Posted on September 14, 2021
The Superior Watershed Partnership has been awarded a $122,000 grant through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Marine Debris Program to assist coastal communities and Tribes in cleaning up the shorelines, harbors and nearshore waters of Lake Superior. The project area includes over 600 miles of Lake Superior coastline throughout the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
Marine debris, also known as marine litter, is human-created waste that has been accidentally or deliberately released into the Great Lakes or ocean waters. Marine debris impacts aquatic habitat, injures or kills fish and other wildlife, interferes with navigation safety, and can pose a threat to human health. Marine debris includes a wide range of items both small and large including plastic bags, bottles, cans, commercial fishing gear, tires, appliances, cars and abandoned boats. The most common materials are plastics, glass, metal, paper, cloth, rubber, and wood products. Sources of marine debris include stormwater runoff, littering, industrial activities, unregulated construction sites and illegal dumping.
Sadly, there is no place on earth that is immune to this problem. While the Upper Peninsula has approximately 312,000 year-round residents it has experienced a dramatic increase in nature tourism in recent years with millions of additional visitors annually. Unfortunately, many Great Lakes coastal areas have seen a corresponding increase in beach litter, shoreline erosion, habitat degradation and water quality impacts.
According to SWP Executive Director; Carl Lindquist; “Most monitoring confirms that Lake Superior is still the cleanest of the Great Lakes but it will take increased effort at the community level to keep it that way; especially with increased coastal development and increased nature tourism. The key to nature tourism is keeping it truly sustainable. Thanks to NOAA, the Great Lakes Climate Corps and proactive communities the Upper Peninsula can be a model for sustainability and coastal resiliency.”
To address the problem in the Upper Peninsula the SWP will mobilize its Great Lakes Climate Corps (GLCC) to implement a series of clean-up events with coastal communities, Tribes and other project partners. The Great Lakes Climate Corps is comprised of young women and young men who possess both the passion and work ethic to implement a wide range of environmental projects that benefit the Great Lakes and mitigate the impacts of climate change. Several prioritized sites such as harbors and marinas will be eligible for underwater debris removal requiring a dive team and support boats. While the SWP has conducted annual beach clean-up events for over two decades NOAA funding allows the program to expand and serve more communities and partners.
The public is also invited to participate in upcoming community clean-up events through the Lake Superior Volunteer Corps (LSVC). All ages are encouraged to participate in beach clean-up events including families, children and visitors. On a positive note; the SWP has also seen a recent increase in the number of out-of-state tourists participating in summer volunteer events. The SWP will also conduct an intensive public education and engagement program that includes K-12 schools, community organizations and Great Lakes media outlets.
Communities, Tribes and other coastal property owners are encouraged to contact the SWP with information on large debris locations, potential beach clean-up sites or related debris removal sites. This is a two-year, NOAA-funded project with clean-up events taking place spring, summer and fall of 2022 and 2023.