Lake Michigan gets an overall ‘C’ grade on a new report card from the Senate Great Lakes Task Force. Beach water quality and lake water levels got ‘D’ grades, scoring lowest on the report card. Superfund cleanup efforts got a ‘B’ and the fight against invasive species like Asian carp got a ‘C.’
State and federal wildlife officials say their latest search has turned up no Asian carp swimming in an Illinois lake close to Lake Michigan, though they admit they can’t say there are no carp in the lake.
“We’re saying if there are fish there…they’re there in very low abundances," says Kevin Irons, the head of the state of Illinois’ office of Nuisance Aquatic Life. He says no Asian carp were found during a recent four day search of Lake Calumet. Carp DNA was found in the lake recently.
Scientists have been testing the water in the channels and rivers above an electric barrier desiged to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes.
They've found DNA evidence of the carp in Lake Calumet in the past. Now they've found more.
From the Associated Press:
Scientists have turned up more genetic evidence of Asian carp above an electric barrier designed to keep them from invading the Great Lakes.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers this week reported that nine water samples taken in May and June from Chicago-area waterways contained DNA from silver carp, one of two Asian species threatening to enter the lakes after migrating northward in the Mississippi River and its tributaries.
Hundreds of other samples had no carp DNA. But environmentalists say the latest findings show the electric barrier isn't enough to protect the Great Lakes. They want to sever the link between the lakes and the Mississippi basin near Chicago.
The federal government's Asian carp program coordinator said Thursday there's no evidence the fish are getting through the barrier.
DNA evidence can be a sign that Asian carp are in the water, but not necessarily so. It could just be that Asian carp scales or mucus are in suspension in the water column in that area.
C.J. Cummings was one of eight sailors tossed into the waves of a storm at 12:20 a.m. Monday. About 5:30 a.m., the phone rang with word that C.J. was OK and on shore at Charlevoix, along with his teenage friend sailing with the group.
"Hey, Dad," were the first words Chip Cummings heard from his son.
"Typical teenager," the relieved father said Monday, taking a deep breath. "Yeah, it was quite a rough ride."
The captain, Mark Morley, 51, and his girlfriend, Suzanne Bickel, 41, both of Saginaw, drowned.
Organizers of the Chicago-to-Mackinac race say they've never experienced a fatality in the race's 103 year history until Monday.
The Free Press reports the survivors were C.J. Cummings, 16; John Dent, 50; Stan Dent, 51; Peter Morley, 47; Stewart Morley, 15, and Lee Purcell, 46.
Morley and Bickel were found under the capsized boat strapped in. Tethers are often used in storms so crew don't get tossed from the boat. If the boat capsizes, crew members can cut the lines. Bickel and Morley's tethers were tangled, according to one rescue diver.
ABC News 7 in Chicago has this raw video of the capsized boat:
DETROIT (AP) - The Coast Guard says divers have found two people missing since their boat capsized in Lake Michigan during the annual Chicago-to-Mackinac Island race and that the two are "unresponsive."
The Coast Guard did not indicate in its news release whether the two boaters were alive or dead.
Authorities say a Charlevoix County dive team recovered the two boaters about eight hours after the reports the boat had flipped.
The boaters' names have not been released.
The other six people aboard the sailboat WingNuts were rescued. The boat capsized early Monday near the Fox Islands, west of Charlevoix during the Chicago Yacht Club race.
Current bid is $39,500 (you might need to scrape a little paint).
Or if living in a red tube is your idea of fun, you might consider the Kenosha North Pierhead Light on Lake Michigan in southeast Wisconsin. The auction for this light closes tomorrow as well, July 13.
The Washington Post has a story on the federal government's efforts to auction off old, out-of-date lighthouses that no longer serve as navigational aids because of the advent of radar, unmanned light towers, and satellite navigation.
They first try to sell the lighthouses to groups or other public entities that will preserve the lighthouse for historical purposes. If that doesn't work, they go up for public auction.
Right now, the U.S. General Services Administration wants to give away 12 historic lighthouses to state or local entities, nonprofit corporations, historic preservation groups, or community development organizations.
Four of these historic lighthouses are on the Great Lakes.
It shows how much cargo a ship can hold for every inch of water it occupies. For the biggest vessels – the “thousand- footers” – one inch of draft corresponds to 267 tons of cargo. That’s why every bit of clearance matters to shippers trying to get the most bang from every trip.
