Great Lakes

energy
4:10 pm
Tue April 3, 2012

Buoy that could determine viability of offshore wind farm to head back out to Lake Michigan

The wind buoy sits on a pier in Muskegon before it first launched back in October 2011.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Wednesday state regulators and researchers will head about 35 miles west of Muskegon, near the Michigan-Wisconsin border in Lake Michigan. There they’ll survey the bottom of Lake Michigan to make sure there are no historic artifacts in the way when a floating research platform drops anchor there (likely) later this week.

Arn Boezaart heads the Michigan Alternative and Renewable Energy Center. Last year the center operated the buoy only 4 miles offshore. This year it’ll collect first of its kind data that’ll likely determine whether an offshore wind farm is viable in the middle of Lake Michigan.

Boezaart says there was a lot more interest in offshore wind data when the project began two-and-a-half years ago.

“The times have changed, the political winds have changed. So we’re just minding our business and going forward with the research work that we’re charged to do," Boeazart said. “We’ll let other people figure out how the public policy questions and politics of this play out.”

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Environment
5:12 pm
Fri March 30, 2012

Michigan and 4 other states join feds to push for Great Lakes wind farms

A wind farm off the coast of Sweden
Mariusz Paździora wikimedia commons

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) - Federal officials say a deal to speed up consideration of proposed offshore wind farms in the Great Lakes should cut red tape and open the way for more clean energy production.

Officials announced the agreement Friday between the federal government and Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New York and Pennsylvania.

There are no wind turbines in the Great Lakes now. But one project is in the works for Lake Erie.

Nancy Sutley of the White House Council on Environmental Quality said there's "tremendous" potential for wind energy development in the region. She said it's hard to know when other offshore wind proposals may arise, but government agencies should have an efficient system in place to evaluate them.

Environment
9:00 am
Tue March 27, 2012

A salmon balancing act for Lake Michigan fishery managers

The Desperado heads out at sunrise to go after Pacific salmon in Lake Michigan.
Photo by Lester Graham/Michigan Radio

by Peter Payette for The Environment Report

The people who manage salmon in Lake Michigan will have to decide soon how many fish to put into the lake.  The salmon fishery is a manmade industry in the Great Lakes.  It’s produced by planting millions and millions of fish in the lakes.  But keeping the salmon population in balance with the food supply is a challenge these days.  And some scientists are raising new questions about the salmon’s demise in Lake Huron and whether that can be stopped in Lake Michigan.  

Salmon were brought in from the Pacific Ocean.

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Environment
2:37 pm
Sat March 10, 2012

The Great Lakes - On Thin Ice?

DULUTH, Minn. (AP) — A published report says the amount of ice covering the Great Lakes has declined about 71 percent over the past 40 years.

The report published last month by the American Meteorological Society says only about 5 percent of the Great Lakes surface froze over this year.

A Duluth News Tribune report (http://bit.ly/z5DoW8 ) says researchers determined ice coverage by scanning U.S. Coast Guard reports and satellite images taken from 1973 to 2010.

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Environment
4:20 pm
Mon February 27, 2012

Court won't close shipping canal immediately to stop invasive carp

The distribution of the bighead carp in the U.S. Evidence of the fish have been found in Lake Erie, but no reproducing populations have been found there yet.
USGS

This post has been updated with more details and comments from AG's office. 

Shipping locks in Chicago-area waterways will not be closed while a lawsuit over how to keep Asian Carp out of the Great Lakes is pending. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the injunction Monday.

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Politics
2:45 pm
Thu February 23, 2012

Feds plan to spend $51.5 million on 2012 Asian carp fight

Searching for Asian Carp in the Great Lakes. The Obama Administration released its carp strategy today.
U.S. Coast Guard

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) - The Obama administration plans to spend $51.5 million this year in its continuing battle to protect the Great Lakes from destructive Asian carp.

Federal officials announced their carp strategy for 2012 on Thursday. It includes first-time water sampling to determine whether bighead and silver carp have reached vulnerable sections of Lakes Michigan, Erie and Huron.

Other planned measures include stepped-up netting and trapping of Asian carp in the Illinois River. Also high-tech monitoring to determine if an electric barrier near Chicago is adequately blocking the carp's path to Lake Michigan.

Authorities also plan field tests of an acoustic underwater gun that could scare carp away and pheromones to lure them to places where they could be captured.

