U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Creative Commons

According to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, there were 118 drowning deaths in the Great Lakes last year; a record high for the past decade. This year follows a similar pattern, with 11 drowning deaths by the beginning of June. 

 

Dave Benjamin, executive director of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, encourages swimmers to be aware of swimmer safety protocols. 

 

Wikimedia Commons

Amidst congressional negotiations on border security, lawmakers are trying to protect Great Lakes infrastructure projects that could be caught up in the debate.

Enbridge Energy

A tunnel for the Line 5 oil and gas pipelines in the Straits of Mackinac has its first permit. The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality issued it to Enbridge Energy on Tuesday.

The permit would let Enbridge take soil and rock samples from the Straits. Company spokesperson Ryan Duffy says the samples will help them determine how to construct the tunnel.

Michigan Radio

An Army Corps of Engineers report says sound barriers could keep Asian carp from establishing a population in the Great Lakes.

Michigan is offering $50 million as start-up money for upgrading the Soo locks in the Upper Penisula. 

 

It’s part of a budget deal between Gov. Rick Snyder and legislative leaders. They announced the earmark at a conference on Mackinac Island this week.  

 

Snyder says there’s only one lock that can handle the largest freighters traveling on the Great Lakes. 

The harbormaster in Leland says the federal government needs to spend emergency funds to dredge the channel there. The channel is about six feet deep, the minimum needed for large yachts and the Mishe-Mokwa, the largest ferryboat that takes visitors to the Manitou Islands.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ district office in Detroit has recommended that emergency funds be used to dredge the channel between Lake Michigan and Leland, but that decision will be made at the national level.

A battle over wetlands and small streams

Nov 19, 2014

Wetlands have all kinds of benefits for people and wildlife. But wetlands have also gotten in the way of farming and building. So, we’ve drained them over the years. 

The federal government has been trying to clarify what kinds of wetlands and small streams fall under the Clean Water Act.

Earlier this year, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers proposed a new rule that they say would clear up confusion. 

Annie Snider is a reporter who covers water issues for Greenwire in Washington, D.C. The Clean Water Act was passed in 1972 and Snider says the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers took a broad approach to what fell under it.

"But in 2001, and then again in 2006, there were [Supreme] Court challenges that threw that into question. And after those, the questions of which waters, which streams, which creeks, which wetlands fall under federal power under the Clean Water Act was thrown into question," says Snider.

The 2006 ruling involved two cases out of Michigan. While one contested the rejection of a permit, in the other, the U.S. sued a Midland real estate developer for filling in a wetland property. The developer said the wetland was not a "navigable waterway" and therefore not covered by the CWA. However, until that point, the EPA interpreted "navigable waters" as being "waters of the U.S." and any waters or wetlands connected to one of these waterways. In its ruling, the Supreme Court rejected the Army Corps of Engineers and EPA's limitless authority over water.

After that decision, Snider says that regulators had to make case-by-case decisions about which streams and creeks are important to the downstream waters — the big rivers and lakes that do fall under the Clean Water Act.

Next Boardman dam removal approaches

Sep 26, 2014
Tom Carr

The second of three Boardman River dams will likely be removed next year. As those plans move forward, some residents fear a replay of 2012.

A malfunction during the first dam removal caused a flood that swamped homes and cabins. Engineers say a repeat is highly unlikely.

At the same time, a lawsuit sparked by the flood is still moving forward.