Great Lakes

The Great Lakes are the largest freshwater system on the Earth's surface, home to a fragile fishery, and delicate shoreline beaches and dunes. They are also central to northern Michigan tourism, economies and our way of life. 

Canadians offer plan to battle harmful algae blooms

Feb 28, 2018

Canada and the province of Ontario recently released their plan to combat toxic algae blooms in Lake Erie.  Phosphorus is the primary cause of the blooms that turn parts of the lake green most summers.

The U.S. and Canada hope to reduce phosphorus in Lake Erie by 40 percent, from 2008 levels.  It’s all part of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement.

Under that agreement, Canada and the U.S. must develop plans for reducing phosphorus by 2025.  The United States plan – which will summarize five state plans -- is set to be released later this week.

Lake Superior, the largest freshwater lake in the world, is awe-inspiring on many levels. But it’s also challenged. Though it seems pristine, a couple centuries of exploitation have taken their toll.

A new book Sustaining Lake Superior: An Extraordinary Lake in a Changing Worldpublished by Yale University Press, traces the history of the lake and some of the indignities it's suffered at the hands of humans.

Let's talk about water.

That's the invitation from the Michigan Humanities Council to communities and organizations around the state. The council is accepting applications for groups to host Third Coast Conversations: Dialogues about Water in Michigan.

Coalition hopes Congress will save Great Lakes funding

Feb 16, 2018
Elizabeth Miller/ideastream

Healing Our Waters, a coalition of environmental groups involved in protecting the Great Lakes, says President Trump’s 2019 budget and infrastructure plan are both “dead on arrival”.

About 100 members of the coalition will travel to Washington, D.C., next month to meet with senators and representatives from the region. They'll present some recommendations for a national infrastructure plan.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

On Tuesday, The Watershed Center said Grand Traverse Bay was officially frozen. The official designation happens after West Bay is frozen from Traverse City to Power Island for more than 24 hours. Even though that's only a fraction of the bay, that's been the official measurement for over a hundred years.

Heather Smith, Grand Traverse Baykeeper at The Watershed Center, says the bay didn’t freeze over the last two winters – not since 2015. She says, since 1990, it has only frozen between 20 to 30 percent of the time.

Trump again seeks to slash Great Lakes funding

Feb 13, 2018

President Trump’s 2019 budget outline has been released and Great Lakes funding would be cut substantially.

Released Monday, the budget outline reduces Great Lakes funding by 90 percent – to just $30 million.  The money is used for projects like cleaning up pollution, protecting wildlife and rebuilding wetlands.

Last year, Trump zeroed out Great Lakes restoration funding in his proposed budget -- but Republicans and Democrats in Congress came together to restore the money.

Insecticides widely used on farms, lawns and gardens — known as neonicotinoids — are showing up in rivers across the Great Lakes region.

Piping plovers are little white and gray shorebirds. You might’ve seen them running around on the beach.

Sarah Saunders is a post-doctoral researcher at Michigan State University.

“The majority of the piping plovers in the Great Lakes region nest at Sleeping Bear Dunes,” she says. “The chicks look like little fluffy cotton balls on toothpicks because their legs are really long and they’re very cute. And they make a very high pitched piping noise.”

 


 

He’s been widely praised for his paintings about natural history and ecological history.

 

Now, New York artist Alexis Rockman has turned to Michigan’s treasure — the Great Lakes.

 

His new show, "Alexis Rockman: The Great Lakes Cycle," opens at the Grand Rapids Art Museum on Jan. 27.

U.S Army Corps of Engineers

State officials say they’ve reached a milestone in the effort to clean up the St. Mary’s River near Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. 

The state Office of the Great Lakes announced Wednesday that it’s lifting dredging restrictions for the river. 

More than three centuries of thriving marine commerce and those notorious storms in the Great Lakes have given Michigan a wealth of historic shipwrecks. There are nearly a thousand on the bottomlands of the state's 13 designated underwater preserves alone. But Michigan's mostly volunteer system of protecting the shipwrecks is showing signs of trouble. 

Our rivers and streams are getting saltier

Jan 11, 2018

There’s too much salt getting into our rivers and streams.

