Column: It’s time to decide the future of our riverThere is a huge question looming for the citizens of Duluth: What do we want from the St. Louis River?
By: Erik Simonson, For the Budgeteer News
There is a huge question looming for the citizens of Duluth: What do we want from the St. Louis River?
We’ve heard great news this past summer about the river that borders our city and feeds into Lake Superior. It is a treasured and priceless jewel of the north. Grants, plans and projects are coming together as we seek the resources to provide the necessary tools to significantly clean up and restore our river. Years of abuse and neglect must be corrected, and the fact that we all seem on board with these goals is reason enough to celebrate.
But there remains more to do, and questions remain to be answered. This is our time to decide the future of our river.
As stewards of our natural resources, I believe we owe it to ourselves and future generations to do everything possible to protect, preserve and promote responsible use of our lakes, rivers and streams.
In the destructive flood of 2012, the navigational channel within the river was changed drastically to the point where this past spring’s traditional buoy placement was unable to be done upstream of Clough Island. This impacts not only recreational boating and fishing, but also the activities within the ecosystem of the river itself.
There are some who say that the results of the flood are nature’s way of changing an outcome, but the question is presented for us: Do we pursue efforts to dredge the navigational channel back to its pre-flood condition? Or do we accept the change as natural and adjust to what remains?
Dredging would come at a cost, but the river would continue to be accessible. As we pursue
efforts to promote economic development and promote tourism in the western half of Duluth, is restoration of the navigational channel a worthwhile effort?
And let us not forget that the St. Louis River remains high in mercury levels.
You may recall that earlier this year the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency partially withdrew from a partnership with the Environmental Protection Agency and the Wisconsin DNR, a partnership that was focused on the science behind why our mercury levels are as high as they are.
The MPCA appears to have good reason for this withdrawal, citing concerns over modeling and its potential effectiveness. The MPCA has assured me that it is committed to finding reasons why our fish consumption has to be restricted, but we need to hold the agency accountable. It assured me a public forum would be held in Duluth this summer to provide updates and answers. It is now September, and still no public forum.
I don’t think we will disagree with the strategy put forth by the MPCA, but transparency and open dialogue is critical for all of us if trust is to be built.
Water is one of our most precious resources. Let’s work together to preserve, if not improve, that which we take for granted.
It is time to decide.
Erik Simonson (DFL) is the Minnesota state representative for district 7B.