Dredging at Grand Traverse Harbor

Heavy equipment operators are expected to begin working this week to dredge stamp sands from in and around the Grand Traverse Harbor in Keweenaw County, reports the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Image source: Michigan Department of Natural Resources

Over the past roughly 100 years, historic copper mine tailings from the Wolverine and Mohawk mines – called stamp sands – were deposited at a milling site along Lake Superior, located in the community of Gay in Keweenaw County.

Since that time, the stamp sands have been moved by winds and waves south down the shoreline roughly 5 miles, inundating natural sand beach areas and threatening to cover spawning habitat and recruitment areas important to Lake Superior whitefish and lake trout in and around Buffalo Reef.

Over the summertime, workers cleared the harbor of the dark-colored stamp sands, but late season fall storms – coupled with high water levels on Lake Superior – have worked in concert to again choke the waterway.

Sands will be removed from the harbor and also from the beach, up to 1,000 feet north of the breakwater, to help keep the harbor open,” said Jay Parent, district supervisor of the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy’s Water Resources Division in Marquette. “We want camp and homeowners along the beach to know we will be doing this work over the winter months so as not to interfere with summer camp use.

The dredging efforts are part of a wider strategy to address the issue.

In addition to the dredging that took place over recent months, crews have worked to move the stamp sand pile at the original deposit site back from the shoreline at Gay.