The Great Lakes form a sprawling ecosystem of nature and industry. In a strong economy, ships can transport up to 200 million tons of cargo across these waters each year. But now the shipping industry has declared a state of emergency. The cause is a region-wide dredging backlog. Shippers worry sediment buildup threatens to choke some navigation channels.
Today, we wrap up our series, Swimming Upstream. Dustin Dwyer traveled all around the Lower Peninsula to gather stories for this series. And today we have a story we wish we didn't have to do. It's the story of toxins in our fish.
Here's Dustin's story:
A few weeks ago, Joe Bohr got a surprise. He's a researcher for the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. He was looking at some numbers for PCB contamination in carp caught in canals in St. Clair Shores.
The Great Lakes and the Mississippi River basin are connected, but it's an artificial connection.
Around the turn of the last century canals and channels were dug that reversed the flow of water.
Waters that used to flow into Lake Michigan now flow into the Des Plaines River and eventually into the Mississippi.
The reversal was a way of separating Chicago's sewage from its drinking water supply.
And with more than 2 billion gallons of water a day flowing out of Lake Michigan, it's the largest diversion of Great Lakes water.
Undoing what was done around a hundred years ago has been considered crazy talk because of the expense involved, but some scientists are now embracing that idea.
In a new paper released in the Journal of Great Lakes Research, four lead scientists (Jerry Rasmussen, Henry Regier, Richard Sparks, and William Taylor) argue that the costs of permanent separation of the Great Lakes and Mississippi River Basin are worth it.
This week, we've been hearing stories about fish, for our series "Swimming Upstream." For today's story, Dustin Dwyer paid a visit to some researchers with the Department of Natural Resources. The DNR tracks fish populations at sites around the state. Dustin went aboard with the team on Lake St. Clair, and sent us this report.
President Cindy Larsen says they’ll now be known as the Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce.
“It does seem simplistic in a way that a name change could make such a difference. But people put a lot of time and energy when they think about the names of their companies of their children, of anything that they name. So a name does make a difference.”
Larsen says they hope adding ‘lakeshore’ to their name will give people a positive visual image that better reflects the region’s identity.
There’s an enormous project underway to clean up and protect the Great Lakes. It’s called the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. People are doing things like cleaning up toxic hot spots... restoring wetlands... and trying to keep Asian Carp out of Lake Michigan.
Melinda Koslow is with the National Wildlife Federation. She’s an author of a new report on how climate change might affect these projects. She says scientists are finding the climate in the Great Lakes region is already changing.
TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) - A new report says it would be technologically feasible to raise water levels in Lakes Huron and Michigan to make up for drop-offs caused by more than a century of dredging and other human activity.
But the report obtained by The Associated Press says it would take decades to accomplish the task and the price tag could exceed $200 million.
The study is scheduled for public release Friday. It was conducted by a team of engineers and scientists for the International Joint Commission, a U.S.-Canadian panel that advises both nations on Great Lakes issues.
They're trying to determine whether it would be worthwhile to place underwater dams, gates or other structures at the upper end of the St. Clair River to reduce the volume of water escaping Lake Huron.
This week, state lawmakers will discuss what can be done to better protect people from rip currents on the Great Lakes. It’s estimated that about 30 people drowned in the Great Lakes last year because of rip currents.
Rip currents form when powerful winds or surges of water press along the shoreline. The water must eventually flow back out. When it does the rip current created can prove too strong for even the best swimmer to escape.
A kayaker on the Manistee River in the northwestern Lower Peninsula recently was stopped by officers who were checking canoes and kayaks for safety equipment. The Department of Natural Resources says a man was adamant that he didn't need a life jacket or any other flotation device.
Just moments later, he flipped his kayak and landed in 51-degree water. Conservation officers Steve Converse and Sam Koscinski pulled him into their patrol boat and took him to shore.
TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) - Federal and state officials are beginning a series of projects to pinpoint how close Asian carp are to the Great Lakes and reduce their numbers in Chicago-area waterways near Lake Michigan.
The Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee released a $7 million monitoring and sampling plan Monday.
It uses a variety of techniques to determine how many of the invasive fish are in the Chicago waters, remove as many as possible, and detect any flaws in an electric barrier designed to block their path to Lake Michigan.
