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State: Crews to begin dredging Lake Superior harbor

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Michigan Department of Natural Resources

Crews were expected to start removing more copper mining waste rock known as stamp sands that have built up in an Upper Peninsula waterway and threaten an important fish spawning area.

Dredging in Grand Traverse Harbor should start this week and is part of a wider strategy to help protect the spawning habitat for Lake Superior whitefish and lake trout, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources said in a news release.

Stamp sands were dumped along the Lake Superior lakefront during the early 20th century in Gay, northwest of Marquette. The stamp sands cover 1,400 acres of shoreline and lake bottom and are drifting toward Buffalo Reef.

Workers cleared the harbor during the summer of dark-colored stamp sands, but late-season fall storms and high-water levels on Lake Superior are causing the stamp sands to again choke the harbor.

In addition to earlier dredging, crews have worked to move the stamp sand pile at the original deposit site back from the shoreline at Gay.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said this year it would spend $3.7 million to remove stamp sands through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, a program that focuses on longstanding environmental problems in the region. The state of Michigan was to contribute $3 million.