Torch Lake council to host statewide meeting in Houghton

HOUGHTON – The Torch Lake Public Action Council will host a statewide Public Advisory Council meeting in Houghton on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Sessions are scheduled from 8:30 a.m. until noon both days at Michigan Technological University’s Great Lakes Research Center in Room 202.

In addition, there will be a tour of Torch Lake on Tuesday after the end of the morning session. The Michigan Office of Great Lakes staff who assist the SPAC will be in attendance to update the council on state and federal actions that affect progress of cleanups in the Great Lakes.

Areas of Concern are highly polluted sites on bodies of water that pose a danger to their communities. There were originally 14 Areas of Concern in Michigan.

The pollution problems of AOCs are specifically identified as Beneficial Use Impairment for each AOC. According to the Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition, the role of a public advisory council is to identify the problems, do community outreach and develop a network of government and non-governmental groups to address the concerns of communities.

Torch Lake has recently been active in seeking solutions to the stamp sands dumped into the lake by former mining companies. The pollution has made it difficult to have a healthy benthos, or aquatic life, due to the spread of sands throughout the bottom of the lake. New efforts are underway to revive Torch Lake’s benthos that could lead to a major cleanup within the next decade.

Along with the work being done by the Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy Remediation Division to remove toxic chemicals along the west shore of Torch Lake, funding is being sought from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative to find ways to repair the damage created by copper mining companies since the latter part of the 19th century.

The public is invited to the SPAC meeting on both days to hear about progress being made by advisory councils across the state. The OGL and the Great Lakes Commission will update council members on state, federal and international activities.

Research currently being done at the University of Michigan and Michigan Technological University will also inform council members of effective ways to engage their communities.

The Keweenaw Bay Indian Community will have its president, Chris Swartz, explain the importance of Torch Lake to their community under their treaty rights and the work they have done to improve water quality on their reservation.

SPAC meetings are an opportunity for members to network and to find out not only what concerns an AOC has, but also to see the host community and its attractions.

For more information, contact Horst Schmidt, vice chairman of the SPAC, at horsthear@yahoo.com or 906-369-3797.