Great Lakes

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.

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.

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):

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.

Ships on Lake Superior battle ice

Jan 11, 2014
Credit Coast Guard News (CC-BY-NC-ND) /

SUPERIOR, Wis. (AP) Ships using Lake Superior are having a tough time due to the worst build up of ice in decades.

Wisconsin Public Radio News reports the National Weather Service started tracking freeze-ups in 1978, and says this is the second-fastest and thickest ice-up in 35 years. Coast Guard Soo Vessel Traffic Director Mark Gill says this is the worst since 1989.

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan officials say after years of planning, they're ready to put in place a strategy for controlling the spread of invasive species in the state's waterways.

The plan is described in the annual "State of the Great Lakes" report released Thursday by the Department of Environmental Quality.

Aquatic invaders such as quagga mussels cost the region hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

The newly developed strategy focuses on early detection of new invaders and a rapid response to rein them in.

Steve Maslowski/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Imagine walking down a picturesque beach along Lake Michigan, and stumbling upon the carcasses of dead birds. That’s a very real and unpleasant problem along Lakes Michigan, Huron, Ontario and Erie. (It’s not as big of an issue in Lake Superior because of the lake’s colder water temperatures.)

Loons and other deep-diving birds are suffering from a disease called avian botulism. It’s form of food poisoning that kills wild birds in the Great Lakes ecosystem.

Mark Brush/Michigan Radio

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - A bipartisan group of Ohio lawmakers plans to make Lake Erie the focus of discussions next year.

State Sens. Randy Gardner, a Bowling Green Republican, and Capri Cafaro, a Democrat from Hubbard, say the Lake Erie Caucus will meet in January to address state and federal policies related to the body of water.

The group will look at ways to preserve the environmental health of the lake and to work on related economic growth and tourism issues.


TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — Food supplies for fish and other organisms are declining in some areas of the Great Lakes, particularly Lakes Huron and Michigan, according to a newly released scientific report.

user Brucegirl / wikimedia commons

It's been a mystery that has haunted Lake Huron since the Civil War: What happened to the Keystone State?

The wooden steamer set out from Detroit, bound for Milwaukee, around November 9th, 1861.

She never made it — and no one knew the Keystone State had run into trouble until wreckage washed up on the shore near Lexington.

But thanks to David Trotter, the Keystone State has been found — in nearly 175 feet of water.

Listen to the full interview above. 

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) - About three dozen local health departments and other agencies that usually receive state funding to monitor beach waters for contamination won't get any next year.

The funding comes from the federal government. Michigan will get $152,000 in 2014.

But a provision inserted into a state budget bill orders the Department of Environmental Quality to spend $100,000 of that money on one project in Macomb County.


Organizers are still raising money for what's expected to be an almost $13 million project and they're in the process of putting the final touches on all the exhibits at the museum.

Once the The National Museum of the Great Lakes in Toledo, Ohio opens you'll be able to learn about how booze was transported across the waterways from Canada into the United States during Prohibition.  Along with lots of other cool things about the Great Lakes.

Here's what the museum says on its website:

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) - A government report says the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency should do more to make sure a Great Lakes cleanup program is meeting its goals.

Congress has spent about $1.3 billion on the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative over the past four years. It has funded 1,700 grants for on-the-ground projects and scientific research. It focuses on persistent environmental threats such as invasive species, loss of wildlife habitat, toxic pollution and runaway algae growth.

The stat comes from Jeff Reutter, Director of Ohio State University's Stone Laboratory. He says the converse is true for Lake Superior. It holds 50% of the water, but just 2% of the fish.

It's a rough estimate, he says, but it gives you a good understanding of how each of the five Great Lakes have unique characteristics, which present unique challenges in managing these lakes.

As part of our series on how climate change is affecting the Great Lakes, Reutter spoke to us about how Lake Erie is especially vulnerable to temperature variations. It is the southernmost, and the shallowest of the five Great Lakes.

He also spoke about how, unlike the other four Great Lakes, Lake Erie is surrounded by agriculture and a more urbanized landscape.

You can listen to him speak about his "50 and 2 Rule" here:

Lake Erie has seen a resurgence in blooms of cyanobacteria (sometimes referred to as blue-green algae) over the last ten years. It was once a big problem in the 60s and 70s, and it has returned as a problem again.

