protect and restore the Great Lakes. Federal agencies have funded more than 4,700 projects totaling over $2.4 billion to address Great Lakes priorities such as agricultural nutrients and stormwater runoff, cleaning up contaminated Areas of Concern, combating invasive species and restoring habitat.