Great Lakes

The Great Lakes basin is home to the largest freshwater system on the Earth's surface, and the lakes provide 21 percent of the world's fresh water. In northern Michigan, the lakes are key to our way of life, both today and spanning back to the region's first inhabitants. 

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.

Lakes Superior and Erie have too many sea lampreys.

The invasive fish latch onto big fish like lake trout and salmon and drink their blood and body fluids. A single lamprey can kill up to 40 pounds of fish in its lifetime.

The "gales of November" came early to the Upper Peninsula and Lake Superior. To make things extra interesting, snow hit the ground today too, and more is on the way.

On Tuesday, this stormy weather produced a 28.8-foot wave at the Granite Island buoy located north of Marquette, says MLive chief meteorologist Mark Torregrossa.

Paul Zybczynski

There’s some bad news in the Great Lakes and it’s all about the sea lamprey, an eel-like creature that literally sucks the life out of fish. They do a lot of damage and now they’re on the rise in some lakes and trend has stumped scientists.

A jar thuds on a table in Helen Domske’s office at the University at Buffalo. It’s a clear, large, one gallon container, just like the ones found in grocery stores, filled with crisp, green, dill pickles.

But, in this case it’s filled with a liquid solution, and a preserved gray corpse of a sea lamprey.

 


Nobody ever thought they would find it: the P-39 fighter plane that Tuskegee Airman Frank Herman Moody, originally of Oklahoma, was flying over Lake Huron when he crashed.


But then, as luck or fate would have it, there was a bad storm on Lake Huron in April of that year, a barge and tug went down, and a cleanup was scheduled.


It was during this cleanup that a set of almost perfectly intact wings were found on the lake's floor.

Planes, drone monitor harmful algae in Lake Erie

Oct 17, 2017
Dr. Rafat Ansari

Algae blooms continue to color western Lake Erie a deep green. Now researchers and scientists want to know more about toxins produced by the algae -- and they’re getting help from some unlikely sources.

Thirty thousand feet up in the air, Dr. Rafat Ansari flies his small, two-seater plane over Lake Erie.

He starts west of Cleveland and flies over the lake's islands to Toledo, and then north into Michigan. The round trip flight is about 260 miles.

Along the way, he snaps photos – about 1,500 of them – with three tiny cameras attached to his plane. 

A new partnership has a plan to keep Lake Erie clean. The MI CLEAR group is made up of farmers, conservationists, environmental leaders, and more. Those groups are teaming up with the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

Jamie Clover Adams is the Director of the Department of Agriculture. She said the multiple perspectives will help improve the lake’s water quality on a variety of fronts.

“This didn’t happen overnight and it’s not gonna be fixed overnight,” she said. “This is a very complex problem that will call for many solutions.”

Lake Superior is cold, deep and clear. But it’s no longer the clearest of the Great Lakes.

Lakes Michigan and Huron have gotten clearer, bumping Lake Superior to number three.

Scientists have been able to figure how much clearer by using satellite imagery.

Veronica Volk

Julie Cataldo is strapped into a harness as she sits in her wheelchair just a few feet from the edge of the Erie Canal. A hydraulic lift hoists her from the chair and swings her out over the water. 

Great Lakes islands aim to help each other

Sep 29, 2017
Elizabeth Miller/ideastream

There are thousands of islands in the Great Lakes – most of them small and only suitable for wildlife.  But a few have people living there year-round, and there is a burgeoning plan to create an islands coalition.

Year-round island communities like the one at Put-in-Bay on Lake Erie’s South Bass Island face challenges we don’t have here on the mainland.  Peter Huston works for Put-in-Bay’s Chamber of Commerce.  “It’s being able to have a reasonable year-round economy, transportation, food,” says Huston.

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Swiss company Nestle has been criticized for its plan to take more water out of northern Michigan. Opponents say the company wants to take too much water from the area – and an increase in pumping will degrade streams and wetlands. But the company denies the allegations.

Standing on the shores of the Great Lakes on a sunny late-summer day, it’s virtually impossible to think of those sparkling waves as a death trap.

But divers have seen what those angry lakes can do to a ship.

Becky Kagan Schott, noted underwater photographer, joined Stateside to discuss what it’s like to document these untouched wrecks.

University of Michigan

The state of Michigan will sponsor a new analysis of the risks posed by an oil and gas pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac. 

In June, the state cancelled a contract with a firm doing a previous risk study, when it learned one of the firm’s researchers was also working on a project for Enbridge – the company that operates Line 5. 

Michigan’s energy chief says damage to the protective coating on an oil and gas pipeline that runs beneath the Straits of Mackinac was worse than initially reported.

Antidepressants that people take are building up in the brains of fish like walleye, bass, and perch. Researchers studied fish from the Niagara River, which connects lakes Erie and Ontario.

ANGELICA A. MORRISON

Lake Erie is a route for huge freighters carrying cargo to cities like Cleveland and Buffalo. Now a company wants to use the lake to transport another product: electricity.

It plans to run an underwater electrical cable from Canada to the U.S. That would be the first one to cross any of the Great Lakes.

Listen to today's Environment Report.

Around the Great Lakes, millions of dollars are spent to fight invasive species like Asian carp. But when scientists find a new animal or plant in the area, it’s not always clear if it’s harmful or helpful.

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