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Great Lakes

Peder Toftegaard Olsen

Plenty of us will be enjoying the water and exploring the outdoors in Michigan this summer.

But writer, broadcaster, and attorney Steve Lehto is taking these sorts of adventures to a new level.

This July, Lehto will be taking a 1,200-mile motorized canoe trip from Duluth to Detroit via Sault Ste. Marie. He is retracing the path of famous Michigan explorer Douglass Houghton in the 1830s and 1840s.

Saugatuck Dunes
Wikimedia / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

There's no better time than summer to enjoy Michigan's Great Lakes.

It is also a great time to learn something new about the freshwater seas that surround our state.

Because the lakes aren't just the perfect summer vacation spot, they're also a big part of Michigan's culture, economy, and environment.

Lily Holshoe in her Mermaid Nadie costume touching a fish
Courtesy of Lily Holshoe

 

If South Haven figures in your Memorial Day plans, get ready: You're going to see mermaids, mermen, and even merkids. 

It's the first-ever Mermaid MegaFest – four days of celebrating merfolk while focusing on preserving our natural freshwater resources. 

Kristina Stonehill

When you think of a mermaid story, maybe an ocean comes to mind.

But couldn’t a mermaid live in the Great Lakes? Lake Michigan maybe?

Writers Linda Nemec Foster and Anne-Marie Oomen posed that question to each other ten years ago. Their new book is called The Lake Michigan Mermaid: A Tale in Poems.

Asian Carp
Kate Gardiner / Flickr - http://bit.ly/1rFrzRK

I woke up this morning thinking about Asian carp.

I’d noticed that our state Senate spent much of yesterday doing things like voting to cut funding for those trying to get off Medicaid.

Meanwhile, despite the fact that many urban areas like Ann Arbor are overrun with white-tailed deer, the state House was voting to outlaw sterilizing them. I can’t imagine why anyone would say that our lawmakers don’t have their priorities straight.

satellite map of Michigan, the Great Lakes
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

Congress passed a budget that gets us through the summer, Donald Trump has signed it, and it contains good news for all of us. For one thing, it means we have again dodged a government shutdown, at least till September.

For another, for the second year in a row, Congress has mostly reversed all the bad things the Trump administration wanted to do to Michigan. That would have included eliminating funds to protect the nation’s most important source of fresh water, a $300 million dollar program called the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

An old image of a two-masted schooner ship
Courtesy of Craig Rich

 


 

She sank in Lake Michigan during a squall in 1873. 
 
Now Michigan shipwreck hunters say they've discovered the final resting place of the Lizzie Throop, and it's a big find: the two-masted schooner is an important part of West Michigan's maritime history. 

John Auchter / Michigan Radio

Next week, March 11–17, is Sunshine Week. For us Michiganders, the timing may seem a little off. It is squarely in the hopeless stage of our long, gray winter — what's this talk of "sunshine"? That's just mean.

Nevertheless, the American Society of News Editors and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press use this week each year to promote the importance of access to public information. Sunshine is a symbol for our communities to have transparent access to what's going on in our government. The tagline is: "It's Your Right to Know."

yooperann / FLICKR - http://bit.ly/1xMszCg

Let's talk about water.

That's the invitation from the Michigan Humanities Council to communities and organizations around the state. The council is accepting applications for groups to host Third Coast Conversations: Dialogues about Water in Michigan.

satellite map of Michigan, the Great Lakes
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

There are a lot of baffling things about President Trump, but perhaps the most baffling is this: Usually, when you win a close election, you do everything you can to hang on to those voters who gave you victory.

Trump won the last election by a tiny margin, and he won it in the Great Lakes states, flipping Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Ohio.

fungi growing on cheerio
Courtesy of Robert Cichewicz

Could a fungus from the bottom of the Great Lakes hold a cure for cancer?

The final answer is still far in the distance, but a team of scientists believes there is promise in newly discovered Great Lakes fungi.

Sampling locations in the Great Lakes region.
USGS/courtesy of Michelle Hladik

Insecticides widely used on farms, lawns and gardens — known as neonicotinoids — are showing up in rivers across the Great Lakes region.

Asian carp leaping out of a river.
Great Lakes Fishery Commission

On Wednesday, Gov. Rick Snyder announced an interstate partnership with leaders of the Great Lakes states to reduce the risk of invasive carp from entering the Great Lakes by strengthening defenses in a Chicago-area waterway. Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Ontario are the founding members of the partnership, representing more than 90% of the Great Lakes surface area.

The initiative contributes to reducing costs of upgrading the Brand Road Lock and Dam near Joliet, Illinois, a key choke point between the carp-infested Illinois River and Lake Michigan.

Alexis Rockman

 

 

He’s been widely praised for his paintings about natural history and ecological history.

 

Now, New York artist Alexis Rockman has turned to Michigan’s treasure — the Great Lakes.

 

His new show, "Alexis Rockman: The Great Lakes Cycle," opens at the Grand Rapids Art Museum on Jan. 27.

Ryan Utz / Chatham University

There’s too much salt getting into our rivers and streams.

A new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences finds over the past 50 years, freshwater systems across the country have become saltier, and that can cause problems for people, wildlife and our infrastructure.

