Great Lakes

morning news roundup
7:07 am
Fri September 7, 2012

In this morning's Michigan news headlines. . .

User: Brother O'Mara flickr

Canada and US to sign updated pact to protect Great Lakes

"The U.S. and Canada are preparing to approve an updated version of a 40-year-old pact that commits both sides to protecting the Great Lakes. The Environmental Protection Agency chief  and Canada's environment minister will sign the new deal today in Washington, D.C.," according to the AP.

Romney pulling campaign ads out of Michigan

"Conservative groups backing Mitt Romney are pulling their ads from Michigan's airwaves. Most polls show President Obama coming out ahead in the state. But it's a tight race. Now conservatives are focusing their resources on a few key swing states," Kate Wells reports.

Republican backing early childhood education

"Republican State Senator Roger Kahn says the state should spend more on early childhood education. And he plans to urge Governor Snyder to increase spending for it by $ 140 million. Kahn is chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee.  He says investing in the early years has a big payoff later, for the child, and for society. Kahn says early childhood education isn't a liberal issue," Tracy Samilton reports.

Environment & Science
4:43 pm
Tue September 4, 2012

Lake Michigan approaching record low water level

A chart showing historic water levels on the Great Lakes.
GLERL NOAA

Just about a half a meter less, and the record will be beat.

That's how much the water level in Lake Michigan would have to drop to reach the record low level set in March of 1964.

In that month, the Lake Michigan water level was measured at 175.58 meters above sea level.

This past July, it was measured at 176.04 meters above sea level.

You can explore historic Great Lakes water level data on this NOAA website.

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Transportation
12:39 pm
Thu August 16, 2012

Harsens Island could lose ferry service

Aerial Photo of Harsens Island
Don Coles AerialPics.com

Harsens Island is known as a laid-back retirement-and-vacation community in Lake St. Clair. About 1200 people live there year-round, and that number grows to 5,000 during the summer months.

In order to visit the island you can take your own boat or you can take Champion’s Auto Ferry. But people who live there may not be able to take the ferry in the near future because the company’s owner wants to retire, and since the ferry service is a private business, it’s not clear whose responsible when it comes to maintaining service.

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Sports
12:35 pm
Wed August 8, 2012

Cyclists complete 97-day ride around Great Lakes

Great Lakes
NASA Goddard Photo and Video, Flickr

Last Sunday afternoon, Kris McNeal, 26, and Zach Chase, 25, rode their bikes into Duluth, Minnesota after a more than 5,300 mile bike ride around the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence Seaway.

The duo had previously completed a 1,700-mile trip from Seattle to Mexico, but that seems like child's play compared to this 97-day long trip.

Averaging about six hours of riding per day, McNeal and Chase covered between 60 and 70 miles before making camp each night. They got their first flat tire after 3,000 miles and ended up having 15 flats by the end of the trip.

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Transportation
10:37 am
Thu August 2, 2012

Freighter carrying iron ore pellets runs aground

The grounded ship is on the right, with an incoming freighter on the left.
Jojeann Riley

The U.S. Coast Guard says a freighter carrying iron ore pellets has run aground on the Canadian side of southern Lake Huron, about one mile offshore of Sarnia, Ontario. The agency there's no reports of injuries or pollution after the shipped named Buffalo ran aground late Wednesday while en route to Cleveland.

The U.S. Coast Guard is assisting Thursday in the response and sent a 41-foot boat to the scene. Sarnia is located across the St. Clair River from Port Huron, Michigan, about 55 miles northeast of Detroit.

Environment & Science
9:31 am
Fri July 20, 2012

U.S. Coast Guard says diesel fuel contained on sunken barge in Lake Huron (PHOTOS)

The dredge, the Arthur J, sinking on Lake Huron. The boat is owned by MCM Marine.
U.S. Coast Guard

The U.S. Coast Guard issued a press release this morning saying all the fuel valves and vents connected to the fuel tank on the sunken barge, the Arthur J, have been plugged.

Crews continue to work on salvaging the 110-foot dredge barge and 38-foot tug that sank yesterday morning one mile off the coast of Lakeport, Michigan.

From their release:

The Arthur J has ten vents to its fuel tank and responders where able to plug four of them early Thursday afternoon, but six remained open until responders were able to plug them late Thursday night.

