Great Lakes

Environment & Science
12:44 pm
Mon March 31, 2014

No more oil in latest survey of BP oil spill in Lake Michigan

A shoreline assessment team made up of representatives from the Coast Guard, the Environmental Protection Agency and BP surveys a beach area near the BP Whiting Refinery in Whiting, Ind., March 30, 2014.
Chief Petty Officer Alan Haraf Coast Guard

The Coast Guard says crews didn't find any more oil during the latest search of the Lake Michigan shore following last week's spill at BP's northwestern Indiana refinery.

Last Monday, BP's oil refinery in Whiting, Indiana south of Chicago spilled crude oil into Lake Michigan. The company estimates the spill to be somewhere between 630 and 1,638 gallons. The oil made its way into the lake through a malfunction in the refinery's cooling system. 

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Environment & Science
4:16 pm
Thu March 27, 2014

Study planned on adapting to changing water levels

NOAA

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) - The University of Michigan is planning a wide-ranging study of how people in the Great Lakes region can adapt to changing water levels.

Don Scavia of the university's Graham Sustainability Institute announced the study Thursday in Ann Arbor at the conclusion of a seminar on the topic for scientists, policymakers and advocates.

It will be modeled after a broad analysis that university experts conducted last year on the natural gas extraction process known as "fracking."

Great Lakes levels fluctuate with the seasons and over longer periods. They've risen substantially in the past year after a sustained low period, but it's uncertain how long the comeback will continue.

Scavia says that shoreline property owners, communities and businesses need to accept that lake levels will not remain stable and make necessary adjustments.

Environment & Science
1:16 pm
Wed March 19, 2014

Senators want faster action on stopping Asian carp

DNR

TRAVERSE CITY – A group of U.S. senators wants the federal government to move faster on preventing Asian carp from reaching the Great Lakes through waterways in the Chicago area.

Eleven senators from states in the region sent a letter Tuesday to the assistant secretary of the Army, whose office oversees the Army Corps of Engineers. The letter asks a series of questions about when the Corps might begin tasks such as adding barriers at the southernmost lock in the Chicago Area Waterway System.

It also asks what authorization the Corps needs from Congress to move more quickly toward short- and long-term solutions.

The Corps issued a report in January with options for blocking the invasive carp's path to Lake Michigan, but says Congress and regional stakeholders must choose the final plan.

Weather
12:28 pm
Tue March 11, 2014

Record set for ice cover on Lake Michigan, not on Great Lakes

Lake Michigan as photographed by a NOAA satellite on March 8, 2014.
NOAA

My neighbors and I officially had our last "pond hockey" game over the weekend. We moved everything off the ice as things started to melt.

So the ice in the region has reached its peak, right? No one thinks we're going to be hit with another prolonged polar vortex, do they? 

Let's hope not.

With the most frigid part of this winter over, let's look at the record books for ice cover on the Great Lakes.

Here's what we know.

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The Environment Report
8:55 am
Thu March 6, 2014

President's budget cuts Great Lakes programs

The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative provides money for habitat restoration, keeping invasive species out of the Lakes, and cleaning up polluted areas.
Rebecca Williams Michigan Radio

You can listen to today's Environment Report above.

President Obama’s 2015 budget includes some cuts to Great Lakes programs.

Obama is asking for $275 million for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. That would be $25 million less than the current funding level.

Todd Ambs is the campaign director of the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition. He says if the cuts go through, you'd see projects slow down.

“Whether it’s a contaminated cleanup project that’s underway but not completed, or a habitat restoration effort or dealing with the problems of keeping aquatic invasive species out of the Great Lakes.”

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Environment & Science
3:11 pm
Wed March 5, 2014

Great Lakes ice levels approaching record set in 1979

Great Lakes ice levels as of March 4th, 2014. The blue areas show open water.
Credit NOAA

The last time I posted on this (on Feb. 26), the ice levels on the Great Lakes had dropped off.

There had been a slight warm-up and some strong winds that had opened up the water.

But it's been cold since then, and the ice levels have increased on the Great Lakes. Here's a graphic showing you where the ice levels stand as of yesterday. The blue areas show the open water:

As I mentioned in my previous post, ice formation on the lakes is dynamic – constantly changing.