Asian Carp
7:26 am
Thu February 23, 2012

Feds spend $50 million on carp fight

The Obama administration will spend about $50 million this year on protecting the Great Lakes from greedy Asian carp, including first-time testing to see if the fish have reached Lakes Michigan and Erie.

Federal officials tell The Associated Press the government has updated its strategy for battling bighead and silver carp that have infested the Mississippi River watershed and are closing in on the Great Lakes.

Scientists say if the carp take hold in the lakes, they could threaten the $7 billion fishing industry by gobbling up plankton at the base of the food web.

Among new initiatives will be searching southern Lake Michigan and western Lake Erie for signs of carp DNA.

Also planned is stepped-up trapping and netting to remove Asian carp from tributary rivers.

Environment
12:38 pm
Tue February 21, 2012

Environmentalists threaten suit over Great Lakes ballast water changes

Testing a ship's ballast tanks for invasive species
David Sommerstein The Environment Report

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) - Environmental groups say they may renew a legal battle if the federal government doesn't toughen proposed regulations of ship ballast water that has brought invasive species such as zebra mussels to the Great Lakes.

Groups have gone to court twice to force the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to crack down on ballast water disposal. The agency now requires ships to exchange the water at sea. In November, EPA proposed requiring vessels to install equipment that would kill at least some organisms remaining in the tanks.

The rule is based on an international standard that shippers say is the best they can do with existing technology.

But environmental groups said Tuesday the rules aren't strong enough to prevent more species invasions and they may sue again unless EPA toughens them.

Offbeat
4:02 pm
Mon January 30, 2012

Taking water recreation to new heights, introducing the 'Dolphinator'

Every summer, it seems there's some new water recreation device on the Great Lakes, I wonder if we'll see the "Dolphinator" anytime soon.

That's not what the inventor, Franky Zapata, calls it, that's what Robert Krulwich calls it on his blog "Krulwich Wonders":

I'm looking at this thing and thinking it should be renamed "The Dolphinator," because this is about as close as a human is ever going to get to flying in and out of the air and sea as dolphins do. In fact, it beats the dolphins.

Have a look:

I can't wait to spot one in action on the Lakes. I don't know how hard it would be to get your hands on one (Mr. Zapata's online store is down at the moment). But Krulwich writes that the "Dolphinator" (as it is now known here at Michigan Radio), costs $6,441.

And riding it is a snap... according Zapata:

"...the Flyboard is very intuitive : it’s like learning to walk. Find your balance and you will become Flying Man or Dolphin Man! Between 2 and 20 minutes are needed to learn with an instructor and 20 minutes/ 1 hour without." 

Sign me up.

Environment
9:00 am
Thu December 22, 2011

Great Lakes restoration funding survives budget cuts

People who are working on cleaning up the Great Lakes got some good news this week. After months of negotiations, the 2012 federal budget contains $300 million for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

That money will be used to clean up pollution, deal with invasive species and restore wildlife habitat. A lot of these projects are already underway.

Jeff Skelding is the campaign director for the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition. He says in a time when many budgets are getting slashed, funding for Great Lakes cleanup will remain steady.

“We have pretty much full support from both Republicans and Democrats in the Great Lakes Congressional delegation. I mean, they see the wisdom of infusing federal funding into the region, not only to clean up the Lakes which of course is very important, but the ancillary benefit we get from that is the economic benefits of investing these funds.”

The budget also includes more than $500 million to help Great Lakes states upgrade their aging sewer systems. When it rains, the sewers often get overloaded, and raw sewage can wash up on beaches.

Environment
2:15 pm
Tue December 20, 2011

$300 million for Great Lakes cleanup, and a '12 Days of Invasive Species Christmas'

A map of 664 Great Lakes Restoration Initiative projects listed on the GLRI website.
greatlakesrestoration.us

One item that has escaped the budget tie-ups in Congress is funding for Great Lakes cleanup.

Congress approved $300 million in funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative for fiscal year 2012.

From the Associated Press:

The money was included in a larger spending bill that cleared the House and Senate last week and is awaiting President Barack Obama's signature...

Jeff Skelding of the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition says next year's federal budget is a victory for people who depend on the Great Lakes for drinking water and jobs.

The approved funding keeps the ball rolling for the historic levels of federal investment in Great Lakes cleanup through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

The Initiative was kicked off in 2010 with $475 million in restoration funds aimed at cleaning up toxic hot spots, curbing runoff pollution, fighting invasive species, and restoring habitat.

2011 saw a decrease in funding from Congress to just under $300 million.

