Great Lakes

The Environment Report
3:04 pm
Tue February 5, 2013

Record low lake levels spark dredging debate

Water levels have hit record lows on Lakes Michigan and Huron. Northport Bay on November 4, 2012.
Clare Brush

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been recording water levels for almost 100 years. In January, the levels in the Lake Michigan and Huron system dipped to the lowest levels ever recorded.

That’s causing problems for commercial shipping and recreational boaters.

Peter Payette has been covering this story for Interlochen Public Radio and I spoke with him for today's Environment Report.

Payette said the issue that is front and center is the need for more dredging in the smaller harbors and marinas. He says they have not been getting help from the federal government - help that used to be there.

"Traditionally, it’s been the federal government through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that has dredged these channels to keep them open, and that has not been happening, and so now with the lake levels lower that problem is really being exacerbated," said Payette.

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Environment & Science
2:30 pm
Tue February 5, 2013

What's impacting Great Lakes water levels?

Four out of the five Great Lakes as seen from space.
NASA

The Great Lakes are experiencing low water levels.

Lakes Huron and Michigan just reached record lows, and Governor Snyder recently called for an emergency action plan to address the problem.

One of our Facebook friends, Debbiedoe Nash, wrote this morning:

Over the last few years the waterline has dropped so far at our property on Huron that what once was the beach now has about two hundred feet of rocky swamp in front of it. Yikes.

So what are the causes behind these low lake levels?

We spoke with a few experts who gave us a run down of the factors, big and small, contributing to the extreme lows.

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Environment & Science
9:13 am
Fri February 1, 2013

New report shows comprehensive view of climate changes’ effect

NOAA

A new report from the National Wildlife Federation details ways climate change is affecting the Great Lakes states, including Michigan.

The report says there’s more heavy rainfall events, a major decline in ice cover, and warmer average water temperatures. It outlines a number of examples where wildlife and communities are reacting to the changes.

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Politics & Government
4:25 pm
Mon January 28, 2013

Gov. Snyder says low water levels in Great Lakes require emergency action

NOAA

Governor Rick Snyder says emergency actions are necessary to address low water levels in the Great Lakes.

The lakes are at their lowest levels in decades.

Snyder says that could be a big threat to Michigan’s harbors.

“There’s going to be a need to do some, what I would describe as emergency dredging, to make sure we keep it open for commerce, for tourism, for many other issues. And that’s something we need to be discussing,” Snyder said.

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The Environment Report
10:19 am
Tue January 22, 2013

U.S., Canadian leaders seek more action on Great Lakes

Lake Michigan, as seen from the Empire Bluff hike.
Rebecca Williams Michigan Radio

U.S. and Canadian leaders are getting together in Chicago tomorrow to talk about water.

There’s a pact between the two countries. It’s called the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement.  It takes on all sorts of threats to water in our region, from toxic chemicals to runoff from farms and sewer overflows from cities.

Lyman Welch is with the Alliance for the Great Lakes. He says when the agreement was first signed 40 years ago, it was promising.

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The Environment Report
10:52 am
Tue December 18, 2012

Researchers map 34 threats to the Great Lakes

The research team used the combined influence of 34 different threats to map environmental stress on the Great Lakes.
University of Michigan

The Great Lakes are under a lot of stress. 

34 different kinds of stress, to be exact.

That’s according to a research team that has produced a comprehensive map showing many of the things that stress the Great Lakes.  Think: pollution, invasive species, development and climate change... just to name a few. 

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Politics & Government
6:41 am
Tue December 18, 2012

In this morning's Michigan news headlines. . .

User: Brother O'Mara flickr

Michigan's Electoral College cast votes for President Obama

"Michigan has officially cast its 16 Electoral College votes for President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden. The state’s delegates met yesterday at the Michigan Senate Chambers in Lansing," Jake Neher reports.

Michigan clergy to rally against gun bill in Lansing

"Clergy from across Michigan are expected to rally in Lansing and call on Governor Rick Snyder to veto legislation that could allow concealed weapons in schools and churches. The gun bill would allow someone with extra training to carry a concealed weapon in a gun-free zone," the Associated Press reports.

Lakes Erie and Ontario are the most threatened of the Great Lakes

A three-year study has found that Lakes Erie and Ontario are the most seriously threatened of the Great Lakes, along with large sections of the Lake Michigan shoreline. As the Detroit Free Press reports,

"Among the biggest threats: Invasive mussels and lamprey that threaten the food chain, climate change that can affect water temperature and water levels, ballast water from ships that may introduce more uninvited species, a buildup of urban areas along the coast that sweeps auto and human waste into the waters during rainfall, and a continual runoff of phosphorous from farmlands."

