Red Cliff Band Will Raise More Munition Barrels From Lake Superior


In September, the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa will remove 25 of the munitions barrels secretly dumped into Lake Superior during the Cold War years.

There are nearly 1,500 barrels in at least three dump sites between Duluth and Knife River, Minnesota. The Army Corp of Engineers was ordered by the Department of Defense to dump the barrels between 1958 and 1962 because they held secret munitions parts.

Last year, contractors for the Red Cliff Band raised 25 barrels. They discovered that 22 of those 55-gallon drums held 15,000 cluster bomb detonators, each about the size of a USB flash drive. Because these still-live explosives could go off, contractors wrapped each barrel in over-packs and returned them to Lake Superior’s bottom.

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Now, Red Cliff representatives say, the group will remove those barrels so they can examine their contents. In a news conference last March, Tribal Chairwoman Rose Gurnoe-Soulier said this recovery is part of their mission to protect the ceded territory, including western Lake Superior: “We feel dedicated to do that. Dedicated to the cause of things in those barrels, seeing if it’s harmful to our lake, to the environment, to the wildlife, to our eagles and just to people who recreate on the lake, if they ingest water.”

In a recent email to Wisconsin Public Radio, Red Cliff Band says a preliminary report shows that the three non-hazardous barrels recovered show no threat to the water or fish consumption, but a final report won’t be ready until next May. There is no current plan to remove other barrels, but they say that may change.

So far, the DoD has paid Red Cliff $3.3 million to locate, remove and study the barrels.

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