In addition to netting and electrofishing, officials say they'll add new tools, including an underwater camera that can help determine whether fish are getting through the barrier.
Biologists say if Asian carp become established in the Great Lakes, they could starve out other species.
TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) - A Canadian power company is no longer seeking U.S. permission to ship 16 scrapped generators with radioactive contents across three of the Great Lakes, but says it hasn't abandoned the plan.
Bruce Power Inc. withdrew an application this month for a transport license from the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.
Canada's Nuclear Safety Commission had granted the company permission in February to ship the generators, but U.S. approval was also needed because the vessels would cross into U.S. territory.
The Kincardine, Ontario-based company seeks to send the generators to Sweden for recycling. Environmentalists and other critics say transporting the school bus-sized devices on the Great Lakes would be risky.
The company says it's delaying the shipment to allow further talks with opponents, including native tribes.
The federal budget left many groups wanting more money, but those lobbying to restore Lake Michigan and the rest of the Great Lakes are actually pretty pleased with the President and Congress.
Andy Buchsbaum co-chairs a group that’s trying to get enough funding over five years to restore the Great Lakes. He says the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative didn’t get all the money it wanted in the 2011 federal budget. But Buchsbaum says given the tight economic times, the $300 million they did get will keep the program on track.
“The Great Lakes did remarkably well this year in the federal budget, and the people in this region will benefit from it.”
In Michigan, Buchsbaum says the money is being used to restore wetlands. It’s also being used to get rid of toxic hot spots, such as the so-called black lagoon in the Detroit River area. And it’s being used to prevent Asian Carp from getting into Lake Michigan.
Buchsbaum says both parties supported Great Lakes restoration because of the economic benefits, and everyone wants their children to be able to swim at the beaches and drink the water.
There’s a decision looming for Lake Huron that would have been unthinkable 10 years ago. The state must decide whether it should keep putting chinook salmon in the lake. The fish has been the driving force behind sport fishing in the Great Lakes. But the salmon’s future in the Upper Lakes is now questionable.
It’s hard to overstate how drastically salmon transformed the Great Lakes after they were introduced more than 40 years ago.
Ed Retherford is a charter boat captain on Lake Huron. He says in the old days on a weekend in Rockport he’d see cars with boat trailers backed up for a mile or two waiting to launch. But that’s all gone now.
“You’d be lucky, except maybe for the brown trout festival, you’d be lucky to see twenty boats there on a weekend. It just decimated that area. You can imagine the economics involved.”
Chinook or king salmon practically disappeared from Lake Huron about seven years ago. Most of the charter boats are gone now because the kinds of fish that remain are just not as exciting to catch as salmon.
State officials figure little towns like Rockport lose upwards of a million dollars in tourism business every year without the fishery.
Business owners and politicians are trying to figure out how to make Michigan a manufacturing hub for things like advanced batteries, wind turbines, and solar panels.
They’re gathering at the Clean Energy Manufacturing Workshop in Ann Arbor today and tomorrow. The workshop is being put on by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy along with Ann Arbor SPARK.
Steven Busch will be paying pretty close attention.
He’s with Energetx Composites Company in Holland. It’s a spin-off company of Tiara Yacht. Before the economy went south, their main business was building high end yachts. Now, they make blades for wind turbines.
“The basic manufacturing process is very similar. We have the expertise on how to handle large, big, bulky things.”
He says they’re planning to stay in Michigan.
“Michigan offers the best engineering and manufacturing skill set probably in the world. Geographically, the Great Lakes are a great opportunity as a place to be able to ship products over the water.”
Busch says he’d like to see more training programs at universities and community colleges – and more retraining programs for former auto workers who want to get into the business.
Ecologists from the University of Michigan say invasive zebra and quagga mussels are causing dramatic changes to the ecosystems in northern Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. Their report says action must come soon to stop the spread of the mussels in the Great Lakes.
Donald Scavia is the Director of the University of Michigan Graham Environmental Sustainability Institute. He's one of the authors of a new report that says the changes are happening quickly and require more attention than they are getting now:
“Our management strategies need to be able to be reviewed and modified every couple of years rather than every couple of decades.”
Scavia said the zebra mussels make it difficult to predict the conditions of the Great Lakes from year to year.