St Louis River Estuary: The stories and the science

Radio Tower Bay

One of the two historical sawmills as seen in 1915. Click to zoom.

One of the two historical sawmills as seen in 1915.

Radio Tower Bay is a sheltered bay in the upper portion of the estuary on the site of two late 19th Century sawmills. Sheltered bays serve as 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. Additionally, sheltered bays are the most reduced habitat type in the estuary, and they also provide habitat for critical forage fish species such as white sucker, shorthead, redhorse and silver redhorse.

History

Radio Tower Bay, known historically as Cedar Yard Bay, was the site of two sawmills in the late 1800s. A railroad line also once crossed the river here on pilings, and concrete foundations from an abandoned array of radio towers can be found in the bay. The sawmills dumped waste slab wood and sawdust directly into the water, greatly reducing the quality of underwater habitat for fish and rendering the bay nearly inaccessible for recreation.

Milling waste in Radio Tower bay. Click to zoom.

Milling waste in Radio Tower bay.

Phase I of the project, which involved removing the wooden pilings that supported the railroad line, has already been completed.

What is happening now?

Phase II removed 115,000 cubic yards of wood waste from Radio Tower Bay. Removing mill waste created a typical sheltered bay bathymetry and restored aquatic vegetation beds, which will greatly enhance the site's productivity and opportunities for recreational anglers. Material taken from the bay, was ground and piped to a dewatering facility at the former U.S. Steel site in Morgan Park. The result was residential-quality mulch, which U. S. Steel will use in remediating former industrial areas.

Phase II was completed in August 2015. Project staff will monitor the treatment site this fall.

Restoration Timeline

  • March 2012 - Phase I construction completed
  • July 2014 to August 2015 – Phase II construction
  • December 31, 2015 – Project complete

Maps