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WATER RESOURCES MANAGEMENT PLAN
ISLE ROYALE NATIONAL PARK
David L. Vana-Miller
Water Resources Division
National Park Service
Fort Collins, CO
Phyllis Green Date
Isle Royale National Park
ISLE ROYALE NATIONAL PARK MANAGEMENT PLAN AND THE NATIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY ACT (NEPA) (David V.)
A. Park Location and Description
B. Park Authorizing Legislation and Significance
C. Water Resources Management Plan Objectives (David V.)
D. Park Visitation
II. LAWS, POLICIES AND PROGRAMS RELEVANT TO THE WRMP
A. Federal Laws Important to the National Park System and ISRO
B. Great Lakes Specific Laws and Statutes Relevant to ISRO
C. Executive Orders Relevant to the ISRO WRMP
D. State of Michigan Statutes Relevant to ISRO
E. Treaties between First Nations and the United States
F. International and Regional Agreements, Treaties, Conventions and Compacts
G. Nonbinding Regional Agreements
H. Support for ISRO Water Resources Management through Partnerships and
III. OTHER PLANS AND CONCURRENT PLANNING ACTIVITIES
IV. EXISTING RESOURCE CONDITIONS
A. Environmental Setting
1. Lake Superior
3. Air Quality
4. Geology / Mineral History
5. Glacial Period
8. Land Use, Past and Present
B. Water Resources
1. Ground Water Hydrology
i. Water quantity and quality
ii. Watershed studies
iii. Stream fish
iv. Stream benthic invertebrates
3. Inland Lakes
i. Water Quality
ii. Inland Lakes Fish
iii. Lake Benthic Invertebrates
4. Wetlands and Aquatic Vegetation
i. Wetland Ecology Background
ii. Isle Royale Wetlands Lake Macrophytes
5. Lake Superior Near Shore Zone
i. Near Shore Water Quality
iii. Near Shore Fisheries
iv. Shoreline Splash Pools
ii. Persistent Organic Pollutants
7. Amphibians and Reptiles
8. Aquatic-based Vertebrates
iv. Bald Eagle and Osprey
v. Colonial Water Birds
vi. Otter, Mink and Muskrat
9. Aquatic Invasive Species
C. Rare, Threatened and Endangered Species
D. Aquatic-based Effects of Climate Change
E. Current Park Operations
V. WATER RESOURCES PLANNING AND MANAGEMENT ISSUES AND
A. High Priority Issues
1. Need for Permanent Fulltime “Water Resources Professional” (David V.)
2. Water Resources Data, Information and Monitoring Needs for ISRO
(David V. review)
3. Prevention and Control Plan for Invasive Species
4. Atmospheric Deposition of Toxic Contaminants (David V.)
B. Medium Priority Issues
1. Pollution from Boats / Effects of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons
2. Effects of Climate Change on the Great Lakes
3. Bathymetric Mapping
C. Further Recommendations
2. Park Inventory and Monitoring Program
VI. LITERATURE CITED
Appendix A Laws Important to the National Park
Appendix B Partnership Sources
Appendix C Project Statements / Recommendations
1. Natural Climate Variability, Long-Term Changes and the Challenge of Climate Change Prediction
2. Developing an Early Detection and Monitoring System and Rapid Response Plan for Aquatic Invasive Species
Appendix D Conversion Table
Appendix E Species List
Appendix F Scoping Workshop Minutes, Participants List, Agenda
The National Parks Service acknowledges and extends its appreciation to the many individuals who collaborated on, participated in and contributed to the preparation and completion of this Water Resources Management Plan for Isle Royale National Park (ISRO). Special appreciation goes to the following individuals from the National Park Service who participated as part of the ISRO WRMP team: David Vana-Miller from WRD; Brenda Moraska-Lafrancois from the Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway; Jack Oelfke, current chief, Natural and Cultural Resource Management Division, North Cascades National Park in Washington and the former branch chief of Natural Resources at ISRO, who was instrumental in setting up the Water Resource Management Plan process for the Park and provided access to resource management documents when we first started this process; and to Jay Glace and Mark Romanski, ISRO Park Staff. Appreciation is also extended to Phyllis Green, superintendent, Isle Royale National Park, and Jean Battles, chief of the Natural Resources Management Division for the Park.