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

A water dilemma is brewing in Wisconsin.

The city of Waukesha (near Milwaukee) is asking for permission to tap into Lake Michigan for drinking water — to the tune of 10.1 million gallons per day.

Waukesha is in a real bind. The aquifer that has provided most of its drinking water for the last century has dropped so far, that the water left behind has unhealthy levels of radium and salt.

So the city of 70,000 is under a federal order to find a new source, and Lake Michigan is just 15 miles away.

But Waukesha has the bad luck to be a mile and a half outside the watershed boundary that encircles the five Great Lakes.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Proposal could ease restrictions on microbrewers

"State lawmakers are considering legislation that would allow Michigan’s craft brewers to expand. Among other things, the bills would double the number of barrels microbrewers could produce each year.  They would also let larger craft brewers such as Bell’s and Founders open second locations in the state," Jake Neher reports.

Climate changing Great Lakes levels

"Experts say there's no guarantee that placing structures in the St. Clair River would elevate Lakes Huron and Michigan to their normal levels because they might not offset the effects of a warming climate," the Associated Press reports.

Detroit bankruptcy affects Michigan's borrowing ability

"Michigan cities and school districts sold $71.5 million worth of municipal bonds in August. That’s the lowest amount of monthly bond issued for the state since 2003. It’s a sign that Detroit’s bankruptcy is hurting municipalities’ ability to borrow money," Sarah Cwiek reports.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

We excrete these drugs or dump them down the drain, and they find their way into our water.

Pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) in rivers and lakes have been documented before, but this research finds levels in Lake Michigan that could have deleterious effects on the ecosystem.

Thirty-two different drugs were found - 14 of them were found at levels "of medium or high ecological risk."

The study was published in the journal Chemosphere:

The environmental risk of PPCPs in large lake systems, such as the Great Lakes, has been questioned due to high dilution; however, the concentrations found in this study, and their corresponding risk quotient, indicate a significant threat by PPCPs to the health of the Great Lakes, particularly near shore organisms.

Brian Bienkowski wrote about the study for Environmental Health News. Of the 14 chemicals found in concentrations of concern, Bienkowski writes triclosan has been studied the most. has proven acutely toxic to algae and can act as a hormone disruptor in fish.

“You’re not going to see fish die-offs [from pharmaceuticals] but subtle changes in how the fish eat and socialize that can have a big impact down the road,” said Kolpin, who did not participate in the study. “With behavior changes and endocrine disruption, reproduction and survival problems may not rear their ugly head for generations.”

The four most commonly found drugs were:

Hunting for plastic pollution in the Great Lakes

Aug 29, 2013
Lewis Wallace

A research expedition recently set sail from Chicago to search for a Great Lakes garbage patch.

So-called "garbage patches" or islands are actually collections of tiny plastic particles that are choking up regions of the world’s oceans. The expedition has been testing the waters of Lakes Huron and Michigan for a similar phenomenon.

I met up with expedition organizer Asta Mail at a marina in downtown Chicago. It’s a hot day, and a street vendor immediately offers us bottled water.

Mail points down at a plastic bottle in Lake Michigan. It’s pretty easy plastic hunting.

It's getting close to back-to-school time. So today, we took a look at teachers -- in particular, teacher turnover, and what it can do a student's academic achievement. Teachers leaving their profession costs the nation billions of dollars each year. We ask what can be done to keep teachers teaching.

And, there have been some complaints about the cooler, rainier summer we've been having, but it turns out it's been good for our Great Lakes. Meteorologist Mark Torregrossa joined us today to tell us why.

Also, the historic Packard Plant in Detroit may be converted into a commercial, housing and entertainment complex, but is this feasible?

First on the show, it's Thursday, which means it's time for our weekly check-in with Detroit News business columnist Daniel Howes.

And today he's got his eye fixed on the storm clouds that are gathering for the Detroit Institute of Arts. This particular growing cloud comes from Oakland County. 

Daniel Howes joined us today to talk about the troubles the DIA faces.


There has been a healthy degree of grousing this year by lovers of hot weather.