A new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences finds over the past 50 years, freshwater systems across the country have become saltier, and that can cause problems for people, wildlife and our infrastructure.

David Cassleman

The Great Lakes iron ore trade had its best year since 2012. 

Freighters transported more than 60 million tons of iron ore from Great Lakes ports in 2017. That’s an increase of 10 percent compared to 2016, according to data released by the Lake Carriers’ Association on Wednesday. 

There are about 32,000 islands in the Great Lakes. Most are uninhabited. But for those who live year-round on about 30 of them, it can be an isolating experience. Now, Great Lakes islanders are getting together to tackle some of the problems they have in common.

Members of a pipeline advisory board are criticizing a deal Governor Snyder struck with the energy company, Enbridge. They are calling for the line to be temporarily shut down.
 

 


If you eat wild caught fish from Michigan, you might know about fish consumption advisories. They’re recommended limits on safe amounts of fish to eat, and they're necessary because toxic chemicals build up in fish in the Great Lakes and inland lakes and streams.

The oil pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac will be shut down during bad storms. That’s just one of the agreements reached in a deal announced last week by the state of Michigan and the Canadian oil transport company Enbridge.

Caitlin Whyte

As winter nears, Lake Ontario is still much higher than normal. And residents are shoring up walls of sandbags for protection against high waves.

Elizabeth Miller-ideastream

A new report from the International Joint Commission, a bi-national agency, says the Great Lakes restoration continues to progress -- but not quickly enough.

The commission makes several recommendations to the U.S. and Canada, as part of a review of a 2012 water quality agreement.

Among them is evaluating farm practices aimed at reducing pollution –- especially the fertilizer runoff that feeds algae blooms in Lake Erie. 

UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN STUDY VIDEO

The state of Michigan is imposing some new conditions on the operation of a controversial oil and gas pipeline. The actions include replacing a portion of Enbridge’s Line 5 that runs beneath the St. Clair River. 

The new line will be in a tunnel beneath the riverbed. The state will also look at doing the same thing with the portion of the line that runs beneath the Straits of Mackinac. 

Enbridge Energy will be required to take steps to safeguard the Great Lakes under a binding agreement with the state of Michigan.

Enbridge and Governor Snyder signed the agreement Monday, which stipulates that the energy company must act immediately to increase environmental protections around Line 5, the controversial pipeline that runs under the Straits of Mackinac.

You've probably heard of the Trail of Tears, when more than 4,000 Native American men, women, and children died in a series of forced removals from their homeland in the Southeastern U.S. to present-day Oklahoma. They were members of the Cherokee, Seminole, Muscogee, Chickasaw, and Choctaw nations.

But there was another Trail of Tears much closer to us. It's the Sandy Lake Tragedy of 1850. Hundreds of Ojibwe people died as the U.S. government tricked them into leaving their homes in the Upper Great Lakes and traveling to northern Minnesota. 

It's known as the Chippewa Trail of Tears, and the Wisconsin Death March.

State officials say they’re troubled by a new safety report from Enbridge Energy on Line 5. The report says there are more spots that have been laid bare to the metal because its safety coating has worn off.

Enbridge reported that to state officials Monday.  

The company is being called before the Michigan Pipeline Safety Commission next month to give a status report on Line Five.

Guy Jarvis of Enbridge says Line Five is safe, but the company has done a poor job of sharing details on how it’s managed.

Crystal clear Great Lakes may not be so healthy

Nov 8, 2017
Dan Kraker, Minnesota Public Radio

Here's a question for you lovers of the Great Lakes: Which lake is the clearest? You probably guessed Lake Superior. Well, that was true for a long time. But a recent study found that other lakes are now number 1 – and 2.

At Brighton Beach outside Duluth, the waters of Lake Superior are stunningly clear. Looking into about six feet of water, it’s easy to see smooth rocks at the bottom.

But Lake Superior has lost its long-held title as the clearest of the Great Lakes. A recent study showed that lakes Michigan and Huron have changed drastically.

For generations, Native Americans in the northern Great Lakes have harvested wild rice. It's an important food source. For some it's a way to make a little extra cash. And it's a cultural touchstone that tribal members are trying to pass on to younger generations.

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