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. 

A hand is holding a tiny fish.
Kaye LaFond / Interlochen Public Radio

A new nonprofit is training citizen scientists to collect data on fish in the Great Lakes, which could be a game changer for research in the region and help prevent the establishment of invasive species.


A map showing combined sewer overflows in Michigan
Kaye LaFond / Michigan Radio

From January 2018 through May 2019, roughly 6.7 billion gallons of diluted or partially treated sewage called combined sewer overflows (CSOs) spilled into Michigan waters, according to the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy.

CSOs are the result of sewer systems that drain both stormwater runoff and human and industrial waste. Eighty municipalities in Michigan have such systems, known as combined sewer systems.

Looking underneath a bridge at sunrise, a group of boats in the water surround several swimmers attached to orange buoys.
Kaye LaFond / Interlochen Public Radio

More than 300 people braved the Straits of Mackinac Sunday for the 13th annual Mighty Mac Swim.

Algae grows on submerged pipelines on a lake bottom.
University of Michigan

Indigenous governments and activists in the Great Lakes have been leaders in the movement to shut down the twin oil pipelines that run under the Mackinac Straits.

Now, one of the most visible people in that movement has left his tribal government job and set up his own consulting firm. One of his clients? The pipelines’ owner, Enbridge Energy.

This sudden change has upset indigenous communities in the region, and some worry it’s a “divide-and-conquer” tactic.

Credit: NASA Photo/Carla Thomas

This week on Points North, female pilots are underrepresented in the commercial aviation industry. That’s been true for a while, but a program in northern Michigan is making progress. Plus, the plight of fudge at local airports and a story from Michigan’s maritime past.

 


Dan Wanschura / Interlochen Public Radio

This week on Points North, the water is so high in Michigan this summer that shorelines are disappearing, docks are underwater and rivers are overflowing. Plus hear how high water is affecting public access to beaches and research on avian botulism. 

 


Dan Wanschura / Interlochen Public Radio

Michigan has complicated laws when it comes to private beaches and public access, and the rules for inland lakes are different from the Great Lakes.

A flooded beach near Lake Michigan.
Kaye LaFond / Interlochen Public Radio

The last major outbreak of avian botulism on Lake Michigan was in 2016, when hundreds of dead birds washed up on shore. The bacterial disease has affected waterfowl like loons and mergansers in the Great Lakes for decades, but high water levels on the lakes are good news for the birds for now.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources and U.S. Coast Guard says current high water levels increase the risk of Electric Shock Drowning.
Dan Wanschura / Interlochen Public Radio

High water levels in the state have the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and U.S. Coast Guard concerned about Electric Shock Drowning.

Taylor Wizner / Interlochen Public Radio

Half a century ago, hundreds of pairs of piping plovers lived in the Great Lakes. But by the 1980s, they were on the verge of extinction and only a dozen pairs remained.

Over time, wildlife biologists have helped increase the population. But it’s still well below a stable number and each year there’s a new threat.

 

Piping plovers are small, stout white-gray birds. In the spring, they can be found nesting on the shores of the Great Lakes. Once a fixture on the lakes, the birds are now on the federal Endangered Species List.

 

Today on Stateside, we talk about rethinking how we measure whether a school is succeeding or failing. Plus, a conversation with Michigan Supreme Court Justice Richard Bernstein about how people with disabilities bring unique, important perspectives to the workplace.

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. 

 

Max Johnston / Interlochen Public Radio

This week on Points North, elderly drivers in Grand Traverse County get in car accidents at a higher rate than most other Michigan counties. We explore the challenges of giving up the keys.

 


USGS

Every few years the U.S. Geological Survey and its partners release an updated version of what is known as the “National Land Cover Database.”

MARK BRUSH / MICHIGAN RADIO

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said in an interview with the Detroit News that she is considering a tunnel for an oil pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac. A tunnel is one of several proposed alternatives to the Line 5 oil pipelines.

Gregory Varnum

MDNR

A popular fishery in northern Michigan was charged with illegally buying and selling lake trout. John Cross of Cross Fisheries in Charlevoix was sentenced to a year in prison and will pay a fine of more than $1 million.

Lake trout is heavily protected by state, tribal and federal agencies. A press release says Cross bought almost 50,000 pounds of the fish that was harvested by a trap net, but he reported that he got it via gillnet.

Fisheries Biologist Mark Ebener says what Cross did is more common than you would think

The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative

As part of his budget proposal announced Monday, President Trump wants to slash funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative by 90 percent. 

A computer that says "Foxconn"
Christopher Bulle/FLICKR - HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

The Michigan-based water law non-profit “For Love of Water,” or "FLOW," filed an amicus brief this week in support of a lawsuit against the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

Today on Stateside, Governor Whitmer announced a plan earlier this week to introduce a 45 cent gas tax by October 2020. Are there enough road workers to put all that funding to use? Plus, Ingham County is building a public defender office from the ground up. We talk about the challenges of developing a brand new governmental department. 

Jacques LeBlanc, a commercial fisherman from the Bay Mills Indian Community, pulls a gill net out of the ice on eastern Lake Superior.
Kaye LaFond

This week on Points North, a decline in lake whitefish is pushing tribal commercial fishermen to the northern edge of their treaty waters. Plus, we look at test results for PFAS contamination in Michigan’s public water and meet a funk band from Boyne City.


A man in coveralls bends over a hole in ice and pulls out a net.
Kaye LaFond / Interlochen Public Radio


A decline in lake whitefish is pushing some tribal commercial fishermen out of Lakes Michigan and Huron. They’re spending more time in Lake Superior, the only place they say they can still make a living. This has fishermen and scientists worried about whether whitefish populations there can withstand the extra pressure.

Morgan Springer

The public has the right to walk the Great Lakes shoreline even along privately owned beaches. The U.S. Supreme Court reaffirmed that right on Tuesday when it declined to hear a case from Indiana.

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.

A new report says the State of Michigan did not thoroughly review Enbridge’s ability to cover costs in the case of a spill from its twin Line 5 oil pipelines before it signed an agreement with the company. The pipelines run underneath the Straits of Mackinac.

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