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Politics & Government
7:48 am
Tue March 4, 2014

In this morning's headlines: War on blight in Flint, Great Lakes 90% ice cover, ban term 'retarded'

Morning News Roundup, Thursday, Oct. 13, 2011
User: Brother O'Mara Flickr

Flint mayor declares war on blight

"Flint Mayor Dayne Walling is calling for a $70 million "war on blight" to help tear down nearly 6,000 buildings in the financially troubled city. Walling made the declaration Monday in his State of the City speech," the Associated Press reports.

Great Lakes 90% covered with ice

All of the Great Lakes combined have 90% ice cover. According to the Detroit Free Press, "that's the most ice cover in 34 years."

Lawmakers want to ban term "retard" from state law

"Michigan lawmakers are looking to remove the terms 'mental retardation' and 'mentally retarded' from state law. Bipartisan bills would strike references to outdated language such as 'retarded' from various statutes and instead use terms such as 'developmentally disabled' or 'intellectually disabled'," the Associated Press reports.

The Environment Report
2:52 pm
Thu February 27, 2014

What all the snow and ice will mean for Great Lakes water levels

Icy Lake Michigan channel at Grand Haven in 2011.
R. Greaves NOAA GLERL

Listen to Drew Gronewold talking about what our snowy winter means for our summer beach and boating trips.

It might seem a little counterintuitive, but right now, a bunch of scientists are thinking about how high the water at Great Lakes beaches will be this summer.

Early last year, the Lake Michigan-Lake Huron system hit record low water levels.

It made life tougher for the shipping industry, and it’s hard on people who run Great Lakes ports.

Russell Dzuba is the harbor master in Leland.

“For us, it’s shallow. When we went to dredge this year we had to go a foot deeper and the world was a foot shorter, if you will,” he says.

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Environment & Science
12:43 pm
Thu February 27, 2014

More action needed to clean up Lake Erie, says international agency

Algae blooms have once again become common in western Lake Erie.
Mark Brush Michigan Radio

Massive algae blooms and dead zones in Lake Erie: These used to be major environmental problems around the most urbanized Great Lake back in the '60s and '70s, but they are problems once again.

Now, an international agency that keeps an eye on the health of the Great Lakes is calling for more action.

The International Joint Commission, a U.S.-Canadian agency, wants sharp cutbacks on phosphorus runoff getting into Lake Erie.

The amount of phosphorus available in rivers and lakes is one of the main drivers of algae growth. The more you have, the more the algae blooms.

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Environment & Science
11:17 am
Wed February 26, 2014

Watch a time-lapse video of the ice forming on the Great Lakes

The Great Lakes on Feb. 16, 2014.
GLERL

Update: March 5, 2014, 3:36 p.m.

The Great Lakes are again icing up and approaching the 1979 record. See this post for more.

Original post: February 26th, 2014, 11:17 a.m.

This frigid winter has us watching the record books again. The record for the most amount of ice cover on the Great Lakes was set back in 1979. That's when the ice cover reached the 95% mark.

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The Environment Report
9:50 am
Tue February 25, 2014

Archeologists Diverge On Discovery In Lake Michigan

Originally published on Tue February 25, 2014 9:18 am

Archeologists studying a wooden beam pulled from northern Lake Michigan this summer can't say whether it is a piece of the first European ship to sail the upper Great Lakes or a post from an old fishing net. The group managing the project is close to issuing a report to the state archeologist, but it won’t reach any firm conclusion.

Read on to discover the evidence that points to each conclusion.

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Environment & Science
12:24 pm
Wed February 19, 2014

Even winter haters think these ice caves are awesome

Ice caves in northern Michigan
Lizzy Freed

Very few people are amused with what this winter has brought Michigan.

The Associated Press wrote that the polar vortex (let's be honest, vortices) covered 79% of the Great Lakes in ice. 

It's not a record, but it's well above the long-term average of about 51 percent.

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The Environment Report
11:10 am
Tue February 18, 2014

New farm bill shakes up the way we pay for land conservation

user acrylicartist MorgueFile.com

You can listen to today's Environment Report above.

The farm bill has about $57 billion for conservation.

Director of the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition Todd Ambs says a lot of people don't realize the farm bill is where we find the largest source of conservation money from the federal government.

"That’s because there are so many activities that happen on the land that bring us our food, that if done improperly can have a very adverse impact on the soil and also to surrounding waterways," he says.

