Great Lakes

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Michiganders have until the end of the week to make suggestions for managing the state’s water resources for the next 30 years.

Jon Allan is the director of the Office of the Great Lakes in the Department of Environmental Quality.     Allan’s office is producing “Sustaining Michigan Water Heritage, A Strategy for the Next Generation,” a blueprint for protecting and improving Michigan’s water resources.

Michigan is toying with the idea of building open-water fish pens, like this one in Ontario.
Northern Ontario Aquaculture Association

 

OK, this is where I fess up and tell you that the answer to that headline is "only time will tell."

A scientific advisory panel is studying the possibility now (see their names here), and we expect to see their findings this October. After that report, there will be more "time telling" as state officials decide whether to allow it.

Senator Debbie Stabenow
USDAgov / Creative Commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Can American legislators help to convince the Canadian environmental minister to say no to a plan to store nuclear waste underground less than a mile from Lake Huron?

U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow hopes so. She unveiled legislation today related to a nuclear waste storage site planned for Kincardine, Ontario.

Rebecca Williams / Michigan Radio

Lake Superior is the largest freshwater lake in the world by surface area, and it has something the other Great Lakes don’t — stable populations of mostly native fish species.

But scientists say a key fish in Superior’s food web is now in trouble because of mild winters and an appetite for caviar in Europe.

Shelly Sulser

What makes someone want to live on an island?

Loreen Niewenhuis pondered this question in her book, A 1,000 Mile Great Lakes Island Adventure, which recounts her journey traveling to many of the islands in each of the Great Lakes. This is the third in her Great Lakes Adventure series and the last time she spoke with us she had just completed hiking the shorelines of all five Great Lakes.

Toxic hotspots, or "Areas of Concern" around Michigan's shoreline.
Great Lakes Commission

"Lake Erie is dead" and "the Cuyahoga River is on fire."

Those were actual headlines in the late 1960s spotlighting the deteriorating conditions of the Great Lakes in an age when rampant pollution was the norm.

Stories like these led to the passing of the Clean Water Act of 1972, which helped restore the Great Lakes.

Beachgoers on a Lake Michigan beach in the Upper Peninsula.
Joseph Novak / Creative Commons

So you want to stroll along a Great Lakes beach. Can a cottage-owner come shoo you away?

Today we looked at the water rules in the Great Lakes State.

Courtesy of NASA

The Next Idea

You can see Michigan from space. It’s the mitten surrounded by all that blue with the bunny jumping over it.

In fact, almost half of the Great Lakes State is comprised of water. Michigan has more shoreline than any other state in the union, with the exception of Alaska, which is seven times larger.

The State of Michigan is weighing whether to open the door to commercial fish farming in the Great Lakes.

Millions of rainbow trout are raised for food by Canadians every year in Lake Huron and promoters of the business say Michigan should follow suit and could even become a world leader in aquaculture.

State officials are trying to figure out what the risks are and the idea is likely to face opposition from sport fishing groups and other conservationists.

Aerial photo of the Bruce Nuclear Generating Station near Kincardine Ontario.
Chuck Szmurlo / Wikimedia Commons

The Bruce Nuclear site sits across Lake Huron from Michigan’s Thumb region.

Ontario Power Generation wants to bury some of its nuclear waste on the site in Kincardine, Ontario. All of the company’s low and intermediate level waste would be buried there forever, far underground.

Photo courtesy of Central Michigan Life

The two reasons: 1) the process of moving water that far, and that high, wouldn't make economic sense; 2) Great Lakes water is locked down politically.

The ongoing drought in California has hit its fourth year. 

Kathy Evans, West Michigan Shoreline Regional Development Commission

They're known as "Areas of Concern" and Michigan had 14 of them at one time.

Now, we have 12 of these toxic places where pollution from the past is lingering.

This summer, work crews will tackle the next phase of cleanup in the Muskegon Lake area.

Martin Schwalbe

There’s plastic trash in every one of the Great Lakes.

That plastic includes junk people leave at the beach, microbeads from consumer products such as shower gel, face wash and toothpaste, and pellets from plastic manufacturing.

Piping plover.
USFWS

RJ Wolcott of the Grand Rapids Press spoke with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Vince Cavalieri about the return of the piping plover.

The endangered birds winter along the Gulf of Mexico, the southern Atlantic coast and in the Caribbean. Cavalieri says breeding pairs will soon arrive along the coasts of the northern Great Lakes. 

NOAA

This Week in Michigan Politics, Emily Fox and Jack Lessenberry talk about the politics of water.

The Herbert C. Jackson prepares to enter the MacArthur Lock while the Tuscarora approaches the Poe Lock pier.
Michelle Hill / U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. (AP) - Another cargo shipping season is underway on the upper Great Lakes.

The navigational lock complex at Sault Ste. Marie was to open Wednesday just after midnight after being closed since January 15 for routine maintenance.

chicago skyline from lake michigan with wake
Flickr user get directly down / Flickr

This year marks the 17th season of The Great Lakes Cruise Company, and three new cruises between Chicago and Montreal, along with a new ship, the Saint Laurent, will be introduced this year.

West Michigan speedskater April Chernoby takes advantage of unusual ice conditions on Lake Michigan.
courtesy April Chernoby

The beginning of March brought on some unusual conditions along the coast of West Michigan. The ice off the coast of Grand Haven was as smooth as glass - perfect for skating. 

How the Great Lakes look from space as of yesterday (Feb. 23, 2015).
NASA

With below freezing and single digit temperatures expected to continue through the week, ice cover on the Great Lakes is expected to continue to increase.