Gratitude and appreciation is extended to the Great Lakes Commission staff members principally involved with this project: Thomas Crane, program manager and Michael Schneider, senior program specialist in the Resource Management Program. Special thanks go to Mike Schneider for his role in coordinating this effort for the park. Appreciation is also extended to the following Commission staff members who contributed to the various sections of the WRMP: Thomas Rayburn and Anne Sturm, Environmental Quality Program; Laura Blackburn, Laura Kaminski, Jon Dettling and Stuart Eddy, Data and Information Management Program; and Christine Manninen, Communications and Internet Technology Program, and President, Board of Directors, 2002-04, for the Isle Royale Natural History Association.
Michael Hyslop, of Michigan Technological University, provided excellent technical support to the project and contributed numerous maps that are used as figures in the plan. Jack Oelfke while on the ISRO staff contributed much to the vision of the plan in its early stages, as did Darin Carlysle, with the USGS previously with NPS-WRD. Suzanne Yoch of St. Croix Watershed Research Station provided assistance with literature searches. Ann Zimmerman, librarian at the USGS Great Lakes Science Center, provided extensive research assistance and support in the initial phase of the project.
Finally, the National Park Service (NPS) gratefully acknowledges the Great Lakes-Northern Forest Cooperative Ecosystem Studies Unit for its involvement in the project, particularly in the area of project administration.
Water is a dominant landscape element for national park units of the Great Lakes region. Given the region’s abundance of high quality fresh surface and groundwater and the fragility of these resources, proper conservation and management is a paramount concern. The Great Lakes region also is faced with numerous environmental problems from point and nonpoint sources of pollution, ongoing and increasing ecosystem impacts from anthropogenic sources caused by development and unwise land use decisions and the inherent pressures from increases in population density. With this as a backdrop it is clear that the preservation and conservation of water resources is critical to the maintenance of the biological diversity for parks such as Isle Royale.
Specific management objectives developed as part of the water resources planning process pertaining to water resources and water-dependent environments within ISRO include:
This Water Resources Management Plan provides a recommended course of management action for achieving these objectives.
Isle Royale National Park (ISRO) is an island archipelago in western Lake Superior. It is primarily a wilderness and maritime park. Wildlife, plants and habitat along with tourism and recreation are directly or indirectly tied to the quality and quantity of water resources of the park. Because of its unique ecosystems, isolation from the mainland and restricted land uses, changes to the Isle Royale landscape as well as land use changes in the Lake Superior watershed have the potential to greatly affect the park’s water resources. While it’s true that significant information already exists concerning the water resources of the park, the information is not comprehensive and lacks consistency and uniformity. Therefore a systematic and uniform approach to the collection and analysis of water resources data and information for Isle Royale is needed.
The primary purpose of this Water Resources Management Plan (WRMP) for ISRO is to assist park management with water resources-related decisions by providing information on potential threats to the park’s water resources and guidance on immediate actions that can prevent or mitigate water resource degradation. In this regard, the plan provides a thorough overview of existing water resource information; identifies and discusses a number of water-related issues and management concerns; and recommends a course of action for addressing high priority water-related issues at the park. Project statements that address critical water resource issues are also included and can be incorporated into the park’s Resource Management Plan for future funding consideration. These project statements address the water resource issues within the context of water-related management objectives. This connection between management actions, issues, and objectives is the cornerstone of issue-driven planning.
Isle Royale National Park was authorized by Congress on March 3, 1931," to conserve a prime example of North Woods Wilderness." With Senate Bill S6221 the House and Senate authorized the establishment of ISRO with the provision that, “the United States shall not purchase by appropriation of public monies any lands within the aforesaid area, but such lands shall be secured by the United States only by public or private donation.” At that time it was the only national park in the Great Lakes area. ISRO is under the exclusive jurisdiction of the United States. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR), USCG and the U. S. Customs Service may, at times, have officers in the park to enforce laws and regulations.
The WRMP discusses laws, policies and programs relevant to ISRO water resource management issues (see Appendix A), as well as other plans and concurrent planning activities for the park. As with other national parks and other government agencies in general, the park faces many of the same financial complexities resulting from expanding responsibilities in light of decreasing funding sources. ISRO administrators face issues involving maintenance backlogs, deficient funding for demands of basic operations, and a current inability to invest fully in priority resource areas. Other agencies and organizations and programs exist to collaborate with the NPS and promote expanded park participation in areas related to air, land and water resources management particularly as these relate to broader Great Lakes restoration efforts. To meet these ongoing challenges, the Park must seek to diversify its funding sources and develop new operating techniques and innovative strategies in partnership with other organizations and resource sources (see Appendix B).
