Annual St. Louis River summit addresses legacy pollution and water quality impairment

Annual St. Louis River summit addresses legacy pollution and water quality impairment

The cities of Twin Ports of Superior, Wisconsin, and Duluth, Minnesota, include over 115,000 people dependent on Lake Superior and the St. Louis River for clean drinking water, as well as recreation such as fishing, swimming, kayaking and hunting. The St. Louis River is listed as an Area of Concern – an international designation in the Great Lakes where significant social and ecological impairment occurred as a result of past human activities.

In response, natural resource managers, scientists, educators and college students from the University of Wisconsin-Superior and other campuses work on large-scale cleanup and restoration efforts in the St. Louis River estuary. Their goal is to address long-standing legacy pollution and water quality impairments in the Lake Superior Watershed. To be successful, this group needs to coordinate and share information.

The Lake Superior National Estuarine Research Reserve serves as a partnership between Extension and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. A key initiative is the annual St. Louis River Summit, hosted by Extension every year since 2010. The summit strengthens communication, builds community, and improves the efficiency of public agencies and institutions as they work together to mitigate the Area of Concern designation. By generating increased coordination and the cross-pollination of ideas, the summit improves the health of the community and this dynamic estuary ecosystem at the headwaters of the Great Lakes.

Offering a venue to share project information and research results has resulted in the establishment of innovative funding sources improved methods and a reduction of duplicate efforts. Even in a virtual format responsive to the COVID-19 pandemic, over 90% of participants said they benefited from attending. Over the past 10 years, the event has built and strengthened networks between scientists and resource managers.

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