Large-scale construction is planned for Douglas County, Wisconsin’s eastern- most Lake Superior County, raising concerns for the future health of Western Lake Superior’s coastal wetlands and rivers. GLAHNews readers may recall the news of the 2002 sale of Clough Island, a previously uninhabited island in the St. Louis River just up river from Lake Superior. Developers have proposed plans for a condominium complex and golf course on the island. Presently there is no access by bridge or services such as city water and sewer service to the Island. In addition to Clough Island, other parcels adjacent to nearby coastal wetlands are under consideration for waterfront development.
While the region’s coastal wetlands, river mouths and other near-shore habitats are attractive to developers for their beauty and ready access to water, they are also known for their warm waters and rich supply of food sources. Because of these rare (for Lake Superior) characteristics—offering shelter and food for so many of the Lake’s young and adolescent fish species—they are called “the nursery of Western Lake Superior,” by biologists. Not surprisingly, their warm, shallow reaches do not end at the Douglas County line, extending from the St. Louis River to the Bad River watershed east of Ashland, supporting a rich and diverse food web featuring zooplankton populations many times higher than that found in Lake Superior’s deeper, colder relatively barren depths.
How and when accelerated construction may affect Lake Superior’s aquatic habitats remain uncertain. In response, a growing number of local grassroots,regional groups,educators and researchers have expressed concerns about the possible impact of multiple developments in this sensitive and unique area and have begun working together on strategies for improved public information and monitoring.