The DEQ today announced a milestone in its effort to restore Deer Lake in Marquette County.
The lake is one of Michigan’s Areas of Concern, sites along the Great Lakes experiencing severe environmental degradation primarily from historic pollution. Of the 40 current Great Lakes AOCs, 14 are located in Michigan. They include rivers, lakes, and bays located on the Great Lakes.
Remedial actions and environmental assessments in the Deer Lake area over the past 15 years, including upgrades at the wastewater treatment plant and documentation of bald eagle recovery in the area, have allowed the DEQ to remove the Deer Lake “Eutrophication or Undesirable Algae” Beneficial Use Impairment and “Bird or Animal Deformities or Reproduction Problems” BUI.
Michigan’s AOC Program is administered by the DEQ’s Office of the Great Lakes, in collaboration with other state and federal agencies and local stakeholders.
“This action demonstrates an enormous amount of progress made in restoring the quality of Deer Lake,” said Office of the Great Lakes Director Patty Birkholz. “The DEQ is committed to protecting the Great Lakes and promoting the restoration of Michigan’s Great Lakes Areas of Concern.”
One BUI remains for the Deer Lake AOC, “Restrictions on Fish and Wildlife Consumption” BUI. Fish in Deer Lake have high levels of mercury in their tissues due to historic mining practices and wastewater activities in the area. Partridge Creek is the last controllable source of mercury to Deer Lake. A multi-phase project will divert the creek out of historic mine workings. Phase 1 of this project starts this fall through a grant from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and funds from the City of Ishpeming.
Once the City of Ishpeming has completed all phases of the project and the controllable source of mercury is eliminated, the last BUI can be evaluated and Deer Lake will be another step closer to being delisted from the AOCs in Michigan.
The local Deer Lake Public Advisory Council, Cliffs Natural Resources, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency supported for the removal actions. The PAC is actively involved in documenting the effects of restoration efforts at Deer Lake, including assisting the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in tagging and counting bald eagles born along the lake and keeping track of activity at the nest sites.
“The eagles are just one sign that our efforts to restore Deer Lake are paying off,” said Diane Feller, PAC Chair.
Information about Michigan’s AOC Program is posted on the DEQ Web site at www.michigan.gov/deqgreatlakes; then select ‘Areas of Concern’. Information about the Great Lakes is available on the U.S. EPA’s Web site at www.epa.gov/greatlakes.