The impact to the shoreline has been minimal; however there is visible sheening along the shores of Lakeport, but there has been no report of a thick product wash ashore. However, there is still a strong diesel odor in the air, so residents and visitors of the lower Lake Huron area are encouraged to avoid areas where there is an odor in the air. Those who live in the area should remain inside with doors and windows closed as much as possible. 

The Coast Guard says the Michigan State Health Department has closed beaches from the Blue Water Bridge north to Lakeport State Park.

The diesel fuel that did spill remains on the lake. No wildlife impacts have been reported yet. The Coast Guard says "weather and lake conditions are not optimal for product clean up, but the clean-up efforts continue vigilantly."

The sunken dredge barge and tug were owned and operated by MCM Marine.

Early reports indicated the barge and tug began taking on water around 4 a.m. yesterday. The Coast Guard reports the cause of the accident at this time is still unknown.

Environment
12:26 pm
Thu July 19, 2012

Diesel fuel spills into Lake Huron after tug and barge sink

The oil spill site is reported to be two miles off the coast of Lakeport.
Google Maps

Friday, July 20, 9:06 a.m.

The U.S. Coast Guard released a statement this morning declaring that the diesel fuel tanks onboard the sunken dredge, the Arthur J, have been secured and that no more diesel fuel is spilling into Lake Huron:

All the fuel valves and vents on the Arthur J have been plugged. 

The Arthur J has ten vents to its fuel tank and responders where able to plug four of them early Thursday afternoon, but six remained open until responders were able to plug them late Thursday night.

The impact to the shoreline has been minimal; however there is visible sheening along the shores of Lakeport, but there has been no report of a thick product wash ashore. However, there is still a strong diesel odor in the air, so residents and visitors of the lower Lake Huron area are encouraged to avoid areas where there is an odor in the air.

Thursday, July 19, 12:26 p.m.

Mlive.com reports that if storms do not let up, all 1,500 gallons of diesel fuel will get into Lake Huron.

The Michigan Department of Enviromental Quality is monitoring the situation from the periphery, and spokesman Brad Wurfel said ongoing storms may limit the effectiveness of the containment boom.

"We're hoping to recover all we can," he said. "But it's anticipated that if the storms do not let up, it's best to plan on the idea that all 1,500 gallons will get into the lake."

The weather, the weight of the fuel, wind direction and underwater currents make it difficult to predict where the fuel may head. Some local beaches may see a sheen, Wurfel said, but the "environmental impact is not expected to be catastrophic."

"The upside is, it's a big lake. A lot of this will dissipate."

St. Clair County officials have closed all public beaches on Lake Huron as a precautionary measure, according to health education and planning director Jennifer Michalul.

A local hazmat team and fire crew are aiding the Coast Guard, which has established 100-yard safety zone around the periphery of the oil sheen.

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Asian Carp
7:19 pm
Mon July 16, 2012

Latest search fails to find Asian Carp in Illinois lake which is a short distance from Lake Michigan

Another search of a lake close to Lake Michigan has failed to find Asian Carp. The invasive carp could threaten native Great Lakes fish populations.

Fishermen spent three days last week sweeping a six mile stretch around Lake Calumet, near Chicago. The result: 6,300 fish caught, 30 different species, but no Bighead or Silver carp.

It’s the second time this year that teams led by the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and other agencies, have scoured the waterway looking for Asian carp.

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Environment & Science
4:34 pm
Mon July 9, 2012

The search resumes Tuesday for possible Asian Carp in Illinois lake close to Lake Michigan

Bighead Asian carp caught in 2010
Illinois DNR

An intensive four day search for the invasive Asian Carp gets underway near Chicago tomorrow. The search area is a short swim from Lake Michigan.

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Environment & Science
10:00 am
Sat July 7, 2012

Hunt for Asian Carp resumes near Lake Michigan

Juvenile silver carp, seen here, can grow up to weigh 100 pounds.
user MirkoB Wikimedia Commons

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) - Authorities plan another intensive search for Asian carp next week after repeatedly detecting DNA from the invasive fish in Chicago's Lake Calumet.

Officials said Friday that genetic material from silver carp was found in samples taken in May and June. Policy requires stepped-up efforts to find the fish whenever their DNA turns up during three consecutive rounds of sampling in the same area.

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Environment & Science
1:01 am
Wed June 20, 2012

Illinois officials downplay postive test for Asian Carp DNA near Lake Michigan

A Bighead carp caught in June of 2010 in Lake Calumet, Illinois
Illinois DNR

Illinois officials are downplaying the recent discovery of Asian Carp DNA in a waterway a short distance from Lake Michigan.

