lake michigan

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.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Michigan Rep. Mike Rogers candidate for FBI director

A group representing FBI agents and retirees says it wants Michigan Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Brighton) to be the next FBI director. Rogers worked as an FBI agent before being elected to the Michigan Senate. He was later elected to Congress.

Seventy-nine gallons of radioactive water in Lake Michigan

The Palisades Nuclear Plant shut down yesterday after a release of slightly radioactive water into Lake Michigan.  Seventy-nine gallons drained into Lake Michigan near South Haven on Saturday.

"The agency does not know exactly how radioactive the water was, but based on general knowledge of where the water came from there is no risk to public safety," reports Michigan Radio's Lindsey Smith.

U.S. Education Secretary finds promise in Detroit

Yesterday U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Governor Rick Snyder visited public schools in Detroit and a school in the state’s Education Achievement Authority. The EAA is a controversial entity meant to turn around some of the state’s worst public schools.

"US Education Secretary Arne Duncan says he’s “very encouraged” by improvements he’s seen in Detroit schools."  reports Michigan Radio's Jake Neher.

Some environmental groups aren't on board with the SS Badger

May 1, 2013
user Wigwam Jones / Flickr

The SS Badger has been making the four-hour run from Ludington to Manitowoc, Wisconsin since 1953. It's the last coal-fired ferry in the United States and annually attracts some 100,000 passengers.

The ferry is an important aspect of life in Ludington. It brings tourists, which means jobs and income for the small town.

However, there are growing concerns among environmental groups. Now, the Badger can potentially dump up to four tons of coal ash slurry directly into Lake Michigan on its route. This is legal due to an EPA permit that allows the Badger to continue this practice, but that permit is now under review. If the permit is cut, the Badger's days are coming to an end.

NASA

The International Joint Commission (IJC) recommends that the U.S. and Canadian governments investigate the option of placing man-made structures in the St. Clair River to raise water levels in Lakes Michigan and Huron.

The IJC is a binational organization that develops recommendations and resolves disputes over waters between the U.S. and Canada.

More from Jon Flesher of the Associated Press:

User: Brother O'Mara / Flickr

The race for the Democratic chair

"Michigan's Democratic congressional delegation wants to replace the long-time chairman of the state Democratic Party. Sens. Carl Levin, Debbie Stabenow and five members of the U.S. House wrote an open letter to Democrats Tuesday backing Lon Johnson over incumbent Mark Brewer," the Associated Press reports.

Detroit moves to turn on its lights

"The Detroit City Council on Tuesday approved articles of incorporation for a public lighting authority in the city. The state legislature passed bills in December enabling the lighting authority. Detroit has chronic problems keeping many of its streetlights on, though no one can say for sure how many aren't working at any given time," Sarah Cwiek reports.

Lakes Michigan and Huron at record low levels

"The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers may take another look at placing structures at the bottom of the St. Clair River to boost water levels in Lakes Huron and Michigan. The lakes are at their lowest levels since record-keeping began in 1918, and many people in the region are demanding action," The Associated Press reports.

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