We had a cool and rainy spring, and certainly this summer has not been a replay of last year's hot, dry season.

But here's something to think about: the cooler, wetter weather is "good medicine" for our Great Lakes and those all-important water levels.

MLive meteorologist Mark Torregrossa joined us today to talk about why.

Listen to the full interview above.

daBinsi / Flickr

Local environmental activists are concerned over a proposal that would create a nuclear waste dump less than a mile from the shores of Lake Huron. Community members met at a town hall meeting this week at Wayne State University to discuss the proposal.

US Coast Guard

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) - The U.S. Coast Guard says boating under the influence of alcohol or drugs remains a serious problem on the Great Lakes.

Personnel stationed on the lakes had issued 89 citations for drunken boating this year through Aug. 13. That's up from 84 during the same period in 2012.

The Coast Guard's district office in Cleveland says the numbers are better than they were a decade ago. Even so, they're worried about an uptick in recent years, especially since it's likely that many violators are not being caught.

Sea lamprey

DETROIT (AP) - A team with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will estimate the abundance of sea lamprey in the Detroit River this month to determine what control measures might be needed.

The eel-like lamprey invaded the Great Lakes during the 1920s and has remained ever since. Lampreys attach to fish with a mouth resembling a suction cup. Their sharp teeth dig through a fish's scales and skin and feed on blood and body fluids.

The average lamprey will destroy up to 40 pounds of fish.

Michigan Loon Watch

DETROIT (AP) - An increase in annual loon deaths from a strain of botulism is sounding alarms among Michigan wildlife officials.

The Detroit News reports that it's been common over the years for common loon deaths to hit the hundreds but the numbers reached several thousand in in 2010 and 2012. Experts say invasive species such as mussels and gobies, and algae called Cladophora may be factors.

Jim Dreyer's Facebook page / Facebook

Forget those sharks we’re hearing about off of Cape Cod.

We’ve had a shark of our own swimming in the Great Lakes. And he just crossed Lake St. Clair, swimming 22 miles, all alone, while pulling two inflatable boats carrying a ton of bricks.

Jim Dreyer of Grand Rapids calls himself “The Shark.” And, when you look back over his extreme endurance feats, you’ll agree: he’s earned the right to call himself just about anything he pleases. Jim has set records swimming across all five of the Great Lakes, distance records, speed records. All of this from a guy who says he had to overcome a deep-seated fear of water.

Jim Dreyer joined us today.

Listen to the full interview above.


A significant amount of blue-green algae is expected in the western basin of Lake Erie this summer. This year’s algal bloom will be about 1/5 as bad as what happened in 2011.

2011 was one of the worst years on record for the explosions of algae growth.


Federal scientists just wrapped up a look at the health of the nation’s streams and rivers. It was a big effort, looking at 20 years of data.

Daren Carlisle is an ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey and the lead author of the study.

Library of Congress

Last month, Jerry Eliason, Kraig Smith and Ken Merryman discovered the Henry B. Smith, a freighter that sank in a storm in November of 1913. There were no survivors. The wreck was found 30 miles north of Marquette.

According to a story by the Duluth News Tribune, the photos and video that the group brought back in May didn't include any shots of the ship's name, so they couldn't confirm that it was the Smith:

In addition to footage of the ship's name -- the group also caught a glimpse of the name on the Smith's bow -- the return trip revealed more details of how the ship is sitting on the lake bottom.

It's like a "V," Eliason said -- broken in the middle with the largely intact bow and stern sections rising up from the lake bed amid a spilled cargo of iron ore. 

Getting that video footage was challenging because of a still-standing mast and guide wires on the bow section, which did snag the camera for a while last week before the group was able to work it free.

We talk with Democratic U.S. Representative Sander Levin about the effects of automatic federal budget cuts on the Great Lakes region. Today, Levin met with members of the League of Conservation Voters and Clean Water Action in Clinton Township. 


The Great Lakes Commission reported that over 44 billion gallons of water are drawn from the Great Lakes every day to use for irrigation, public water supply and other purposes.

The most recent Great Lakes Regional Water Use Report looked at data from 2011.

In the GLC's press release, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker emphasized the importance of responsible water management. Walker is the chair of Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Water Resources Regional Body and Compact Council.