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Douglas County grants access for Minnesota clean-up project

The agreement with the EPA allows cleanup at Munger Landing in Duluth.

File: Munger Landing
Kevin Monahan kayaks near Munger Landing in April 2020. File / Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

Douglas County is lending a hand to a project planned for Duluth.

The land and development committee approved an agreement Nov. 30 with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency granting access for remedial construction work at Munger Landing.

Douglas County owns the riparian rights in the area that the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency selected for a cleanup remedy for sediment contamination at Munger Landing in the St. Louis River Area of Concern.

“We’ve entered similar contracts like this before,” county clerk Susan Sandvick said.

The contract was reviewed by corporate counsel and Sandvick said it’s in the county’s best interest to move a head with the agreement.

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Under the agreement, the EPA will assume liability for claims, damages and injuries.
Sandvick said while she usually approves small access agreements like this, she said she decided to bring it to the committee because it’s a broader agreement.

Remedial construction work includes dredging to remove contaminated material from the bed of the waterway, which includes the riparian zone owned by Douglas County, and placing new material on the bed, according to the agreement.

An estimated 121,400 cubic yards of contaminated sediment will be removed to minimize risks to human health and the environment, according to the MPCA, which applied for Great Lakes Legacy Act funding. Contaminants of concern in the sediment include lead, nickel, zinc, polychlorinated biphenyls and dioxins/furans, which has caused restrictions on dredging, fish consumption advisories, beach closings, created harmful conditions and the loss of fish and wildlife habitat, according to the MPCA.

It is one of 10 sites identified for cleanup in Minnesota for the St. Louis River Area of Concern.

The Munger Landing project site is adjacent to the Clyde Avenue boat launch in Duluth’s Smithville neighborhood.

The MPCA partnered with the Wisconsin and Minnesota departments of natural resources and city of Duluth on the estimated $19.3 million project. Construction could get underway in 2022; the access agreement expires Dec. 31, 2024, unless extended by mutual agreement.

The agreement doesn’t require approval from the Douglas County Board.

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