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Buffalo Reef Protection Options Clarified

The options for protecting Buffalo Reef in Lake Superior from migrating stamp sands have been reduced to three.

Buffalo Reef is a major spawning area for whitefish and lake trout. Waste sands produced at Gay during the mining process a century ago are threatening to overtake it.

A team of engineers and scientists from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is working with the Buffalo Reef Task Force to develop a plan to protect the reef.

The three finalist action plans include…
– Building a retaining wall to contain the stamp sands at the original pile, as well as the stamp sands dredged from the lake and beach.
– Building a landfill in an inland area near Gay for the stamp sands removed from the lake and beach.
– Hauling the stamp sands removed from the lake and beach to the tailing basins at the former White Pine Mine in Ontonagon County.

Work will continue to establish costs, risks and benefits for each option. Once that’s complete, results will be presented to the public, and officials will try to find money to implement the plan.

Meanwhile, some work is being done now.

The Michigan DNR is funding efforts to pull back a 25-foot-tall cliff adjacent to the shoreline at the original stamp sands pile at Gay. Stephanie Swart of the Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy says 26 feet of material from the cliff erodes into Lake Superior each year. Excavating the cliff and depositing the material farther away from the lake will reduce future erosion.

Dredging in and around Grand Traverse Harbor was completed over the summer. Dredging of a “trough” north of Buffalo Reef designed to catch the sands before they reach the reef could not be done because of equipment problems, and will be attempted again next summer.

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