Jeff Skelding, the campaign director of the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition, told Rebecca Williams of the Environment Report earlier this year that debate about funding for Great Lakes cleanup cuts across party lines:

"...one thing about the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is because of the nature of the program, federal funding to clean up the Great Lakes, and to help the economy, it's really a bi-partisan issue. We have really received great support from both Republicans and Democrats in the Great Lakes Congressional delegation. So that gives us hope as we stare down the significant cuts that are happening across the federal budget."

The AP reports the Great Lakes region is also "expected to get $533 million in loans for sewer upgrades."

Twelve Days of Aquatic Invasive Species Christmas

And for those who want to mix holiday cheer with aquatic invasive species (who can resist, really?)...

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Environment
12:04 pm
Fri December 2, 2011

What's the use? State cuts back on salmon stocking in Lake Huron

Juvenile Chinook salmon. Populations of the popular sport fish have collapse in Lake Huron.
USFWS

The sport fishery has been on the rocks in Lake Huron for quite some time.

We first reported on the collapse in Lake Huron back in 2006.

That's when Jim Johnson with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Alpena Fisheries Research Station explained to Lester Graham what was going on:

"There was a huge decline in the amount of nutrients available to zooplankton and phytoplankton in the middle of Lake Huron. These are the basic nutrient bits that fish eat. And it appears now to most of us in the scientific community that a large portion of the nutrients that used enter Lake Huron are now being trapped by zebra and quagga mussels and not finding their way to alewives and other prey fish."

Now we hear news that the state plans to cut salmon stocking in Lake Huron.

From the Associated Press:

Michigan plans a sharp cutback in Chinook stocking in Lake Huron next year, further evidence of the collapse of the lake's salmon fishery.

The state Department of Natural Resources said Friday it will place 693,000 spring Chinook fingerlings in Lake Huron in 2012. That's down from the nearly 1.5 million fed to the lake this year.

Acting DNR fisheries chief Jim Dexter says recreational harvest of Chinook has all but disappeared in the southern two-thirds of Lake Huron. The lake's only productive recreational fishery is in the northern section, where salmon are proving able to reproduce on their own.

Fish biologists blame Huron's Chinook drop-off on the unraveling of the food chain likely caused by invasive zebra and quagga mussels, which have gobbled up plankton needed by forage fish.

Politics
2:46 pm
Sat November 19, 2011

Dear whiskey maker, please come visit MI

user cookbookman17 Flickr

A top Michigan Republican would like the makers of Jack Daniel's whiskey to consider moving north if the company decides to leave Tennessee.

House Speaker Jase Bolger has invited distillery managers to visit Michigan. He says the state's business climate is improving, and he noted the state's large supply of fresh water.

A spokesman for Jack Daniel's parent company said Friday there are no plans to visit Michigan or other places that have made similar offers since a dispute about taxes sprouted in Tennessee.

Some Moore County citizens have proposed a "barrel tax" for the Lynchburg, Tenn., distillery that could raise up to $5 million a year. They're asking Tennessee lawmakers to authorize a local referendum.  

The distillery is waiting to see what happens with the tax issue.

Environment
5:00 am
Thu November 17, 2011

U.S. House bill would weaken Michigan's invasive species law

The invasive sea lamprey preys on all species of Great Lakes fish.
USFWS

Michigan’s fight to control invasive species in the Great Lakes could be weakened by a bill passed by the U.S. House this week.

Michigan put a ballast water law into effect in 2007 to keep ships from releasing new invasive species into the Great Lakes.

But the standard would be lowered by a Coast Guard funding bill that’s on its way to the U.S. Senate.

Patty Birkholz is director of Michigan’s Office of the Great Lakes. She says the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Coast Guard had plenty of time to come up with recommendations, but failed to do so.

Now, Birkholz  says, Michigan has the most to lose.

"We know the dangers that we're under with invasive species, both from water and land, and we have to protect ourselves even if the federal government won't standup to the invasive threat out there," Birkholz says.

Birkholz says no new invasive species have been found since Michigan tightened its ballast water standards.

The U.S. House bill also allows the SS Badger car ferry in Ludington to continue dumping coal ash into Lake Michigan. The operator says it can’t yet afford to convert to natural gas.

Commentary
10:28 am
Wed November 16, 2011

Needed: Protection for The Great Lakes

In Lansing last week, the legislature put the finishing touches on a bill to prevent the various departments of our state government from issuing regulations stronger than federal ones.

