lake michigan

NOAA

The Great Lakes go up and down. It's just a fact of life. 

Water levels in Lakes Superior, Michigan and Huron continue to be above their monthly averages for the first time in 16 years.

A screenshot of the owl from the YouTube video.
Steve Spitzer / screenshot YouTube

A Chicago photographer and birder saw something swimming in Lake Michigan, and it was not a hardy winter athlete taking an Arctic plunge.

The photographer, Steve Spitzer, captured on video a great horned owl doing a vigorous breast stroke in the water off of Loyola Park Beach in Chicago's Rogers Park neighborhood. 

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

A lot of us are curious about the oil pipeline running through the Straits of Mackinac.

Michigan Radio's M I Curious is a news experiment where we investigate questions submitted by the public about our state and its people.

As part of our M I Curious project, Justin Cross asked Michigan Radio this question:

What is the status of the aged Enbridge oil pipeline running through Lake Michigan at the Straits of Mackinac?  

krossbow / flickr

No matter the season, if you live in Michigan, water isn't far away.

The Great Lakes. One of Michigan's 11,000 inland lakes. A river, like the Manistee or Au Sable.

Traverse Magazine invited five Northern Michigan women writers to share their thoughts on water. Two of those writers join us today on Stateside from Interlochen Public Radio.

Anne-Marie Oomen grew up on a farm near Lake Michigan. She says that besides understanding from the very beginning the reliance of agriculture on water, she felt related to water in a spiritual way.

Fleda Brown recalls fond memories of summer times spent near Michigan lakes as a child. “Driving up from Arkansas … and getting closer and closer to the lake and the woods, the first glimpse of water I saw through the trees was like miracle,” she said.

* Listen to full interview above.

Joi Ito / Flickr

The bass are getting fat.

Lake Michigan was recently recognized as one of the best places in America to fish for bass. The booming fishery is one sign of what might be a major shift of the lake’s food web.

But that change is being driven by an increase in goby, an invasive species. And it could spell trouble for salmon— the most popular sport fish in Lake Michigan.  

GLSRP.org

Swimmers and boaters in Michigan need to be more careful on the water.

"We're at 23 fatal drownings on the five Great Lakes so far this year. It's about 50% up from last year at this time," says Bob Pratt, the director of education at The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project. He says many recent deaths have been boaters who were swimming or they ran into trouble while boating on the lakes. 

Chief Petty Officer Alan Haraf / Coast Guard

The Coast Guard says crews didn't find any more oil during the latest search of the Lake Michigan shore following last week's spill at BP's northwestern Indiana refinery.

Last Monday, BP's oil refinery in Whiting, Indiana south of Chicago spilled crude oil into Lake Michigan. The company estimates the spill to be somewhere between 630 and 1,638 gallons. The oil made its way into the lake through a malfunction in the refinery's cooling system. 

Lindsey Smith/Michigan Radio

SAUGATUCK TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) - Construction is expected to begin in the coming months on an access road across part of the Lake Michigan shoreline for 18 home sites.

The Grand Rapids Press reports that Singapore Dunes LLC says it has received permission from the state Department of Environmental Quality to build the two-lane blacktop in Allegan County's Saugatuck Township.

 

Petty Officer 3rd Class Parker Wood / U.S. Coast Guard

This post was updated as we waited for an estimate on how much oil spilled into Lake Michigan from the BP refinery in Whiting, Indiana. Now that an estimate has been released, we'll continue to follow this story in other posts.

Update: Thursday, March 27, 4:39 p.m.

BP has revised its estimate of how much oil spilled Monday. It now says 15-39 barrels leaked from the Whiting Refinery. That's about 630-1,638 gallons.

Petty Officer Jeremy Thomas is with the U.S. Coast Guard’s Marine Safety unit in Chicago.

He says a small crew has been removing the oil manually. He says the cleanup efforts are going well.

“That involves either a gloved hand or a shovel or rake or some sort of hand powered tool to remove the oil from the shoreline,” Thomas said.