The park’s remote location in the northwestern portion of Lake Superior and lack of conterminous land use, make ISRO attractive for long-term ecological monitoring and hypothesis testing. The archipelago consists of one large island (45 miles long by 9 miles wide) that is surrounded by about 400 small islands. Although it is only about 13 miles from the Canadian shoreline (Ontario), the park is under the political jurisdiction of the United States in the state of Michigan, and represents the northern-most point in Michigan. The park is approximately 18 miles from Minnesota and 70 miles northwest of Houghton, Michigan on Michigan's Keewanaw Peninsula
The park encompasses approximately 571,790 acres, 75 percent of which is aquatic habitat primarily because the park boundary extends from the main island 4.5 miles into Lake Superior. Total land area is 133,781 acres. Aquatic habitats cover a wide spectrum ranging from the deep, cold waters of Lake Superior to ISRO’s many inland lakes (259 larger than ¼ acre; largest is Siskiwit Lake), streams (240 longer than 300 feet), beaver ponds, marshes and bogs of the island. The inland lakes have watershed areas that range from 29.8 to 14,359 acres. Lake surface area ranges from 0.5 to 4,040 acres, and maximum depth ranges from 5 to 150 feet. The four largest streams by length are concentrated in the southwestern end of the main island, the longest being Washington Creek at approximately 14 miles in length. Wetland environments are common on the island and are characterized by specialized vegetation.
Over 99 % of the park land base (approximately 132,111 acres) has been designated as federal wilderness to be managed in accordance with provisions of the Wilderness Act of 1964. In 1980 the park was designated a U.S. biosphere reserve under the United Nations Man and the Biosphere Program, giving it global scientific and educational significance. The park visitor season is April 16 to October 31, with full services offered from mid-June to Labor Day. ISRO is the only national park that is closed to visitors over the winter. No vehicles or wheeled devices are allowed on the island including bicycles or canoe portage devices. There are no roads in the park and land motor vehicles are only allowed at the park administration headquarters on Mott Island. There are 165 miles of hiking trails on the main island, with visitor centers at Windigo and Rock Harbor. The lodge at Rock Harbor offers private guest rooms with private baths for overnight stays. A water treatment facility at Rock Harbor provides water service to the guest lodge, restaurant, and park visitor center in the immediate area. Transportation on the main island or between islands is limited to boat, ferry, or sea plane.
The orientation of the archipelago is roughly parallel to the north shore of Lake Superior, with its long axis running in from a northeast to southwest direction. The main island features a series ridges and valleys which run parallel to the long axis, with the “backbone” of the island, Greenstone Ridge, running the full length of the island through its center. This ridge/valley topography has created many swamp environments in most of the valleys.
The geological history of Isle Royale National Park began approximately 1.2 billion years ago. A series of rifts, running for thousands of miles, buckled and cracked in long lines across the park area. Molten flowing lava rose to the cracks. As these flows stopped and cooled, layers of volcanic igneous rock were formed, building a lava bed that reached over 10,000 feet thick. Later, softer eroded rock and gravel would wash into the low areas, forming layers of softer rocks like sandstone and conglomerates between sheets of the harder volcanic layers (Rennicke, 1989).
During the last million years, a series of four major glaciers moved down over the northern United States and Canada, advancing as far south as southern Ohio. The last major glaciation, known as the Wisconsinan, ended in the Superior area approximately ten thousand years ago, forming the ancestral Great Lakes and thousands of surrounding smaller lakes (McNab and Avers 1994). The ridge-valley topographic profile of the Island was reinforced as the ice sheet in this last glacial period flowed parallel to the ridges, digging deeper into the soft rock layers.
The vegetation of modern day Isle Royale has been influenced by a number of factors: the remoteness of the Island; its thin soils, rugged bedrock and rock outcroppings; short growing season; winds and lake storms; temperatures ameliorated by Lake Superior; and natural and man-made fire. Perhaps the most unique feature of the park is the natural barrier created by Lake Superior which hindered the immigration and emigration of additional plant and animal species. The island has fewer species than adjacent mainland areas, some of which are unique to the island (DuFresne NPS 2002).
The earliest human inhabitants of Isle Royale and its surrounding Islands were North American Native American Indian tribes. Native American hunters reached the north shores of Lake Superior as early as 8,000 or 9,000 BC. The Native American way of live has thought to have remained unchanged for several thousand years in the area, until the first European contact came from French explorers from the south and French traders from the east. Economic activity pursued by modern white settlers included copper mining (which had the greatest environmental effects) and commercial fishing.