Asian Carp are an invasive species that experts fear could devastate fish native to the Great Lakes.

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Environment & Science
3:26 pm
Tue June 19, 2012

Possible signs of Asian carp found near Lake Michigan

Juvenile silver carp, seen here, can grow up to weigh 100 pounds.
user MirkoB Wikimedia Commons

A survey recently conducted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers showed positive evidence for genetic material from silver carp in southwest Chicago. 

The May 22 test showed 17 positive identifications for the DNA of silver carp in 112 sites sampled in Lake Calumet and Little Calumet River through a process called "eDNA," or environmental DNA testing. The test involves filtering water samples for fragments of DNA shed by target species.

Genetic material left from carp tissue, mucus, feces or urine is not a certain indication of the presence of a live Asian carp; the DNA found in testing could have come from dead fish or water from another source.

Researchers also tested for bighead carp in the area, another species of Asian carp, though all results were negative. 

The AP reports:

Jared Teutsch, water policy advocate for the Alliance for the Great Lakes, said in a statement Monday the findings mean "another year of worry" about Asian carp.

Bighead and silver carp were imported from Asia. They have migrated up the Mississippi River and its tributaries. An electric barrier is meant to block them.

Dozens of water samples taken beyond the barrier in recent years have contained Asian carp DNA, although just one actual carp has been found there.

-Elaine Ezekiel, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Environment & Science
11:59 am
Wed June 6, 2012

Arkansas man charged for illegally selling Asian carp in Michigan

Grass carp have been illegal to sell in Michigan for decades.
USGS

A man was charged with 12 felony counts for illegally selling live Asian carp in Michigan. And he wasn't too inconspicuous - "grass carp" was apparently written on the side of his truck.

From the Michigan DNR:

...the Attorney General's Criminal Division has charged an Arkansas man with 12 felony counts of possessing and selling live Asian carp in violation of state law protecting against the spread of invasive species. The charges follow a joint investigation by the DNR's Special Investigation Unit and Commercial Fish Enforcement Unit.

Grass carp are a type of Asian carp. Grass carp have been illegal to sell in Michigan for decades because the invasive species is a voracious plant eater.

Officials say grass carp "could potentially remove all vegetation from a body of water at the expense of native species."

The fish were imported in the 1960's and have been used to control weeds in ponds.

State officials say David Shane Costner, 42, of Harrisburg, Ark., had 110 grass carp housed in a semi-truck. Costner was working for Farley's Arkansas Pondstockers.

More from the MDNR:

Costner allegedly traveled around the state, conducting sales of the illegal carp from store parking lots. The trucks also contained live fish species permitted under state law, including channel catfish, largemouth bass and fathead minnows. On May 16, 2012, Costner allegedly sold two of the live grass carp to undercover DNR investigators in Midland, Mich.

David Eggert of MLive reports Costner's truck had the words "grass carp" written on the side.

The wildlife agency received a tip that Costner had been selling illegal carp at several locations in southern Michigan and the west side of the state, Golder said... Costner could not be reached for comment. A secretary who answered the phone at Farley's said he no longer works there.

Grass carp are just one of four species of Asian Carp officials are worried about. And Grass carp appear to be the least of their worries when it comes to threats to the Great Lakes.

The Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee lists three Asian Carp that are of concern - Grass carp are not on the list:

There are three species of Asian carp that are considered invasive and a threat to the Great Lakes: the bighead, silver and black carp. Silver and bighead carp are filter-feeding fish and consume plant and animal plankton. Asian carp can grow to large sizes: some as large as 110 pounds, though the average size is around 30-40 pounds. Bighead and silver carp are voracious eaters, capable of eating 5-20 percent of their body weight each day. They consume plankton—algae and other microscopic organisms—stripping the food web of the key source of food for small and big fish. Black carp differ in that they consume primarily mollusks, and threaten native mussel and sturgeon populations. They can grow to seven feet in length and over 100 pounds.

Environment & Science
9:00 am
Mon June 4, 2012

What's so special about Isle Royale?

The Isle Royale Queen IV docked at Rock Harbor on Isle Royale.
Mark Brush Michigan Radio

For some, the magic of Isle Royale doesn't necessarily reside in the boat trip to the island.

Two days before Rebecca Williams and I left on our reporting trip, a friend and I were having lunch together.

"You're not riding on the 'Barf Barge' are you?!"

"The boat from Copper Harbor?"