Thomas says federal agencies are waiting for weather conditions to improve before assessing if there’s any heavy tar sands oil on the lake bottom.

“There’s nothing that leads us to believe that there’s any down there but we want to rule it out because of course we want to make sure the environment’s safe and healthy and clean,” Thomas said.

It’s not clear what exactly caused the spill or how long cleanup will take.

Update: Tuesday, March 26, 7:21 p.m.

BP released a statement about an hour ago saying they are still estimating the amount of oil that was spilled and assessing whether more work will need to be done. From their statement:

Crews have recovered the vast majority of oil that had been visible on the surface of a cove-like area of Lake Michigan and on the shoreline between the refinery and a nearby steel mill. They have used vacuum trucks and absorbent boom to contain and clean up the surface oil. Responders also manually collected oil that had reached the shore.

Monitoring continues in coordination with the U.S. Coast Guard, EPA and the Indiana Department of Environmental Management. 

Update: Tuesday, March 26, 4:37 p.m.

Michigan Radio's Cynthia Canty spoke with Chicago Tribune environmental reporter Michael Hawthorne this afternoon about the spill. You can listen to the full interview here.

Hawthorne told us about the history of the Whiting refinery. It's one of the oldest refineries in the country.

"We don't know yet just how much oil was released from the refinery into Lake Michigan a couple of days ago. Some people were suggesting, at least off the record from the company, were suggesting that it was about 10 barrels - 12 barrels, not a lot in relative terms," said Hawthorne.

"And given the amount of pollution that's already going into the lake from that part of northwest Indiana, how much affect it had on the lake, at least in the eyes of environmental regulators is fairly minimal."

Screenshot from The Chicago Tribune / The Chicago Tribune

An oil spill from a BP refinery in Whiting, Ind., this week has raised new worries about the stepped-up processing of Canadian tar sands – and threats to Lake Michigan.

Considering that seven million people in Chicagoland depend on Lake Michigan for drinking water, even a little spill might be cause for concern.

Exactly what was spilled? How far did it spread? And has BP contained the leak?

We're joined now by Michael Hawthorne, a reporter with The Chicago Tribune.

Listen to the full interview above.

Archeologists studying a wooden beam pulled from northern Lake Michigan this summer can't say whether it is a piece of the first European ship to sail the upper Great Lakes or a post from an old fishing net. The group managing the project is close to issuing a report to the state archeologist, but it won’t reach any firm conclusion.

Read on to discover the evidence that points to each conclusion.

Incentive OK'd for filming in southwest Michigan

Feb 23, 2014
Middle Distance/FB

NEW BUFFALO – A movie filming in southwestern Michigan has been approved for a state incentive.

The Michigan Film Office says "The Middle Distance" is being awarded $39,000 on $145,000 of projected in-state expenditures.

The movie is set to film this month in New Buffalo, Three Oaks and Grand Beach. It's to feature local diners and landscapes.

"The Middle Distance" director Patrick Underwood says the community support for the film "has been overwhelming."

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

MUSKEGON, Mich. (AP) - Supporters of allowing cargo barges to travel on Lake Michigan as far north as Muskegon say they've lined up significant backing from members of the state legislature.

The Michigan Agri-Business Association says 86 House members and eight senators have signed letters favoring the idea.

Rep. Marcia Hovey-Wright says allowing barges to call at ports in Muskegon and elsewhere along the lake's eastern shore would give those areas a better shot at economic growth opportunities. Sen. Goeff Hansen says it would lead to infrastructure improvements.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

About a hundred people showed up at a public hearing Tuesday night in Ann Arbor to discuss ways to keep Asian carp from getting into the Great Lakes.

One by one, people took to the microphone to tell the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers the only way to stop the Asian carp is to close the man-made waterways connecting the Great Lakes to the Mississippi River basin.

Asian carp have devastated native fish populations in parts of the Mississippi River basin since first being introduced in the southern United States. Some species of Asian carp were brought in to help keep retention ponds clean in aquaculture and wastewater treatment facilities.

user GlenArborArtisans / YouTube

While temperatures are (finally) starting to climb out of subzeros across Michigan, signs of the so-called polar vortex – a low-pressure system that brought arctic temperatures across the country – are still lingering throughout the state.

