Cleanup Gives New Life

to Minnesota Waterway

Fish and wildlife have returned to a Minnesota waterway that for decades was one of the worst pollution sites in the Great Lakes.


Stryker Bay is a 41-acre bay in Duluth Harbor, where the St. Louis River enters Lake Superior. From the late 1800s through the 1960s, tar and coke factories, meatpacking plants and other heavy industry ringed Duluth Harbor. Those factories discharged a massive toxic stew into the harbor, much of which settled in sediment at the bottom of Stryker Bay. Officials at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency began working on a cleanup in 1979, and the site was placed on the federal Superfund list in 1983. The dredging of contaminated sediments began in 2006 and was completed in 2010. The project removed about 200,000 cubic yards of toxic mud from the bottom of the bay; another 175,000 acres of contaminated sediment were left in the bay and capped with a layer of clean sand and a carbon mat designed to permanently isolate the contaminants from the waters of Duluth Harbor. The project also created about 13 acres of green space by capping two former industrial boat slips that were severely polluted. That green space provided habitat for migratory birds and endangered piping plovers.


Resource Challenges Addressed

  • Contaminated sediment
  • Bad water quality
  • Loss of fish and wildlife habitate


A bay in the St. Louis River system near Duluth, Minn.

Stryker Bay is one of many in the St. Louis River. Thanks to restoration, fish and wildlife are returning to Stryker Bay. Photo credit: Wisconsin Sea Grant.

Results and Accomplishments

Fish and wildlife have returned to the bay and it is now safe to swim in the water. In 2013, the city of Duluth received a $303,787 grant to clean up a 6.65-acre parcel of land adjacent to Stryker Bay. The site will be redeveloped into a 7,200 square foot building that will house an office, warehouse and fabrication shop for a local manufacturer.