"Yeah, I took that trip. We were on Isle Royale for a week. The first half of the week, all we could talk about was the boat trip over. And the second half of the week, all we could talk about was the boat trip back!"

On her trip, as the ship pulled out of Copper Harbor, the captain came on the loudspeaker.

"O.k., folks," the captain started. "We have the forecast for our crossing. And I just want to say... we're all in this together. We can get through this."

The snack bar was not open on that crossing.

But the snack bar was open for our trip.

The seas got a little rough (I saw a few eight footers roll by). And a trip to the restroom wasn't a straight walk to the door. You had to ping-pong yourself from table, to wall, to other passenger (excuse me), to the door.

Emergency cups and plastic grocery bags were deployed by some, but their "green-around-the-gills" condition didn't spread throughout the cabin.

The owners of the Isle Royale Line from Copper Harbor tell me the round-bottomed "Barf Barge" was retired in 2004. Their new boat, the Isle Royale Queen IV, rolls a lot less in heavy seas, and the new boat cut an hour off the trip.

What once took around four hours, now takes around three.

To get a sense of the crossing, I mounted a time lapse camera near the bridge. So here's the 54 mile crossing in less than two minutes.

Cell phones don't work on the island. Senses that can be overwhelmed by a connected, electric lifestyle are freed to look up, and take in the wind, waves, rock, and soil.

What makes the Isle Royale so special? We asked the Isle Royale Line's retired Captain Donald Kilpela that question:

Kilpela first made the trip to Isle Royale in 1945. And he and his family have been running the ferry service in Copper Harbor since 1971. His sons Ben and Don Jr. now run the boat. The family has been crossing Lake Superior to Isle Royale every summer since they started the business.

Two other people who know the island well have spent a good part of their lives here.

Rolf Peterson has been studying the interactions of wolves and moose on Isle Royale for more than 40 years. He and his wife Candy spend around eight months of each year on the island, and they raised their two kids on Isle Royale while living in the tiny Bangsund Cabin.

Isle Royale became a National Park in 1940, and was designated as a wilderness area in 1976. Humans are not in control here. It's an ideal laboratory for Peterson and the other researchers studying wolves and moose here.

Much of what scientists around the globe know about wolves and their behavior comes from Michigan's Isle Royale. The research project here is the longest running continuous study of any predator-prey system in the world.

All this week, we'll bring you stories about this research and about the people who make it happen - online and on-air.

You can find all the stories we produce on our series page Lessons from Isle Royale's Wolves and Moose.

Isle Royale is the least visited National Park, but as Captain Kilpela pointed out, it's the most re-visited one.

Many of you have had your own personal experiences with the island. We invite you to share your experiences about Isle Royale in the comment section below. In six words or less - tell us - what's so special about Isle Royale?

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Environment & Science
10:27 am
Wed May 30, 2012

Invasive species hit your pocketbook

Sea lamprey cost taxpayers millions every year to control.
user drow_male wikimedia commons

The Nature Conservancy has released an analysis saying that invasive species such as zebra mussels and sea lamprey cost businesses and consumers hundreds of millions of dollars each year, besides damaging the environment in the Great Lakes region.

Power companies spend $130 million annually removing mussels from electric plants.

The report out yesterday said tourism and other industries lose $50 million a year in reduced demand because of invasive species.

The study conducted by Anderson Economic Group of East Lansing says the situation will get worse if Asian carp reach the Great Lakes.

Environment & Science
10:49 am
Tue May 29, 2012

Michigan Senate scraps DEQ permit for beach grooming

Rebecca Williams Michigan Radio

Let’s say you own a beach house. You might want to pull out some plants or mow them or smooth out the sand to make it look nice.

At the moment, if you want to do any of these things, you need a permit from both the state and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Maggie Cox is with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. She says her department has to make sure everyone can walk on the beaches, and she says sensitive wetlands need to be protected.

"Your property line is down to the water’s edge – but the state also holds in trust for the public the land up to ordinary high water mark."

Last week, the Michigan Senate passed legislation that would eliminate the state permit for beach maintenance.

Several environmental groups are opposed to that.  (You can check out this Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council brochure on beach grooming.)

The DEQ’s Maggie Cox says her agency will still have oversight of beach maintenance in wetland areas.

"In areas that are mostly sand or mostly rock, you no longer have to get a permit from the department. But in areas that are wet or coastal wetlands, made up mostly of bulrush or other vegetation, you’re going to have to still come to the department and the Army Corps for a permit."