For instance, boulder-sized ice balls have taken hold of the shores of Lake Michigan. Here’s a video captured on the lake’s coast in Glen Arbor, Michigan:

As MLive’s Heidi Fenton reported, the chunks form when large ice sheets break off into smaller pieces of ice. When waves hit the ice sheets, the ice chunks form into perfectly round, frigid spheres, with some estimated to weigh about 75 pounds.

If temperatures stay low enough, the ice balls – which our webmaster claims look exactly like chocolate truffles he has at home – may continue to grow, AccuWeather.com reported:

"It's possible that the ice is accreting like a snowball or like a hailstone, and that they keep growing," said AccuWeather.com Meteorologist Jim Andrews.

Steve Maslowski/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Imagine walking down a picturesque beach along Lake Michigan, and stumbling upon the carcasses of dead birds. That’s a very real and unpleasant problem along Lakes Michigan, Huron, Ontario and Erie. (It’s not as big of an issue in Lake Superior because of the lake’s colder water temperatures.)

Loons and other deep-diving birds are suffering from a disease called avian botulism. It’s form of food poisoning that kills wild birds in the Great Lakes ecosystem.

NOAA

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — Food supplies for fish and other organisms are declining in some areas of the Great Lakes, particularly Lakes Huron and Michigan, according to a newly released scientific report.

user urban.houstonian / Flickr

We turn now to a little-known and absolutely fascinating slice of Michigan history: Beaver Island.

It's a fairly remote island, plunked right there in the middle of northern Lake Michigan. Take a ferry northwest from Charlevoix, and you're there.

Fewer than 500 people live on Beaver Island year-round. A lot of them are descendants from Irish fishermen who fled the famine and troubles in 19th-century Ireland, and wound up on Beaver Island.

That's part of the fascinating history of Beaver Island. Later, years after settlement, one Mormon on the island proclaimed himself "King" of Beaver Island!

But how did Irish emigrants find their way to this island in Lake Michigan? And who was the island’s self-proclaimed king?

Listen to the full interview above.

Mark Godfrey / The Nature Conservancy

The Nature Conservancy has purchased an uninhabited island in northern Lake Michigan that provides a crucial stopover spot for migratory birds.

St. Martin Island is part of a chain that runs between Wisconsin's Door Peninsula and Michigan's Garden Peninsula.

Millions of sparrows, warblers and other birds stop on the chain to take a break and feed before continuing their migration. According to a release issued by the group today:

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) - A government report says the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency should do more to make sure a Great Lakes cleanup program is meeting its goals.

Congress has spent about $1.3 billion on the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative over the past four years. It has funded 1,700 grants for on-the-ground projects and scientific research. It focuses on persistent environmental threats such as invasive species, loss of wildlife habitat, toxic pollution and runaway algae growth.

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

A water dilemma is brewing in Wisconsin.

The city of Waukesha (near Milwaukee) is asking for permission to tap into Lake Michigan for drinking water — to the tune of 10.1 million gallons per day.

Waukesha is in a real bind. The aquifer that has provided most of its drinking water for the last century has dropped so far, that the water left behind has unhealthy levels of radium and salt.

So the city of 70,000 is under a federal order to find a new source, and Lake Michigan is just 15 miles away.

But Waukesha has the bad luck to be a mile and a half outside the watershed boundary that encircles the five Great Lakes.

Bill MCChesney/Flickr

LUDINGTON, Mich. (AP) - Federal officials want to enter into a revised consent agreement with a car ferry operator that would stop the nation's last coal-fired ferryboat from dumping waste ash into Lake Michigan before the 2015 sailing season.

The Ludington Daily News reports that the Environmental Protection Agency and the Justice Department filed a motion Friday to enter into the revised deal with Lake Michigan Carferry, operator of the S.S. Badger.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

We excrete these drugs or dump them down the drain, and they find their way into our water.

Pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) in rivers and lakes have been documented before, but this research finds levels in Lake Michigan that could have deleterious effects on the ecosystem.

Thirty-two different drugs were found - 14 of them were found at levels "of medium or high ecological risk."

The study was published in the journal Chemosphere:

The environmental risk of PPCPs in large lake systems, such as the Great Lakes, has been questioned due to high dilution; however, the concentrations found in this study, and their corresponding risk quotient, indicate a significant threat by PPCPs to the health of the Great Lakes, particularly near shore organisms.

Brian Bienkowski wrote about the study for Environmental Health News. Of the 14 chemicals found in concentrations of concern, Bienkowski writes triclosan has been studied the most.

...it has proven acutely toxic to algae and can act as a hormone disruptor in fish.

“You’re not going to see fish die-offs [from pharmaceuticals] but subtle changes in how the fish eat and socialize that can have a big impact down the road,” said Kolpin, who did not participate in the study. “With behavior changes and endocrine disruption, reproduction and survival problems may not rear their ugly head for generations.”

The four most commonly found drugs were:

NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory / Flickr

Lake Michigan’s Green Bay is developing dead zones similar to those found in Lake Erie and the Gulf of Mexico. In these zones, the oxygen content in the water is so low, virtually no fish, insects, or worms can survive.

According to a report by the Associated Press, in a public webinar on Thursday scientists said the dead zone may cover as much as 40% of the Bay. Tracy Valenta, a water resources specialist for the Green Bay Metropolitan Sewerage District, said that the zone starts approximately eight miles northeast of the city and may extend more than 30 miles.

Facebook

If you live in the city or the suburbs and you travel to the country, the first thing that often strikes you after the sun goes down is the incredible show in the night skies.

The difference between what city-dwellers see each night, and the same sky when you're on the shore of Lake Michigan in Emmett County is unbelievable.

That's the magic behind the Headlands International Dark Sky Park, a 600 acre park along the shore of Lake Michigan near Mackinaw City.

It's one of only 10 designated dark sky parks in the world.

Mary Stewart Adams, the program director at the Headlands International Dark Sky Park, joined us from Emmett County.

Want to know more about what the masses think of your region? A Google search could reveal predominant stereotypes of your area.

If you're not already familiar with it, Google’s autocomplete function makes search suggestions as you type in a search term.

Paddleboarding Across Lake Michigan / Facebook

Three college students crossed Lake Michigan by way of a paddle board on Monday.

The three paddlers were Ginny Melby, Trent Masselink and Craig Masselink. They reached the shores of Muskegon after embarking barely 24 hours before on their 80-mile journey.

They raised money for an organization called Restore International. The group fights for boys who are child soldiers and girls who are forced into prostitution in Uganda.

You can find out more on their Facebook page.

michiganshipwrecks.org

It was 63 years ago when Northwest Flight 2501 took off from La Guardia in New York on a non-stop flight to Minneapolis.

Flight 2501 never made it to its destination. The DC-4 prop liner vanished in a storm over Lake Michigan off the coast of South Haven. The 55 passengers and crew of three were lost.

That crash has become one of the great mysteries of the Great Lakes.

Shipwreck explorer and author Valerie van Heest has joined forces with popular author Clive Cussler, trying to figure out what happened to Flight 2501. Her new book "Fatal Crossing" is out from In-Depth Editions.

In northern Lake Michigan today explorers are stepping up their effort to find a ship that sank in 1679.

French and American archeologists are on the Lake looking for a ship sailed by the French explorer Robert de La Salle, the Griffin.

So far, the top marine archeologist from France says he thinks they are close to the hull of a ship in northern Lake Michigan. Michel L’Hour says the beam of wood now exposed is likely a bowsprit.

The team excavating the site says the beam is at least 20 feet long and the construction details are typical of colonial ships.

wikipedia

ON LAKE MICHIGAN NEAR POVERTY ISLAND, Mich. (AP) - In a remote part of northern Lake Michigan, divers have started looking at an underwater pit, hoping to find the resting place of the Griffin, a ship commanded by the 17th century French explorer La Salle.

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