Peter Payette

Executive Director

Peter Payette is the Executive Director of Interlochen Public Radio and has managed the news department since 2001. For more than a decade, he hosted the weekly program Points North and has reported on a wide range of issues critical to the culture and economy of northern Michigan. His work has been featured on NPR, Michigan Radio, Bridge magazine and Edible Grande Traverse. He has taught journalism and radio production to students and adults at Interlochen Center for the Arts. He is also working on a book about the use of aquaculture to manage Great Lakes fisheries, particularly the use of salmon from the Pacific Ocean to create a sport fishery in the 1960s.

Peter has vacationed in Benzie County his entire life. His wife Sarah is his biggest fan. They have three children, Isabelle, Amelia and Emmet, and live happily in Traverse City's Kid's Creek Neighborhood. 

Many of his favorite stories are about obscure fish in the Great Lakes or the new arrivals changing the food web.  He also admires the people keeping the rock 'n' roll revolution alive in the woods of northern Michigan and enjoys any story that reconnects the past to the present.

Ways to Connect

Ken Bosma

The deer herd in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is so depleted the state is even talking about closing the firearm season this year. It’s just one option listed in a report to the Natural Resources Commission about possible responses to the situation.

Wildlife biologists estimate the population of deer in the UP is at its lowest level in 30 years. Extremely cold winters, particularly in 2014, are to blame, according to the report.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

A fleet of Canadian-owned ships will be the first in the Great Lakes to have ballast treatment systems on board. The systems will kill invasive species that live in the ballast tanks of ocean going ships.

It’s a big step toward solving a problem that has plagued the Great Lakes for decades. But the issue is still contentious.

Peter Payette

Swimming in North Twin Lake in Grand Traverse County could cost you $100 this summer. New rules for the lake allow park employees to write tickets if someone swims outside the designated swim area.

Swimming in the lake beyond the marked area has been against county rules  for two years, but the county created a new ordinance this winter so the sheriff’s department does not need to be involved in enforcement.

Parks director Kristine Erickson says it is now a civil infraction.

Peter Payette

Vintners in Michigan could have another disaster on their hands this year. Last year, Michigan vineyards produced about one fourth of the grapes grown in a normal season. The results could be about the same this year and that might leave wineries with little in the their cellars.

Tom Carr

Michigan has a number of wind farms because the state basically made them mandatory in 2008. That was when lawmakers decided a certain amount of our electricity must come from renewable resources, and utilities built wind turbines to comply.

Now, wind energy is, by some measurements, among the cheapest ways to keep the lights on. But nobody seems to be rushing to build more.

In fact, the man who has developed the wind farms we have in northern Michigan says his enthusiasm for wind is waning.

Michigan State University

Traffic over the Mackinac Bridge has been in a steady decline for almost 20 years. That fact is included in a report on Michigan's tourism industry out this week from Michigan State University.

Traffic over the bridge peaked around 1998, when almost five million trips were made. The number dropped below four million just before the recession in 2008. It has continued a steady decline except for a slight bump coming out of the recession.

The Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce supports a sales tax increase to fix Michigan’s roads. That’s good news for the plan that has lost some key support in recent weeks. The higher tax would raise more than a billion dollars a year for transportation spending.

Critics say there was another option, one that did not involve new taxes. But Doug Luciani, President and CEO of the Traverse City chamber, says they looked at that plan too.

“It didn’t address the full load of the transportation needs,” he says. “It fell far short of what the transportation needs are.”

Peter Payette

Terri Wooten never wanted to write academic poetry.

“I had a vision of writing for the common people,” he says.

More than 30 years ago, he built a circle of boulders—88 in all—behind his house north of Elk Rapids. Since then, poets and storytellers have gathered around the campfire to perform for audiences that sometimes number more than 100.

This month, an anthology of Wooten’s poetry is out called "The Stone Circle Poems." Peter Payette stopped by his house and sent this postcard.

The federal government wants faster Internet connections nationwide and has raised the minimum speed for what it considers broadband. That is unlikely to help the thousands of people in northern Michigan who have something like dial-up service and have for years.

National Weather Service

UPDATED 6:50 pm

Gaylord hit 35 degrees below zero this morning, one of the coldest temperatures ever recorded there. A volunteer observer noted that temperature. The thermometer at Gaylord Regional Airport went down to minus 31, according to the National Weather Service.

Other cities set records for the day, including Traverse City at minus 22, two degrees colder than the previous record for February 20th.

Neither of those approach the coldest temperature ever recorded in Michigan.

Faculty members at Northwestern Michigan College will soon decide if they want a union. Ballots are being mailed today to 89 instructors at the community college in Traverse City.

The faculty has not publicly stated what it hopes to gain from a union. A spokeswoman for the Michigan Education Association, the organizing unit, declined to comment on the vote.