Ground water as a potential source of public water supply specifically on Isle Royale was investigated in 1981 (Grannemann and Twenter, 1982). Although the island park is surrounded by fresh water of Lake Superior, the quality of water from the lake and associated bays is not always suitable for human consumption without processing through formal water treatment facilities. On Isle Royale, running waters are plentiful but generally small and/or intermittent. Johnson, in his 1980 thesis on the Siskiwit River, stated “Most of the water draining off the island first flows quickly in rivulets and brooks down ridge slopes, then turns sluggish as it reaches the valleys and drains through swamps and beaver ponds toward Lake Superior…many of the small streams generally proceed toward the ends of the island, with a few assuming routes through narrow cross valleys which have resulted from faulting (Johnson 1980).
Stream and watershed studies at Isle Royale were initiated in 1982, when NPS established the Watershed Research Program with four ecosystem study sites in Olympic National Park, Rocky Mountain National Park, and Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park, and the Wallace Lake watershed near Moskey Basin at ISRO. The program was designed to address large-scale stressors such as atmospheric deposition and climate change via an understanding of watershed processes and linkages between land, water and the atmosphere (Hermann and Stottlemyer 1991). ISRO was selected due to its remote location, its history of limited human land use, its representation of a southern boreal forest ecotone, its relatively high atmospheric deposition and its susceptibility to climate changes (Stottlemyer et al. 1998). Twenty years of intensive research have generated a wealth of information about how ISRO watersheds function and how atmospheric constituents are cycled through boreal forest, soils, snow, and surface waters. Much of this work was recently compiled and summarized (Stottlemyer et. al. 1998).
The Great Lakes are the most prominent natural feature of the larger geographic region of which ISRO is a part. The Great Lakes have a combined surface area of about 94,000 mi2 draining more than twice as much land, and are among the largest, deepest lakes in the world. They are the largest single aggregation of freshwater on the planet, excluding the polar ice caps, holding an estimated six quadrillion gallons of water or 18 percent of the world supply (Glassner-Shwayer GLC Great Lakes Commission 1999).
Lake Superior is the largest (both in surface area and volume), coolest, and most northern of the Great Lakes. The average and maximum depths are 489 and 1,335 feet, respectively. The lake contains 2,934 mi3 of water with a retention time of 191 years. The total watershed area of Lake Superior is 81,000 square miles (49,300 in land drainage area and 31,700 in water measured at low water datum). Most of the basin is forested, with little agriculture because of cool climate and poor soils. The forests and sparse population result in relatively few pollutants entering the lake, except through airborne transport. The total binational Lake Superior basin population is 607,121 with 425,548 living in the United States portion and 181,573 living in the Canadian portion. (U.S. Environmental Protection A gency and Government of Canada 1995) The only outlet for the lake is the St. Mary’s River at the far southeastern corner of the lake at Sault St. Marie, MI.
Despite its large size, Lake Superior is sensitive to the effects of a wide range of pollutants, from both point and nonpoint sources (U.S. Environmental Protection A gency and Government of Canada 1995). Because of the lake’s large surface area, it is vulnerable to atmospheric pollutant deposition onto the lake surface. In addition, the high retention time for the lake’s volume of water means that pollutants that enter the lake are retained in the system and become more concentrated over time.
The National Park Service and Isle Royale National Park personnel held a water resources scoping meeting in Houghton, Michigan, in April 2002. The purpose of this meeting was to identify and prioritize water resource issues and management concerns for Isle Royale National Park. The 16 attendees at the meeting included park staff, local stakeholders and Great Lakes Commission (GLC) staff. After a lengthy open discussion with input from all participants, a total of 14 water resources issues were identified and prioritized by the group. This list was refined and modified in subsequent contacts and discussion with staff members. National park staff and GLC staff evaluated the highest priority issues that could be feasibly addressed by the park, given current park funding and personnel constraints. The resulting list of water resources issues for ISRO is as follows:
Need for permanent full-time water resources professional
Water resources data, information and monitoring needs for ISRO
ANS prevention and control prevention plan for invasive species
Atmospheric deposition of toxic contaminants
Pollution from Boats / PAHs
Global Climate Change
In summary, water is an important resource for the functioning of natural systems and providing for visitor use in ISRO. Water manifests itself into a diversity of geomorphic and habitat types that allow the park to support diverse biological resources. Maintaining this diversity depends at least partially upon careful safeguarding of the park’s water resources and water-dependent environments, and minimizing stresses that can affect these resources from both inside and outside of the park’s boundaries.
ISLE ROYALE NATIONAL PARK MANAGEMENT PLAN and NEPA (David V.)
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