Great Lakes

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

Seeking Change interview

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

You can listen to today's Environment Report or read an expanded version of the story below.

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.

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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