St. Louis River estuary restoration project open house is May 21

Construction on wetland habitat restoration project expected to begin in June

Work on an extensive habitat restoration project will take place this summer in the St. Louis River estuary, where the river enters Lake Superior.

Staff from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources will host a public open house in May to share information and answer questions about the Kingsbury Bay/Grassy Point habitat restoration project.

The two-part project will restore 240 acres of coastal wetland habitat in the upper St. Louis River estuary, a wetland complex between Duluth and Superior, Wisconsin. The Kingsbury Bay and Grassy Point project areas were identified in 2013 as two of 17 sites located in the St. Louis River Area of Concern (AOC) in need of habitat restoration. Construction is expected to begin in June.

“The two projects could be done separately, but treating them as one large project creates efficiency in construction, allows us to reuse excavated soil and materials, and ultimately reduces the impacts for nearby neighborhoods,” said DNR St. Louis River project coordinator Melissa Sjolund. “Together, they make one of the largest habitat restoration projects in DNR’s history.”

Three habitat restoration projects have already been completed in the St. Louis River AOC by the DNR and partner agencies. Restoring Kingsbury Bay and Grassy Point will bring the St. Louis River AOC one step closer to removal from the binational list of most impaired regions on the Great Lakes.

The open house will be held Tuesday, May 21 from 5 to 7 p.m. at the City Center West Community Center/Evergreen Senior Center at 5830 Grand Ave., Duluth.
A presentation scheduled for 5:30 p.m. will include an overview of the project, anticipated construction timelines, logistics and neighborhood impacts. Anyone with an interest is invited to attend and ask questions

Restoration of Grassy Point requires the removal of 177,000 yards of wood waste that was deposited into the river from two historic mills that were built on stilts over the water. The mills are no longer at the site, but the wood debris – up to 16 feet deep in locations – remains 120 years later and continues to impair fish and invertebrate habitat. The site restoration includes removing invasive narrow-leaved cattails and creating a new isthmus of land to shelter the restored wetland from wave action.

A mile and a half upstream, the Kingsbury Bay project will include the removal of 173,000 yards of excess sediment deposited there by upstream erosion and a 2012 flash flood. The project will restore coastal wetland habitat, create open water, and improve recreation for boaters and anglers. The clean sediment removed from Kingsbury Bay will be reused at Grassy Point to cap areas of wood waste that are not feasible to remove, create upland habitat islands with native trees and plantings, and reestablish healthy aquatic plant and wildlife communities.

Funding for the $15 million project comes from the Minnesota Outdoor Heritage Fund, the federal Great Lakes Restoration Initiative with oversight by the U.S. Environmental Protection, and the St. Louis River/Interlake/Duluth Tar Superfund Site settlement.

Anyone interested in receiving project and construction updates should visit St. Louis River Restoration Initiative webpage.