Environment & Science
1:53 pm
Tue December 4, 2012

Federal judge dismisses asian carp suit, leaves room for further court action

Kate Gardiner Creative Commons

A federal judge has thrown out a lawsuit brought by five Great Lakes states that would force the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to erect physical barriers to prevent Asian Carp from entering Lake Michigan.

The suit claims that the Corps unwillingness to separate Chicago-area rivers and canals from the lake constitutes a public nuisance.

The AP has more:

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Environment & Science
9:49 am
Mon December 3, 2012

A 1,000 mile hike to protect the Great Lakes

NASA Goddard Photo and Video flickr

This week on Seeking Change, Christina Shockley spoke with Loreen Niewenhuis. She's a Michigan author who hiked 1,000 miles to parts of all the Great Lakes.  She wanted to learn how this water that surrounds our state-- and defines our state-- works. She also wanted to learn about the concerning points for the lakes.  She'll write about this experience as well, in a book out early next year.

Great Lakes
12:06 pm
Fri November 30, 2012

Harbor Master in Leland "praying for snow and ice-cold temperatures"

A dredge working outside Leland Harbor on Lake Michigan.
Andrew McFarlane Flickr

Lakes Huron and Michigan are reaching record low water levels, and businesses along the Third Coast are feeling the effects.

Yesterday, Russell Dzuba, the harbormaster in Leland, Michigan (think Michigan's pinkie right on Lake Michigan), spoke with NPR's Melissa Block about what he's seeing out his window.

The low water levels have revealed a sand bar inside the Leland Harbor.

"...that ordinarily is not a good thing in a harbor," said Dzuba.

From the interview:

"We had an incredibly warm season - warm winter season last year, and we lost a lot of water to evaporation, and that takes place during the whole winter, as well as the summer.... Traditionally, we don't freeze as we did in the old days. It used to freeze all the way across the channel, 11 miles out to North Manitou Island. That hasn't happened here in a number of years."

You can listen to the interview here:

Last month, I posted on the low lake levels. If they continue to drop, which is expected, the low lake level record from March 1964 will be beat.

Arts & Culture
4:29 pm
Tue November 27, 2012

Stateside: Michigan's shores documented in the Fresh Coast Project

Ed Wargin's Fresh Coast Project captures the Great Lakes in all their glowing beauty
Ed Wargin

Photographer Ed Wargin is enchanted by the Great Lakes; he endeavors to document all 10,000 miles of their shores with his Fresh Coast Project.

The project's aim is to celebrate the beauty of the Great Lakes through the ephemeral medium of film photography.

"I've realized we often look at the Great Lakes in parts and pieces. The goal of the project is to try to look at the Great Lakes as one story," said Wargin.

Wargin hopes his shots of gleaming sunsets will  inform people of the state's abundant resources and thereby promote their preservation.

Hear Wargin further discuss his Fresh Coast Project on today's podcast.

There are two ways you can podcast "Stateside with Cynthia Canty"

The Environment Report
12:41 pm
Tue November 20, 2012

Plan to store lower-level nuclear waste near Lake Huron

The Bruce Nuclear Power Plant
Bruce Power Ontario Power Generation

The Bruce Nuclear Power Plant sits on the Ontario side of Lake Huron. It’s across the lake from Michigan’s Thumb region.  Ontario Power Generation owns the plant. 

The company wants to store the lower level nuclear waste from all of their plants underground, near the Bruce plant.

They’re proposing to dig almost a half mile underground to build the facility. It would be a little more than half a mile away from the shore of Lake Huron.

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Sports
3:42 pm
Thu November 8, 2012

Stateside: Hike, bike and kayak the Great Lakes

Dave Lemberg addresses the potential 1,600 mile route along Lake Michigan
Mark Brush Michigan Radio

Midwest residents may have three new ways to enjoy the Great Lakes.

At a conference in Saugatuck this week, Western Michigan University geography professor Dave Lemberg will discuss plans for a 1,600 mile route along Lake Michigan.

Lemberg spoke with Cyndy about the details of the route.

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Food
3:29 pm
Sun October 28, 2012

A year of eating an indigenous diet

Eating a native diet
Credit NMU Center for Native American Studies

Imagine eating the same foods that Native Americans in the Great Lakes region ate before European settlers arrived. That’s the idea behind a one-year study at Northern Michigan University.

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The Environment Report
8:55 am
Thu October 18, 2012

21 universities team up for Great Lakes Futures Project

NOAA

A new project is going to try to predict the future of the Great Lakes. 

It’s called... wait for it... the Great Lakes Futures Project.  It’s a collaboration of 21 universities from the U.S. and Canada. 

