What's happening: The Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC) and the United States Environmental Protection Agency have met for the first time in a groundbreaking opportunity to improve environmental issues on tribal grounds near Lake Superior. The meeting came after the KBIC received a Equitable Resilience Technical Assistance grant through the EPA’s Office of Community Revitalization.
What it is: The grant will pay for environmental and human health risk assessments, which will lead to infrastructure projects. Both the EPA and the KBIC will work together to review the area near the Lake Superior shoreline and then develop design options for green infrastructure projects. KBIC was one of four state and tribal organizations to receive the grant, which was part of the EPA’s efforts to address legacy injustices made worse by climate change and COVID-19.
What they're saying: “KBIC feels very fortunate to be selected to receive assistance through the EPA Equitable Resilience Technical Assistance program. This assistance will provide important cultural preservation to continue our way of living on the L’Anse Indian Reservation without concern,” KBIC CEO Brigitte LaPoint-Dunham said. “Additionally, we are excited for the assessment to be performed and designs to be brought forward that will complete the shoreline project and ultimately mitigate the identified risks to critical infrastructure and ecosystems.”
What's the risk: Two issues are impacting the potential of the water systems in the KBIC: pollution from mining and erosion. The Copper Country has a rich mining history, but exposed metals and waste from the mining process can impact the natural water table for decades after mining operations stop.
Erosion can also cause problems by slowly erasing drinking water intakes, weakening natural and man-made infrastructure to water systems and lessening the area for natural ecosystems to thrive. Identifying ways to keep infrastructure on dry land is crucial to maintaining healthy and clean drinking water systems.
Why it's important: Five potential infrastructure projects are possible through the grant, according to the EPA, but hundreds of different species of plants and wildlife could be impacted through the process. Cleaning the water and fighting erosion has a cultural and environmental benefit.
“The traditional territory of the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community includes coastal and shoreline habitats which are critical places for culturally important species, foods, medicines and gathering,” EPA Regional Administrator Debra Shore said. “EPA is helping the KBIC assess the risks posed by flooding and coastal erosion to protect its shoreline areas from climate change and natural disasters.”
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