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Comment Period Still Open On Buffalo Reef Plan

A multi-agency task force is still open to public comment and seeking suggestions for the next couple of weeks, toward finding a solution to a long standing environmental concern in the Keweenaw Peninsula. 

An aerial photo shows the drift of stamp sands from the community of Gay south toward the Grand Traverse Harbor. (Neil Harri photo).

Efforts have been underway to remove migrating stamp sands from a natural lake trout and whitefish spawning ground, and as the effort moves forward, current suggestions will be considered soon.

“Up in the Keweenaw Peninsula, basically they would take the copper ore and then crush it and the stamp sands are the remaining waste material. When they were mined, they were actually dumped into Lake Superior and actually extended the coastline out from the town of Gay,” said DNR Public Information Officer John Pepin.

That remaining waste material is something that Keweenaw residents have been dealing with for quite some time. “After a hundred years, we’re having to act pretty quickly to try to stop this problem,” said Pepin.

Wind and waves have moved the mining waste to Buffalo Reef where fish breeding is showing signs of decline because the reef is being covered with the material.

Pepin said, “Buffalo Reef is a very important area for lake trout and whitefish spawning and also nursery areas that are located right around the reef. If this continues, it will cover the whole reef eventually and that’s what this task force is trying to prevent–from doing anymore infiltration of the reef.”

Nearly a year ago, the Buffalo Reef Task Force was formed involving several environmental government agencies, where public input was heard presenting some solutions to the shoreline dunes of unwanted dirt. “The stamp sands are what is causing the problem, but the effort is guided toward saving Buffalo Reef,” said Pepin.

The task force recently issued a Draft Preliminary Alternatives Analysis, which will be submitted on March 8. Until then, public comment and suggestions are still being sought at the official website: Michigan.gov/BuffaloReef.

“It’s a very important area for lake trout and whitefish and therefore it’s very important to commercial fisherman and tribal fisherman and sport fisherman,” said Pepin.

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