Lake Michigan

In the last few weeks, roughly 600 birds have died along the shore of Lake Michigan. They washed up on the beaches within the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, with more dead birds reported on beaches in the Upper Peninsula.

For sale: historic lighthouses of the Great Lakes

Aug 12, 2016
Mark Breederland, Michigan Sea Grant

If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to own your own lighthouse, there’s one for sale in the Manitou Passage. The federal government is auctioning off the 81-year-old North Manitou Shoal Light, with an opening bid of $10,000.

The auction is part of an effort to restore and maintain Michigan’s historic lighthouses. But restoring a lighthouse might be more difficult than you think.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

The City of Ludington is thinking about its future. City leaders have come up with a 20-year master plan that’s meant to guide development in Ludington over the next two decades. It lays out challenges and opportunities the city is expected to face.

One of those challenges is climate change. The master plan predicts higher temperatures in the future, along with less snowfall and more frequents storms.

 

As the country fell into the Great Depression, the SS Senator sunk to the bottom of Lake Michigan.

Aaron Selbig

When you think of hydraulic fracturing, Michigan may  not be the first state that comes to mind. But according to The FracTracker Alliance in Cleveland, Ohio – a group that studies the global oil and gas industry – Michigan is playing an increasing role in fracking.

That’s because the fracking process requires a special kind of sand that’s found near the Great Lakes.

Anyone with even passing knowledge of the Great Lakes knows that there are secrets beneath those waves: ships that have foundered.

Many have been found, and their locations are well known, but there are still mysteries to be unlocked.

One of the biggest dates back to a night in September 1929. The ship Andaste was headed from Grand Haven to Chicago when it vanished in a sudden storm on Lake Michigan.

Should a Wisconsin city with a contaminated groundwater supply be allowed to siphon drinking water from Lake Michigan?

Waukesha's groundwater supply has a radium problem. Being 17 miles from Lake Michigan, Waukesha's proposed solution is to draw water from the lake. 

But according to the Great Lakes Compact, Waukesha cannot just lay down a pipeline and start drinking Lake Michigan water. It has to ask, and all eight Great Lakes governors have to say "yes."

NASA Landsat

The city of Waukesha, Wisconsin has high levels of radium in its water supply. The city hopes to solve the problem by taking water out of Lake Michigan.

Waukesha is in a county that straddles the Great Lakes basin and under the Great Lakes Compact, it’s allowed to ask for a water diversion. Waukesha’s proposal is now before the eight Great Lakes states that make up the compact. They’ll decide whether or not to allow the diversion.

Waukesha wants to build a pipeline to the Great Lakes.

The city is in southeast Wisconsin, 17 miles from Lake Michigan. It has a radium problem in its groundwater supply.

Radium occurs naturally, but it’s a carcinogen.

Dan Duchniak, general manager of the Waukesha Water Utility, says as the city’s groundwater supply has been drawn down, it’s made the high radium concentration worse.

“And ultimately the radium exceeded the federal drinking water standard and we are now under a court order to come into compliance with that, and the means by which we are going to do that is to develop a new water supply,” he says.

The city has to come up with a permanent solution for its radium problem by 2018.

Mary Jo West

The park’s name comes from the Native American legend of a mother bear who swims from Wisconsin to escape a forest fire.

Marie Scott, a park ranger and interpreter who has worked at Sleeping Bear on and off since the 1970’s, says the park was preserved by joining existing state parks together with private land to retain public access to the so called “Third Coast.”
    

Since the 1930s, Sargent Sand Company has held a permit to mine sand from its property that's surrounded by Ludington State Park.

For years, the 400 acre mine was dormant as the company negotiated to sell its land to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

That sale fell through.

Last year, the mine cranked back up again, and the neighbors aren’t too happy about it.

Wisconsin town wants a drink of Lake Michigan water

Jul 21, 2015
NASA Landsat

The Great Lakes Compact is facing its first big challenge. Signed into law in 2008 by the leaders of eight Great Lakes states and two Canadian provinces, the compact says only communities in the Great Lakes Basin can draw their drinking water from the lakes.

The challenge to the compact is not coming from thirsty states like California or Texas. It comes from Waukesha, Wisconsin – a suburb of Milwaukee that’s only about 15 miles from Lake Michigan.

People in Michigan are naturally concerned about the thousands of miles of pipelines crisscrossing the state. After all, Michigan suffered through the worst inland oil spill in U.S. history.  

