A Mission To Improve And Protect The Great Lakes | WTAQ News Talk | 97.5 FM · 1360 AM | Green Bay, WI
GREEN BAY, WI (WTAQ-WLUK) – More than 300 scientists, conservationists, and other stakeholders are gathering in Green Bay to talk about the quality of the environment.
Specifically, they’re addressing the 43 Areas of Concern around the Great Lakes.
Wisconsin has four of those pollution hot spots, including the Fox River in Green Bay.
Over the decades, the waters of the Lower Fox River and Lower Green Bay have been through many changes, being classified by the United States and Canada as an Area of Concern, in 1987.
“And the reason it was designated as an AOC is because we had really significant contaminated sediment issues, right? We had the PCB problem, we also had a lot of loss of fish and wildlife habitats,” said Brie Kupsky, DNR Office of Great Waters.
Kupsky says coastal wetland loss could have reached 90%. Another issue is water quality. UW-Green Bay Senior Researcher Erin Giese says sediment runoff impacts the entire watershed.
“Like everything that’s on the surface of the earth, when it rains, it’s going to run off into our waterways, and into the bay,” said Erin Giese, UW-Green Bay Senior Researcher.
But scientists say there are stories of success, like three years ago, and the Lower Menominee River.
“That’s Wisconsin’s first Area of Concern to actually be delisted. So that was a major, that was 30 years worth of effort to clean up contamination, to do habitat restoration work, to clean up water quality,” said Kupsky.
And in Howard, the Cat Island Chain Restoration project stretches two and a half miles into the bay, using dredged material to create new habitat. The Endangered Piping Plover has nested there since 2016.
“It’s one of the biggest, migratory shorebird stopover areas, if not the biggest in the entire state of Wisconsin. So we really have an incredible gem,” said Kupsky.
Conservationists say planting gardens with native vegetation helps, and that’s not all.
“It’s important to limit the amount of pesticides, and herbicides you place on your lawn. Also, grass clippings are a good thing to remove. Sweep them up. or blow them back into your lawn to prevent that from running off into the bay,” said Giese.
Kupsky says working together is key.
“We always are considering the need of property owners, businesses, municipalities. We’re all working together to basically come up with the best options that really balance that environmental, social, economic perspective.”
The Great Lakes Areas of Concern Conference runs through Thursday at the KI Convention Center in Green Bay.
The event is a collaboration between the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, and UW-Green Bay.