Don Scavia is the director of the Graham Sustainability Institute at the University of Michigan. He’s one of four project leaders.  He says students will team up with a counterpart from the other country, along with a faculty mentor.  The teams will develop white papers outlining the biggest things driving change in the Great Lakes region. 

“They’ll be looking at things like climate, economics, demographics, chemical and biological pollution, invasive species. Looking back, what have the trends been in the past 50 years and what do we expect trends to look like in the next 50 years?”

Scavia says climate change is making everything more complicated.

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Politics & Government
3:37 pm
Tue October 2, 2012

New director for Michigan's "Office of the Great Lakes," Birkholz resigns

Michigan's Office of the Great Lakes leads policy development and program implementation for the protection and restoration of the Great Lakes.

Today, Gov. Rick Snyder said he accepted the resignation of Patty Birkholz as director, and announced that Jon Allen will now lead the office.

From Gov. Snyder's press release:

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4:28 pm
Mon October 1, 2012

The shipping industry scrapes along in the Great Lakes

Lead in text: 
Water levels are nearing record lows in the Great Lakes. The Wall St. Journal takes a look at what it means for those moving cargo on the lakes.
The Midwest drought is lowering water levels in Lake Michigan and Lake Huron to near-record lows, putting pressure on the shipping industry and turning some beaches into long mud flats. It is also intensifying a debate over a decades-old dredging project near Detroit that permanently reduced the lakes' levels by nearly two feet.
Environment & Science
3:48 pm
Mon September 24, 2012

States to cut way back on Lake Michigan Chinook stocking

A male Chinook salmon in spawning phase.
USGS

Lake Michigan's Chinook salmon are doing so well that Michigan and other states and tribes in the region have decided to sharply reduce stocking rates of the popular game fish.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources announced Monday that it will cut its annual Chinook stocking in the lake by two-thirds, from 1.67 million to 560,000. The change begins in spring 2013.

The MDNR says because the fish are reproducing naturally in significant numbers in Michigan, the state "will shoulder the majority of the stocking reduction."

Michigan will reduce stocking by 1.13 million spring fingerlings, or 67 percent of the 1.69 million recently stocked by the state. Wisconsin will reduce by 440,000; Indiana will reduce by 25,000; and Illinois will reduce by 20,000.

The state agencies are following recommendations of the Lake Michigan Committee.

The Lake Michigan Committee is comprised of fisheries managers from Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin and five Michigan tribes that are party to the 2000 Consent Decree.

In total stocking will be cut in half, going from 3.3 million to 1.7 million annually.

Naturalists say overstocking of predator fish threatens the population of other lake species and upsets the ecological balance. Half the Chinook in the lake now are the result of natural reproduction.

The MDNR says the decision to reduce stocking is part of an "adaptive management strategy." They say they will monitor indicators in the lake, such as Chinook salmon growth, and adjust to the conditions in Lake Michigan.

If conditions improve or get worse, stocking will be increased or decreased accordingly, and more quickly.

"This will give the DNR more flexibility to adaptively manage the lake," said Jay Wesley, Southern Lake Michigan Unit manager. "Traditionally, we have made changes in stocking and waited five years to evaluate it, and another two years to implement changes. Now we have the ability, through a defined and accepted process, to make changes as they are needed."

Arts & Culture
1:30 pm
Sun September 23, 2012

West Michigan Underwater Preserve becomes official

Approximately five miles north of Pentwater, the Comanche is a 75 - 100' tugboat in 75' of water.
WMUP

MUSKEGON, Mich. (AP) - A number of Lake Michigan shipwrecks are now being officially protected and promoted as Michigan's 13th underwater preserve.

The Muskegon Chronicle reports the West Michigan Underwater Preserve recently became official with the filing of paperwork with the state.

The new preserve covers about 345 square miles and features 13 identified shipwrecks and three other diving structures.

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Politics & Government
10:17 am
Fri September 14, 2012

Presidential campaigns invited to Great Lakes conference, one shows up

The five Great Lakes.
NOAA

Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign did not show up at a conference in Cleveland to discuss the Great Lakes.

Organizers of the Great Lakes Restoration Conference say both presidential campaigns were sent invitations at the same time.

Former E.P.A. director Carol Browner spoke on behalf of President Obama at the conference yesterday.

She touted the president’s investment of one billion dollars for cleaning up and restoring the lakes.

When asked if the president would support permanently separating Lake Michigan from the Mississippi River to keep Asian carp out, she said it’s being studied.

"That process is underway and I have the utmost confidence that the president will take the results of that process very, very seriously," said Browner.

A spokeswoman for the Romney campaign said they couldn’t fit the event into his schedule.

She criticized the Obama administration for not acting more quickly to stop Asian carp.

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