Marguerite Cotto, NMC’s vice president of lifelong and professional learning, says the concerns she’s aware of include issues like faculty wanting more say in how employees are evaluated.

There are now more than 200 licensed breweries in Michigan. And that is starting to change the rural landscape up north.

This month, an investment group in Traverse City finalized plans to plant up to 400 acres of hops. That would roughly double the amount of hops now growing in Michigan.

And it signals the arrival of big investors into the business.

State archeologists say a shipwreck found in Lake Michigan is probably not the oldest known wreck in the Great Lakes. But the state will dive the site and see what is there.

The French ship, the Griffin, disappeared in 1679 after leaving Green Bay. It was built by the French explorer Robert de La Salle, though he was not on it when it was lost loaded with furs heading back to Montreal. Two divers from the Muskegon area, Kevin Dykstra and Frederick Monroe, think they found its remains.

Peter Payette

The man who owes $1.6 million to a Traverse City charter school goes on trial this week in federal court. One state lawmaker called Steven Ingersoll the “poster child” for problems with charter schools in Michigan.

But his financial dealings with Grand Traverse Academy will not be at the center of this month’s trial. In fact, whether the missing money was actually stolen might not even be an issue that gets discussed.

There’s a new report card of sorts out on fish sold commercially from the Great Lakes.

It’s from Seafood Watch. That’s a program at Monterey Bay Aquarium in California.

Chris Hintz

The Chinese economy and its rapid expansion is a wonder of the modern world. But its ugly side drives the story in Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig’s new play.

"The World of Extreme Happiness" opens in New York next month. It’s a dark comedy about the hopes of rural migrants in China whose dreams look rather American.

The hero of the drama, 19-year old Sunny, works as a janitor and wants a promotion. She meets an older worker who explains the power of positive thinking.

State Representative Ray Franz held another informational meeting today about the higher sales tax proposed for Michigan.

Franz says voters are being told it will provide more money for roads and bridges, which is true, but he says the higher tax would increase spending in many other areas.

“It adds another $300 million for schools. It adds another $95 million dollars for local government,” Franz says. “Those are all not roads and bridges.”

Residents of northern Michigan got a surprise last summer. They found out some drilling for oil and gas can be done confidentially. That unnerved some people in Emmet County, who now want their local government to do something about it.

Spring came early in Michigan three years ago — very early — and fruit crops were later wiped out by frost. That has some researchers in Lansing asking if there's a way to delay the spring bloom in a warm year.

It's no secret what cause a cherry or apple blossom to come out in the spring — warmth. So if you want to slow down that process you just spray cold water on the tree.

Oil and gas exploration could pick up near Traverse City and Manistee this year. Late last year, a company based in Colorado called Wyotex Drilling Ventures applied for permits to drill five wells in Manistee and Grand Traverse Counties.

It’s a small sign of life for an industry that has been on the decline in northern Michigan. If approved, the wells will be drilled into a formation called the A-1 Carbonate. That layer of the earth has produced a modest amount of oil and gas in Michigan. It’s been drilled in various parts of the state for more than 30 years.

Grayling Fish Hatchery

A federal business loan will help a trout farm expand production in Grayling. The development loan approved by the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce is for $210,000.

Criminal charges have been filed in federal court in Massachusetts, following an outbreak of fungal meningitis that hit Michigan in 2012.

Most people charged worked at New England Compounding Center, a shuttered pharmacy in Boston that sold steroid shots that infected people nationwide.

The tainted shots were sent to a few clinics in Michigan, including one in Traverse City.

Legislation to protect wind farms from lawsuits appears likely to die in the lame duck session.

The legislation proposed by Republican state Senator Howard Walker would make it harder for neighbors to sue if wind turbines are noisy. Critics say it’s a favor for one company based in Traverse City.

Wind farms have popped up across the state since Michigan passed a new law encouraging them in 2008. Sometimes neighbors say the noise of the turbines causes headaches and interrupts sleep. In a few cases, homeowners have sued.

Last December, the Mash-Up Rock and Roll Musical Parody group staged an unusual performance. The Grinch (who stole Christmas) was cast into the lead role of the 1969 rock opera “Tommy.”

The parody team is back this year weaving together fairy tales with 1980s rock.

The idea came to Lesley Tye more than a year ago when she was in her car listening to the song “Girlfriend in a Coma.” That was a hit from 1987 by The Smiths. The song got Tye thinking about Snow White and the prince who saves her.

A plan to increase the cost of electricity in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula has been delayed. The rate increase would have taken effect today, but federal regulators have raised questions about its fairness.

The plan would raise rates 20% to 30% for residents and businesses across the UP. In total, the region of about 310,000 people would have to come up with more than $100 million over the next year.

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