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Environment & Science
5:55 pm
Mon February 17, 2014

Lawmakers question $18 billion price tag to protect Great Lakes

Will it really take 25 years and $18 billion to protect the Lakes?
Rebecca Williams Michigan Radio

State lawmakers want to know whether the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is inflating the cost and time it would take to keep invasive species out of the Great Lakes.

Army Corp officials will face questions from legislators Tuesday about a report it released last month.

It says separating the lakes from the Mississippi River would take more than two decades and up to $18 billion to complete.

Many state officials and environmental groups say separating the two watersheds is the best way to prevent Asian carp and other species from moving into the Great Lakes.

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Weather
1:13 pm
Sun February 9, 2014

Cold temps cover 79 percent of Great Lakes in ice

Glen Haven Beach ice caves.
Credit National Park Service

CHICAGO (AP) - This winter's bitter cold temperatures in the Midwest have covered a stunning 79 percent of the Great Lakes in ice.

It's not a record, but it's well above the long-term average of about 51 percent.

Lake Michigan is about 63 percent frozen. And the second largest lake in the system, Huron, is about 85 percent covered.

Lake Erie, at 93 percent, has the most ice cover.

The data comes from the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory.

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The Environment Report
1:42 pm
Tue February 4, 2014

Researcher hunts for new medicines in the Great Lakes

Brian T. Murphy, left, and Mark Sadek, just before boarding the RV Lake Guardian for a week-long sampling mission.
Brian Murphy

Brian Murphy talks about his hunt for bacteria at the bottom of the Great Lakes that could lead to new medicines.

Let's call today Throwback Tuesday, and go way, way back to the 1920s.

That's when Sir Alexander Fleming stumbled on a mold that stopped bacteria from growing in a petri dish. He called it penicillin.

Ever since that huge discovery, people have been looking all over the Earth for more organisms that can fight disease.

Brian Murphy has been searching at the bottom of the Great Lakes.

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Environment & Science
10:46 am
Mon January 27, 2014

White Lake could become Michigan’s first to come off U.S-Canada list of pollution hot spots

White Lake is the larger lake pictured. It lies north of Muskegon, Michigan.
Doc Searls Creative Commons

An inland lake north of Muskegon is expected to reach a major milestone this year. Officials anticipate White Lake will be removed from a list of the most-polluted places surrounding the Great Lakes this year.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, most of the pollution in White Lake was caused by a chemical company that dumped waste into the water.

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Environment & Science
10:00 am
Wed January 22, 2014

The solution to the Asian carp problem? 'Dam it,' say many at public hearing in Ann Arbor

Brigadier General Margaret Burcham, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, speaks to the audience at a public hearing on Asian carp last night in Ann Arbor.
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

About a hundred people showed up at a public hearing Tuesday night in Ann Arbor to discuss ways to keep Asian carp from getting into the Great Lakes.

One by one, people took to the microphone to tell the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers the only way to stop the Asian carp is to close the man-made waterways connecting the Great Lakes to the Mississippi River basin.

Asian carp have devastated native fish populations in parts of the Mississippi River basin since first being introduced in the southern United States. Some species of Asian carp were brought in to help keep retention ponds clean in aquaculture and wastewater treatment facilities.

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Environment & Science
12:16 pm
Tue January 21, 2014

Student captures video of Lake Michigan ice with a drone and a GoPro camera

Ice sheets on Lake Michigan shot with a drone.
screen shot from WZZM video

Spend a little over a thousand bucks and you too could capture some images that will grab the attention of your local TV station.

WZZM-TV in West Michigan featured a story about Hope College sophomore Jeff Zita.

Zita was curious about the ice forming on the lake and sent up his chopper. Here's the news segment (Click here if you can't see the video):

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Transportation
8:55 pm
Sun January 12, 2014

Coast Guard icebreaker back at work after crash in the Straits of Mackinac

U.S. Coast Guard cutter Hollyhock (file photo)
Petty Officer 2nd Class George Degener/US Coast

MACKINAW CITY, Mich. (AP) - The U.S. Coast Guard says one of its icebreakers has returned to service after sustaining damage in a collision with a freighter in the Straits of Mackinac.

The accident happened Jan. 5 in Lake Michigan, about 20 miles west of the Mackinac Bridge.

The Coast Guard says the 225-foot cutter Hollyhock was breaking ice when it hit a hard spot in the ice. It says the 990-foot Mesabi Miner hit the Hollyhock's stern.

The Mesabi Mine sustained damage to its bow. It was hauling iron ore to Gary, Ind.

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