Where have all the plants gone? By restoring the sediment and creating shallow habitat, natural resource managers hope wetland vegetation will return to 21st Avenue West, and with it, bugs, fish and birds.>
At the base of the Blatnik Bridge, the 21st Ave West restoration site is a complex of open water flats and shallow sheltered bays impaired by historical industrial activities. The 350-acre site is in part of the estuary that receives effluent from the Western Lake Superior Sanitary District (WLSSD) Treatment Plant. The adjacent land is bordered by the Canadian National Ore Docks, numerous industries, and Rice's Point, a popular public boat access.
Although degraded, this site has the ability to provide productive spawning, nursery and foraging areas for both prey fish (minnows) and game fish, including walleye, muskellunge, lake sturgeon, smallmouth bass, bluegill and black crappie. An aquatic habitat restoration project is underway to provide a diversity of depths needed for various types of water plants to grow. This will be accomplished through the beneficial reuse of dredged materials; these materials are being placed along the shoreline and within the river bed. The shallower water depths will also help reduce wind fetch and provide shelter to the bay. As more vegetation grows, the animals and bugs that live in the sediment will thrive and the site will be enhanced for fish habitat, recreational anglers and outdoor enthusiasts.
The dredging activity you see in the harbor is moving sediment from the shipping channel to create shallow habitat in the restoration site. Work on this pilot project began in summer 2013 and full design implementation is expected in 2016. The goal is to complete the movement of all the material by 2018. It will take time for the site to recover and thrive, and results will be analyzed.