REBECCA WILLIAMS / MICHIGAN RADIO

There are about 32,000 islands in the Great Lakes. About 30 of them have year-round residents – people who stick it out through the long winter.

Now, Great Lakes islanders are banding together.

School plane
Rebecca Williams / Michigan Radio

There are about 32,000 islands in the Great Lakes. Most are uninhabited. But for those who live year-round on about 30 of them, it can be an isolating experience. Now, Great Lakes islanders are getting together to tackle some of the problems they have in common.

A small fish is held in a net.
Sarah Bird

 


If you eat wild caught fish from Michigan, you might know about fish consumption advisories. They’re recommended limits on safe amounts of fish to eat, and they're necessary because toxic chemicals build up in fish in the Great Lakes and inland lakes and streams.

NOAA

 A new report finds governments are not making “sufficient progress” toward insuring the “drinkability, swimmability and fishability of the Great Lakes.”

The report, entitled the First Triennial Assessment of Progress on the Great Lakes, comes from the International Joint Commission, or IJC.   The IJC is a bi-national organization created under the Boundary Water Treaty of 1909.

The triennial assessment released today was required under a 2012 agreement.

The report finds not enough progress in reducing pollutants, including phosphorus which is creating cyanobacteria blooms in Lake Erie.  A bloom three years ago forced Toledo to shut off its water for two days.

aerial photo of the Great Lakes
National Oceanic and And Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

The Great Lakes Commission and Lawrence Technological University are teaming up to protect the Great Lakes by changing the way cities think about rain water.

They want to explore new ways communities can handle storm water to prevent things like flooding and sewage overflow into the lakes.

Michael Polich is a program specialist with the Great Lakes Commission. He says cities often view alternate storm water technologies as different and untested, making them hesitant to implement new ideas.

satellite map of Michigan, the Great Lakes
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

The principle a doctor is supposed to follow in dealing with patients is, “first, do no harm.” The most valuable natural resource this state and region has is undoubtedly the Great Lakes. They contain twenty percent of the world’s surface fresh water. They mean billions of dollars every year in recreational boating and fishing and other activities.

Grass carp
USGS

There are several federal agencies in charge of trying to control Asian carp, and they just came out with their latest report to Congress on how those efforts are going.

St. Lawrence Seaway
Kunal Mukherjee / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Even among those who live in the Great Lakes State, there is a lot of confusion about the health of the Great Lakes.

Some believe that because the lakes are clearer than ever, they’re more healthy, when in fact that clarity is due to invasive species killing off the bottom of the food chain.

Marquette Police Department

The "gales of November" came early to the Upper Peninsula and Lake Superior. To make things extra interesting, snow hit the ground today too, and more is on the way.

On Tuesday, this stormy weather produced a 28.8-foot wave at the Granite Island buoy located north of Marquette, says MLive chief meteorologist Mark Torregrossa.

Pete Markham / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Lake Superior is cold, deep and clear. But it’s no longer the clearest of the Great Lakes.

Lakes Michigan and Huron have gotten clearer, bumping Lake Superior to number three.

Scientists have been able to figure how much clearer by using satellite imagery.

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
Rhonda Noren / Flickr, http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

An Upper Peninsula nonprofit group has received a federal grant for a "green infrastructure" project intended to protect Lake Superior waters near Marquette.

The Environmental Protection Agency awarded the $288,500 grant to the Superior Watershed Partnership.

The project will relocate an open-channel drain in Marquette that discharges storm water across a public beach and into the lake. The drain's outfall will be moved to an adjacent wetland.

The Calumet
shipwrecklog / Flickr - http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

The U.S. Coast Guard says a Great Lakes freighter has run aground in the St. Mary's River, which runs between the U.S. and Canada along Michigan's eastern Upper Peninsula.

The Coast Guard says the 629-foot (192-meter) U.S. vessel named Calumet left a steel facility in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, and was heading to its next port when it ran aground late Wednesday near Sugar Island. No injuries were reported.

Jamie walking along beach
Courtesy of James Racklyeft

The pleasures of summertime on the Great Lakes carry a risk: drowning.

The Great Lakes Water Safety Consortium has been tracking drownings in the Great Lakes since 2010. They're up to nearly 590 deaths.

Most of those could have been prevented. The group's mission is to try and do just that. 

asian carp on bucket
COURTESY OF ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says it will release a previously delayed report on measures that could be taken at an Illinois waterway chokepoint to prevent Asian carp from reaching the Great Lakes.

The corps says the report involving the Brandon Road Lock and Dam will be made public Aug. 7. Project manager Andrew Leichty says it will evaluate "structural and non-structural options and technologies."

Josephine Mandamin(center) with fellow water walkers near Harrow, Ontario.
Courtesy of For the Earth and Water

The Great Lakes are the largest group of freshwater lakes on the planet. But their future is uncertain.

Every year, a Native American group called the Mother Earth Water Walkers treks hundreds of miles around the Great Lakes to raise awareness of water issues in the region.

This year, the group is making its 2,000 mile trip from Duluth, Minnesota to Matane, Quebec.

Stateside producer Mercedes Mejia caught up with the group near Leamington, Ontario, and learned that the walk is more than a call to action. For many, it's a spiritual journey that connects them to each other and to other indigenous communities.

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