Water is everywhere you look in the Keweenaw, whether it's tumbling over a scenic waterfall or crashing against the Lake Superior shoreline. We are fortunate to have seemingly-unlimited amounts of this precious resource available to us. Better yet, overall our water resources are in excellent shape. In some areas they even border on pristine. This translates to healthy waterways free of pollutants, great tasting drinking water that requires minimal treatment, and landscapes that are rich with plants and animals that depend on clean, fresh water to thrive.
High quality lakes, rivers, and groundwater is no accident. The Keweenaw is largely undeveloped and the negative impacts that humans often cause are limited to a few concentrated areas. The historic copper mines that once denuded the landscape might be gone, but their effects are still being felt in places blanketed with polluting stamp sands. The byproduct of crushing rocks to extract fine pieces of copper, these rocky sediments can leach heavy metals into the environment and sterilize any habitat they are dumped upon. Decades of remediation have cleaned up much of the damage along inland streams and waterways, while places like the Gay stamp sands on Lake Superior will require decades more to fully get under control.
The future is not all doom and gloom, though. We have the chance to ensure our lakes and rivers stay as healthy as possible in the coming years, and that is through smart use of the landscape. A huge swath of land at the heart of the Keweenaw has remained undeveloped since the mining era and is currently owned by just a few outside investment firms. Fragmentation of this landscape through piecemeal sales to private landowners will inevitably lead to the construction of more roads and driveways, which in turn causes additional sediments to enter our streams. More homes on septic fields means additional excess nutrients and pollutants finding their way into waterways, contributing to algae blooms and other impacts. Steering development to existing communities with efficient wastewater treatment facilities will preserve our landscape the way we like it: wild, healthy, and undeveloped.
If we are to keep our local streams and lakes healthy for future generations, we must head-off widespread development of the landscape by securing ownership of the investor-owned lands at the heart of the Keweenaw. Local control of these natural resources will ensure that local concerns are heard and reacted upon. For too long our destiny has been in the hands of out-of-state interests. Help us protect our waterways by joining KORC or giving today!