And there's one pipeline in particular that people are quite concerned about: Enbridge's Line 5 moves more than 500,000 barrels of oil and other liquid petroleum products (like propane) a day under Lake Michigan at the Straits of Mackinac.

Now is the time to watch out for deer ticks

May 19, 2015
Scott Bauer

The month of May is the height of tick season in northern Michigan. Ticks are especially common along the coastal areas of Lake Michigan.

Phillip Huber has been a forest biologist for the Huron-Manistee National Forest for more than 30 years. He says ticks only started appearing in the area about 10 years ago.

“They’re becoming more common, particularly in the really grassy areas," says Huber. "I think that’s where people need to watch out for them, in grassy fields, road sides … that sort of thing.”

The water is exceptionally clear in Lake Michigan right now, and a Coast Guard helicopter crew used a recent routine patrol to capture striking images of some of the area's many notable sunken ships. Some of them date from the 1800s.

Photos from the flight out of the Coast Guard's Traverse City, Mich., air station show a variety of ships resting on the lake bottom, including the James McBride, a 121-foot brig that sank in 1857.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

The water in Lakes Michigan and Huron has risen above its historic average. That ends an unusually long period of low water in the two lakes that began in the late 1990s.

Drew Gronewald is a scientist at the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory. He says historically the lakes would rise and fall over periods of five years or less.

But around 1997, the lakes dropped a few feet and didn't recover. Gronewald says that trend will come to an end this month.

Michigan Sea Grant

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. One biologist recently referred to the change as a "revolution."

Even though there are winners, like people fishing for bass, the change is being driven by an invasive species. And it could mean trouble for the most popular sport fish in Lake Michigan.

Chris Noffsinger has an unusual specialty as a fishing guide. He shows you where to catch bass.

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.

NOAA

[CLARIFICATION: Mark Gill told IPR Grand Traverse Bay was iced over on Wednesday morning. Open water may be seen on the bay since as ice cover on the lake rises and falls, sometimes dramatically.]

Grand Traverse Bay is now mostly frozen along with almost half of Lake Michigan. Mark Gill at the U.S. Coast Guard says ice reaches from Traverse City to the Straits of Mackinac.

National Weather Service

Ice on northern Lake Michigan is starting to cut off lake effect snow in the region.

The lake is entirely frozen over, north of Beaver Island. That means winds coming out of the northwest will not pick up moisture from the lake and drop it as snow on places like Petoskey and Gaylord.

EPA.gov

Researchers have found evidence of a small invasive fish in southern Lake Michigan for the first time. It could be an early warning that the species may be spreading and could migrate into the Mississippi River system.

The Eurasian ruffe entered the northern Great Lakes 25 years ago in the ballast water of a ship in Duluth harbor.

Divers Dig To Bedrock: The Griffin Not Found

Jun 21, 2013
David Ruck

The State of Michigan archaeologist says there does not appear to be a vessel buried where underwater explorers had hoped to uncover a 17th century shipwreck this week in northern Lake Michigan.

Explorers have been looking for the wreck of the Griffin off the coast of the Upper Peninsula’s Garden Peninsula.

State Archaeologist Dean Anderson says two things originally drew explorers to the site: acoustical surveys of what appeared to be a ship buried in mud, and a beam of wood sticking up into the water.

There have been some hiccups for underwater explorers and archaeologists this week in northern Lake Michigan hoping to identify the 17th Century ship of the famous French Explorer Robert de La Salle. But there’s good reason for optimism that his schooner, The Griffin, has been found buried in the mud in about 50 feet of water off the coast of the U.P.’s Garden Peninsula.

12:00 am

UPDATE: The artifact recovered by Great Lakes Exploration Group was a block of wood a little more than a foot in length. It appeared to have been hewn on at least one side and was blackened evenly on all sides, almost like wood charred in a fire. Archeologists on the dive had little to say about the object. They will continue to focus their efforts around the beam of wood that was originally found protruding from the bottom of the lake.

6:00 pm

As summer water temperatures warm-up, more people are enticed into playing in the big waves. And warnings about dangerous currents are being posted at more beaches.

The number of people who have drowned in the Great Lakes or been rescued has gone up in each of the last three years. And researchers are testing ways to better forecast dangerous nearshore currents.

Nearly Drowned

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