Posted by Melissa Burlaga
ASHLAND, Wis. - The Sigurd Olson Environmental Institute (SOEI) at Northland College, working on behalf of the Chequamegon Bay Area Partnership (CBAP), has been awarded a $192,000 grant to conduct sanitary surveys on several area beaches and shoreline areas.
The grant, the first of four awarded by the Environmental Protection Agency through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, will provide funds to CBAP to target and reduce shoreline contamination in the Chequamegon Bay watershed.
Beginning in the summer of 2011, the Chequamegon Bay Beach Sanitary Surveys grant will provide support to four of the 13 CBAP partners, including the SOEI, the City of Ashland and the Bad River and Red Cliff Bands of Lake Superior Tribe of Chippewa, to survey more than one dozen beaches in the bay area.
CBAP partners will assess previously new and previously monitored beaches in these communities for contamination and, where appropriate, follow up with remediation.
In addition to the Tribal and Ashland beaches, water quality sampling will take place at five previously un-sampled lakeshore storm water outlets within the city of Ashland to better target contamination sources contributing to the degradation of area beaches.
These surveys will be complimented by efforts to reduce habitat for water borne pathogens on beaches that show elevated levels of these contaminants through regular beach grooming and annual beach clean ups hosted by the City of Ashland and other CBAP members.
The benefits to the region extend beyond the environmental and water quality improvements that will come with increased attention, said Grant Herman of the SOEI. "Beaches are one of the great reasons people travel to the Chequamegon Bay," he said. "Clean, environmentally healthy beaches will boost tourism in the area and will help maintain or even increase property values in communities around the bay."
"2010 marks the 10th anniversary of the Beach Act of 2000," said Mike Gardner, program manager at the SOEI, referring to federal legislation passed to strengthen water quality standards and provide funding for beach health monitoring across the United States. "This is a great opportunity to improve area beach management and public health protection through the reduction of beach water contamination sources, increased water quality monitoring and improved communication of beach health information to the public.
The Chequamegon Bay Area Partnership is a group of area federal, state and local natural resource agencies, Tribes, municipalities, nonprofit organizations, county land and water conservation professionals and college staff and faculty that are collaborating to develop a region-wide program for more effective and efficient natural resource management and program implementation.
In addition to the SOEI, members include, at present, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Red Cliff and Bad River Bands of Lake Superior Chippewa, Iron and Ashland Counties, Cities of Ashland and Bayfield, The Bad River Watershed Association, The Northwoods Cooperative Weed Management Area, UW Extension, The Bayfield Regional Conservancy, the US Forest Service and the U.S. Geologic Survey.
Since its founding in 1972, the Sigurd Olson Environmental Institute at Northland College has facilitated solutions to environmental problems in the north country through education, research, and citizen involvement.