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Transportation
1:36 pm
Thu May 24, 2012

Owner of coal-burning S.S. Badger seeks 5-year reprieve from EPA rules

This could be the final season for the old Lake Michigan car ferry - the S.S. Badger.
Bill McChesney Flickr

The Lake Michigan car ferry S.S. Badger started what could be its final sailing season today.

The historic ship burns coal as its fuel and dumps the leftover coal ash into Lake Michigan.

The EPA has said the ship needs to stop this practice. They've given the owners until the end of this year to come up with a solution, but the owners want more time.

Dave Alexander of MLive reported on a press conference held by the ship's owners this morning:

Before the 9:15 a.m. departure from its Ludington dock for the four-hour trip across a lumpy Lake Michigan to Manitowoc, Wis., Lake Michigan Carferry co-owner Bob Manglitz announced his company has made application to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to continue its coal ash dumping practices another five years.

Michigan Radio's Sarah Hulett reported on legislation in the U.S. House that "would allow the Badger to continue to dump coal ash because it's been nominated as a national historic landmark." She reports environmental groups are fighting against the designation.

Environment & Science
6:24 pm
Tue May 8, 2012

Feds say they'll act quicker to release study on keeping carp out of Great Lakes

Asian Carp at Chicago's Shed Aquarium
Kate Gardiner Creative Commons

The federal government says it will speed up a decision on how to protect the Great Lakes from invasive species in the Mississippi River basin. The Obama administration announced the new timetable Tuesday.

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Offbeat
2:13 pm
Fri April 27, 2012

Queen to enjoy "Great Lakes sea lamprey pie" at Diamond Jubilee

Old BBC newsreel of a Gloucester lamprey pie. The crust is not to be eaten.
BBC

According to the BBC, a sea-lamprey pie made for the monarchs in England by chefs in the city of Gloucester was a Christmas tradition that dated back to the Middle Ages.

The custom stalled in the 19th century, but has been revived of late for special occasions.

This year, Gloucester chefs plan to cook up a lamprey pie for Queen Elizabeth II for her Diamond Jubilee in June - marking 60 years of her reign.

And this time around, the lampreys in the pie will come from the Great Lakes.

The Detroit Free Press reports the Great Lakes Fishery Commission's Marc Gaden will gladly make an official delivery of the lampreys while vacationing in England this May.

Here, the lampreys are an invasive species that continue to threaten the sport fishing industry. But that's not the case in England:

Although lamprey used to be abundant in the Severn River near Gloucester, the creatures are now endangered and protected.

"It would be like us making a pie out of piping plover," an endangered shorebird in Michigan, Gaden said.

Gaden already has shipped 2 pounds of slimy Lake Huron lamprey, frozen, to Gloucester, but he is vacationing in England and will put on a tie and officially present the fish to the mayor May 4.

The Free Press reports chefs will consult an old recipe for the occasion:

One traditional 15th-Century recipe calls for the creature to be cooked in a sauce of wine, vinegar, cinnamon and its own blood, then baked in a tall crust...

[Marc]Gaden said he doesn't plan to eat any.

The BBC and the Free Press both report that no one can predict whether the Queen will partake in a piece of lamprey pie, or simply quietly admire it.

The BBC has a video about the Gloucester tradition of lamprey pie baking.

For more on how the sea lamprey snuck into the Lakes, check out "The Earliest Invader," a piece David Sommerstein did for the Environment Report's Ten Threats to the Great Lakes series.

Offbeat
12:46 pm
Tue April 24, 2012

Great Lakes inspired shoe, Nike's "Petoskey Stone" Dunk Low

A shoe design inspired by the Petoskey stone.
Nike

Nike worked with the Grand Rapids-based skateboarding shop Premier to create the shoe style.

The Petoskey stone inspired shoes will go on sale at Premier on April 28 with a price of $104.

Here's more, appropriately, from the Petoskey News:

To pay tribute to the store's Great Lakes roots, the leather of the blue and gray shoe is embossed with Petoskey stones and will feature a tote bag with a Petoskey stone print.

"We decided to do something a little more in-depth than the state colors or theme colors. We wanted to take different elements from the landscape and nature side of the state," said Premier co-owner Eric Blanding. "The Petoskey stone had a different print on it that we've always thought would look cool on a shoe."

Premier has worked on several other store-exclusive shoes in the past. Blanding said from design to the rack the entire shoe creation process can take up to a year and a half.

You can see more images of the shoe here at "Kicks on Fire."

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