That may sound a little odd, so let me explain. Let’s say we wanted to have clean water standards higher than those Washington requires. That ought to make sense. We are surrounded by the Great Lakes, which account for most of the fresh water in the entire Western Hemisphere. Preserving them is essential to our survival.

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Tourism
10:32 am
Mon November 14, 2011

Cruise ships to ply waters of the Great Lakes

Two cruise ships are getting ready to travel the Great Lakes starting next year. The Yorktown, a new vessel, is scheduled for 13 stops in Detroit. The Grand Mariner will have one stop.

Officials credit Detroit's new Public Dock and Terminal with generating at least some of the interest. The new terminal opened last July. The 14 planned stops are up from two stops by cruise ships this year.

*Correction - A previous version of this story stated that "roughly two-dozen cruise ships are getting ready to travel the Great Lakes starting next year." An official from the Detroit/Wayne County Port Authority says just two ships will be making more than a dozen stops at the Public Dock and Terminal. The copy has been corrected above.

Environment
11:11 am
Fri November 4, 2011

Landslide leads to coal ash spill in Lake Michigan

Earlier this week, there was a landslide at a coal-burning power plant in Wisconsin. We Energies operates the plant. On their property, there’s a ravine next to a bluff on the shore of Lake Michigan. That ravine is filled with coal ash.

Coal ash is what’s left over when coal is burned to create electricity and it can contain toxic substances like arsenic, mercury and lead.

When the bluff collapsed on Monday, mud, soil, and coal ash spilled into Lake Michigan.

Barry McNulty is with We Energies.

“The vast majority of the debris including the soils and even coal ash, remain on land today. But a portion of that debris certainly spilled into Lake Michigan, which includes three vehicles, we believe, some coal ash, different soil from the bluff,” McNulty said.

McNulty said they don’t know how much coal ash got into the lake, but he said they are installing booms and using skimmers to clean up the spill.

The cause of the spill is under investigation.

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Environment
4:35 pm
Thu October 27, 2011

States seek action on Asian carp from U.S. Supreme Court

Some states want the U.S. Supreme Court to weigh in on the Asian carp fight.
US Supreme Court

Five Great Lakes states are waiting to find out if the U.S. Supreme Court will hear their case calling for more decisive measures to keep Asian carp from reaching the Great Lakes.

Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania filed the request this week.

The states want the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to quickly wrap up its study of how to keep Asian carp from escaping the Mississippi River system through Chicago-area shipping canals. The corps is one of the main agencies responsible for the locks.

John Sellek is the spokesman for Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette.

“What we really want is to have the Army Corps of Engineers speed up their study,” said Sellek.

“They are taking up to five years or longer to look at this and every minute that goes by could be another fish that’s getting through those canals in Chicago, so what we’re requesting is they speed that up to 18 months at the longest.”

The Great Lakes states also want the high court to order the corps to string nets across smaller waterways that could be escape points for the carp.

At the same time, Michigan and 17 states along the Great Lakes or the Mississippi want a total physical separation of the water systems.

Environment
3:17 pm
Wed October 19, 2011

Study predicts less Great Lakes water loss

Lake Erie
Kathy Weaver photopedia

Previous research suggested a decline in future Great Lakes water levels, but findings from a recent scientific report may paint a different picture. 

Associated Press environmental writer John Flesher reports:

New research suggests climate change might not cause Great Lakes water levels to drop as much as previous studies have indicated. In fact, it might even cause them to rise.

Scientists at the NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory in Ann Arbor say they've devised a new way to predict future water levels. In a newly published journal article, they say it involves different methods of measuring evaporation of water from the soil and plants within the Great Lakes watershed.

Low water levels can cause heavy losses for shippers and other
Great Lakes businesses. They also affect the environment.

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Environment
2:06 pm
Fri October 14, 2011

Report says farm runoff declining near Great Lakes

DETROIT (AP) - A report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture says farmers are cutting back significantly on the amount of soil and nutrients eroding from fields to the Great Lakes and neighboring waterways.    

The study estimates that methods such as no-till cultivation have cut in half the volume of sediments entering rivers and streams in the region, while phosphorus and nitrogen runoff are down by more than one-third.

Nutrients from farms and municipal waste treatment plants are believed to be one cause of rampant algae growth in the Great Lakes in recent years.

The study is based on a survey of farmers between 2003 and 2006.

Andy Buchsbaum of the National Wildlife Federation says the report shows progress is being made, but says more must be done to fix the algae problem.

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