Enhancement of Lake Superior's Water Quality
North Shore of Lake Superior, MN

Grantee: North Shore Management Board
Basin Program Funds: $7,519
Non-federal Funds: $4,006
Project Duration: 09/1994 - 08/1996
Status: complete

Problem Statement
Deterioration of Lake Superior's water quality due to sedimentation, erosion, runoff, and failing septic systems has been a problem for many years. Identification of specific locations on the North Shore where such contamination is currently occurring, and public educations effort for North Shore residents and local officials, was identified as a necessary step in order to develop and implement effective solutions.

The Enhancement of Lake Superior's Water Quality project along Minnesota's North Shore, is a joint effort between agencies to improve water quality by identifying specific contaminated sites along the shoreline. Locations were identified, and the information has been shared with landowners about possible corrective actions that might be taken to remediate the identified problem.

The deterioration of Lake Superior's water quality due to sedimentation, erosion, increased runoff and failing septic systems has been increasing for many years. Identification of specific locations where contamination is currently occurring was needed in order to develop effective solutions. The goals of this project were: 1) to identify water quality problem areas due to erosion, development and failing septic systems: 2) to educate North Shore residents and local units of government about local water quality problems; and 3) to facilitate efforts to implement solutions.

The Great Lakes Basin Program provided $7,528 over a 2-year period to support the conduct of an aerial assessment flight, ground-truthing (landowner contact), public education, and the production of final reports. The 154-mile environmental assessment flight of the North Shore from Encampment Island to the Canadian border completes the inventory for Minnesota's Lake Superior shoreline.

An aerial assessment flight of 154 miles was conducted by A.W. Research Laboratories from Encampment Island to the Canadian border along the North Shore of Lake Superior. High priority point and nonpoint contamination activities were mapped and developed into slides. A final report was completed and presented to the North Shore Management Board.

58 locations of concern were documented with the developed slides. Of these, 25 were natural point sources such as streams. Relatively few sites were instances of human-induced conditions, and mostly involved inconsistency with the current setback criteria. There were three areas exhibiting intensive industrial development. Sedimentation was also noted in several areas along the shore. Finally, septic system contamination was generally only visible in a few heavily populated areas. This report completed Phase I of the project.

Phase II of the project involved ground-truthing the sites that were identified in Phase I as high priority. North Shore Management Board staff met with the technical staff of Cook and Lake Counties to determine the procedure and assess costs for the ground-truthing and landowner visit process. Letters were mailed to affected landowners explaining that the ground-truthing process was advisory and educational only, not regulatory. Forty of the site visits were completed where the landowners had the opportunity to discuss with technical staff the property care and remediation options available to them. The overall perception of the landowners toward the program has been positive.

The final component of the project involved public education. In addition to the ground-truthing conducted in Phase II, there was also a series of mailings and property care planning assistance sessions available to landowners. Each Lake Superior shoreline owner in Cook and Lake Counties (1,350 households) was mailed a packet of information tailored to the specific issues that County technical staff felt were most critical to their location. Property care planning assistance sessions were held on three occasions to give property owners the opportunity to have their soil tested and discuss with technical staff and gardeners the appropriate techniques for managing and caring for their property.

As a result of this project, the North Shore Management Board and Cook County received a total of $100,000 from the State Revolving Loan Fund for establishment of local revolving loan funds to assist with septic system upgrades for residential property owners.

The Great Lakes Basin Program has leveraged $4,006 from non-federal sources.

Contact: Andrew Bramson, (218) 722-5545


Great Lakes Commission des Grands Lacs.  2805 S. Industrial Highway, Suite 100.  Ann Arbor, MI  48104-6791.  phone: 734/971.9135.  fax: 734/971-9150.  projects.glc.org. Join the Friends of the Great Lakes GLIN Partner