Lake Superior north shore said
under threat from U.S. road-building company
The longest as-yet undeveloped stretch of Lake Superior
coastline is under threat from a large American road-building
company, some Canadian and American environmentalists
Of concern are aggregate-extraction plans along 2.5 kilometres
of shoreline at Michipicoten Bay just west of Wawa, Ont.
The 400-hectare site on the rugged northeast shore is
part of the Great Lakes Heritage Coast, a stunning area
much loved by Canada's Group of Seven artists.
The land owner is John Carlo Inc., one of Michigan's
largest paving companies. The company plans to drill,
blast and crush the ancient bedrock into aggregate, which
it would then ship by lake freighter to the state for
No one from the company could not be reached for comment.
Environmentalists say the noise and potentially contaminated
rock dust from the proposed round-the-clock operation
will harm sensitive wildlife such as woodland caribou
and peregrine falcons, damage fish habitat and hurt the
eco-tourism industry that promotes the wilderness experience.
"You can't find this kind of shoreline anywhere
else," says Mary Jo Cullen of the group Citizens
Concerns for Michipicoten Bay.
The proposed aggregate extraction has pitted the small
environmental group against the construction company but
larger groups, such as the U.S.-based National Wildlife
Federation, are also starting to pay attention.
"If we're going to make more roads in Michigan,
it doesn't have to come at the expense of the largest
undeveloped stretch left on Lake Superior," said
the federation's Michelle Halley from Marquette, Mich.
On Wednesday, an American organization called Light Hawk
plans to fly a group of Michigan decision makers, including
a representative of the pro-environment governor's office
to the area so they can see what's at stake. In the past,
Light Hawk has taken politicians to see clear-cutting
on the West Coast.
The aim is to persuade people and politicians in the
U.S. midwest to speak out against having their roads paved
with rock blasted from the undeveloped shoreline of Lake
"In the best-case scenario, the state of Michigan
would refuse to buy aggregate from this particular mine,"
Ontario's Natural Resources Ministry, which manages the
Great Lakes Heritage Coast, has long urged communities
along the shore to develop enterprises such as ecotourism
that respect the natural environment of the area.
However, the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines
supports the aggregate operation. It has also identified
other sites along heritage coast for similar bedrock extraction.
Cullen calls it "government insanity."
"(Natural Resources) is throwing millions of dollars
into developing a landscape, which another ministry is
planning to blow up," she says.
Ontario's Ministry of the Environment is currently deciding
whether to demand an environmental assessment of the proposal.