Nipigon Bay: Area of Concern

Nipigon Bay was designated as an Area of Concern (AOC) in 1987 under the Canada-U.S. Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. Pollution from industrial and wastewater sources, hydro-electric development in Lake Nipigon and Nipigon River, and debris from past logging activities contributed to the degraded water quality and environmental health. Seven out of 14 beneficial use impairments (BUIs) were identified, which measure the environmental, human health or economic impact of poor water quality. An additional beneficial use was deemed “requiring further assessment”, meaning more information was required to determine whether it was impaired.  

Accomplishments

All remedial actions have been completed and all beneficial uses have been restored. Nipigon Bay is now being proposed for delisting. We delist an AOC when monitoring shows that targets for all BUIs have been met and environmental quality has been restored.

Over the past 30 years, there has been significant progress in restoring the water and environmental quality in the AOC. This includes:

  • improvements to the Township of Nipigon’s and Township of Red Rock’s municipal wastewater treatment, with the former bringing a secondary treatment facility into operation in 2012 and the latter expected for 2021
  • industrial changes to comply with stricter federal and provincial pulp and paper regulations in the mid-1990s, which led to improvements in water quality
  • enhancing fish populations, naturalizing aquatic habitat and creating additional spawning, nursery and feeding habitat through the following actions: naturalizing river flow near hydroelectric dams, restoring former wetlands and historic spawning grounds in the lower Nipigon River, rehabilitating Clearwater Creek to restore a severely degraded brook trout habitat, creating fish and wildlife habitat in the Township of Red Rock’s marina, and renaturalizing Kama Creek

Restoration of beneficial uses

Significant progress has been made to improve environmental conditions in the AOC. These beneficial uses are no longer considered “impaired”:

  • tainted of fish and wildlife flavor (1995)
  • restrictions on dredging activities (1995)
  • fish tumours or other deformities (1995)
  • degradation of fish and wildlife populations (2016)
  • degradation of benthos (2016)
  • eutrophication or undesirable algae (2016)
  • degradation of aesthetics (2016)
  • loss of fish and wildlife habitat (2016)

Recent actions

The overall health of Nipigon Bay AOC has improved. In 2016, a Remedial Action Plan Completion Report was prepared and presented to the community outlining how water quality has improved, fish populations have recovered, fish habitats are enhanced, aesthetics are improved and healthier populations of sediment-dwelling organisms (benthos) have been established.

Remaining actions

Environmental monitoring has confirmed that restoration targets have been achieved and beneficial uses have been restored. The final action is to confirm community support of the restoration of the AOC.

Outlook

Nipigon Bay has made significant progress towards restoration since its designation as an AOC. Following the completion of Indigenous, public and stakeholder engagement on delisting, we will issue a decision confirming restoration of the Nipigon Bay AOC.

Our partners

We partner with other levels of government, non-government groups, Indigenous communities and members of the public. This restoration work requires a large amount of scientific and technical expertise, local knowledge, hard work and the help of:

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