We hit a peak for the season yesterday with almost 86% ice cover for the Great Lakes -- that's well above where we were at this time last year (62%).

www.greatlakescruising.com

SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. (AP) - As hard as it may be to imagine the nearly ice-covered Great Lakes as a Caribbean-like cruise ship destination, that's just what they'll be when summer comes to the world's largest fresh water system. 

Great Lakes Cruise Co. says it will begin offering itineraries between Montreal and Chicago in July on the M.S. Saint Laurent. The company's website describes the ship as a "4-star, intimate and charming ocean-going coastal vessel."

NOAA

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) - For the second consecutive winter, bitter weather threatens to turn the surface of the Great Lakes into a vast frozen plain.

The federal Great Lakes research laboratory in Ann Arbor reports Friday that nearly 81 percent of the five lakes' surface area is ice-covered. On Thursday, the ice cover exceeded 85 percent.

  The lab's George Leshkevich says the small drop-off probably happened because winds broke apart some ice, creating open spots.

Rachel Kramer / User: Flickr

A research team has discovered high levels of flame retardants in bald eagles in Michigan.

Polybrominated diphenyl ethers, or PBDEs, are in all kinds of consumer products.  They're in our couches, our TVs, our cars, our office chairs, the padding beneath our carpets, and the dust in our homes. But the chemicals don’t stay put. They leach out and build up in people and in wildlife.

"What we found was that some of the eagles, particularly in Michigan, had some of the highest exposures to flame retardant chemicals in the world," says Nil Basu, a professor at McGill University in Montreal.

http://www.seafoodwatch.org/

There’s a new report card of sorts out on fish sold commercially from the Great Lakes.

It’s from Seafood Watch. That’s a program at Monterey Bay Aquarium in California.

Hovercrafts float on air and are used in ice rescues
Flickr user Eric Bégin

Next weekend, firefighters and rescue personnel can brush up on their ice rescue skills at an event called the Ice Rescue Conference and Education in Muskegon.

Lake Michigan, one of the Great Lakes subject to clean-up by the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.
User airbutchie / flickr.com

A proposal to continue a wide-ranging Great Lakes cleanup program has been resurrected in Congress after falling short last month.

Rep. David Joyce, R-OH, introduced the bill Thursday. It would extend the soon-to-expire Great Lakes Restoration Initiative for another five years and authorize spending $300 million annually.

A dive team works on Line 5 under the Straits of Mackinac.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

The oil spill disaster on the Kalamazoo River got many in Michigan wondering about the state of Michigan's oil and gas pipelines.

NOAA

The Great Lakes go up and down. It's just a fact of life. 

Water levels in Lakes Superior, Michigan and Huron continue to be above their monthly averages for the first time in 16 years.

Roger Greil, manager of LSSU's Aquatic Research Laboratory, holds up a container full of Atlantic salmon fry that were hatched in the wild, not in the lab's hatchery.
John Shibley / LSSU

Lake Superior State University researchers have determined that Atlantic salmon are naturally reproducing in the St. Mary's River.

The prized game fish were originally native to Lake Ontario, but experienced a massive population decline by the late 1800's. Today, Atlantic salmon are stocked in the St. Mary's River and in other parts of the upper Great Lakes.

Though the Atlantic salmon population remained healthy when maintained by the St. Mary's fishery, the salmon population did not take root naturally, apparently due to a thiamine deficiency.

While conducting research for his senior undergraduate thesis on sturgeon, Stefan Tucker found what he suspected were Atlantic salmon fry in the St. Mary's River. His identification was later confirmed by University of Michigan taxonomist Gerald Smith. Tucker and a team of researchers concluded that the Atlantic salmon population is indeed naturally reproducing.

A press release from Lake Superior State University explains the implications of this finding:

The discovery is not only exciting for those at LSSU, the Michigan Dept. of Natural Resources, and others who have been involved with stocking Atlantic salmon in the upper Great Lakes for more than two decades, but also to anyone who follows the changing dynamics of the Great Lakes, especially in relation to lake trout and salmonids.

Though this discovery answers one question, it begs others.

Tucker concluded his thesis by stating that "the extent of natural reproduction and mechanisms influencing reproductive success are unclear and warrant further attention."

- Ari Sandberg, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Clarence S. Metcalf Great Lakes Maritime Research Library

Michigan Radio's M I Curious project is a news experiment where we investigate questions submitted by the public about our state and its people.

As part of our M I Curious project, Shelly Scott asked Michigan Radio this question:

Have there ever been pirates on the Great Lakes?

“I thought: we’ve got such nice water bodies around here, why don’t we hear anything about fantastic things that happened on the Great Lakes?” she says.

Scott is an engineer at Ford and she’s also a leader of her daughter’s Girl Scout troop.  These 5th grade girls had some questions about freshwater pirates too:

“What do pirate ships look like? Was there any pirate treasure in the Great Lakes? How did they get away with stealing other people’s treasure?” asked Maria Kokko, Lilli Semel and Shannon Scott.

A silver carp.
Michigan Sea Grant

ALLEGAN, Mich. - Officials say genetic material of Asian carp has been found in a river in the Kalamazoo River in southwestern Michigan.

The state Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Tuesday announced DNA from silver carp was detected in one of 200 samples taken in July the Kalamazoo River in Allegan County. The river flows into Lake Michigan.

Officials say the discovery marks the first time so-called environmental DNA for silver carp has been found in Michigan's Great Lakes waters outside of Maumee Bay in Lake Erie. In a statement, the agencies say there's "no evidence that a population of silver carp is established."

The silver carp is one of the Asian species threatening to invade the Great Lakes and compete with native fish for food.

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