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. 

 


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.

CREDIT STEVEN DEPOLO/FLICKR - HTTPS://WWW.FLICKR.COM/PHOTOS/STEVENDEPOLO/5233546650

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.

Conservation Resource Alliance

The Boardman River Dam is gone. The river is flowing freely through an area that used to be a pond. It’s the second of three dams to be removed in a multiyear, multimillion-dollar project to return the waterway to a more natural state.

Why we could have more toxic blooms in our warming world

Aug 22, 2017

There’s a green bloom of cyanobacteria on Lake Erie again. People who run water utilities and scientists are watching the bloom because the cyanobacteria can produce toxins called microcystins that are dangerous for people and pets. It's what made Toledo’s drinking water unsafe to drink in 2014.

Chris Winslow directs Ohio Sea Grant and Ohio State University’s Stone Laboratory. He says the bloom’s covering about 10% of the western basin.

Autopsy reveals more on Asian carp caught near Lake Michigan

Aug 22, 2017

Cross section of Asian carp's vertebrae Credit U.S. Geological Survey Edit | Remove

Back in June, an Asian carp was caught just nine miles from Lake Michigan. Somehow it got past electric barriers designed to keep those fish out of the Great Lakes. Now an autopsy reveals new details.

Steven Depolo/Flickr - https://www.flickr.com/photos/stevendepolo/5233546650

Water has been a dominant topic in Michigan politics in recent years, from the Flint water crisis to the controversy over the oil pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac.

There’s another water debate going on in northern Michigan. The Swiss company Nestle wants to boost the amount of water it pumps from a well in Osceola County, south of Cadillac. The water would be bottled under the company’s brand Ice Mountain. 

Local leaders and Native American groups are fiercely opposed to the increase, and the effort has been tied up at the state and local level. 

 


Most people have heard of a bird or wildlife sanctuary, but fewer are familiar with sanctuaries for shipwrecks.

The Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary is one of only 14 national marine sanctuaries in the entire country operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and it’s situated in the northwest corner of Lake Huron, just off the shores of Alpena.

An Asian carp was caught this summer in a place where it shouldn’t be – beyond an electric barrier meant to keep the species out of Lake Michigan and the rest of the Great Lakes. Now, a researcher at Southern Illinois University is trying to figure out just how it got there.

Recently, a recreational fishing boat on the St. Clair River forced two freighters into a game of chicken by refusing to move out of their path at a point on the river near the Bluewater Bridge in Port Huron.

The first freighter sounded a warning and the fishing boat didn’t move, and the freighter managed to veer out of the way. When a second freighter came along about a half-hour late, the fishing boat headed straight for it.

Michigan environmental groups are frustrated with Ontario’s support for keeping an oil-and-gas pipeline running beneath the Straits of Mackinac.

The province’s Ministry of Energy sent Michigan a letter earlier this week that stressed the importance of Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline to Ontario.

Environmental groups say this flies in the face of their efforts to shut down the pipeline. Line 5 carries crude oil and liquid natural gas under the Straits of Mackinac. Activists say it’s a massive environmental risk.

The Great Lakes are the largest group of freshwater lakes on the planet. But their future is uncertain.

Every year, a Native American group called the Mother Earth Water Walkers treks hundreds of miles around the Great Lakes to raise awareness of water issues in the region.

This year, the group is making its 2,000 mile trip from Duluth, Minnesota to Matane, Quebec.

Stateside producer Mercedes Mejia caught up with the group near Leamington, Ontario, and learned that the walk is more than a call to action. For many, it's a spiritual journey that connects them to each other and to other indigenous communities.

NOAA

President Trump proposed ending a popular Great Lakes restoration program earlier this year. Michigan lawmakers from both parties criticized the idea. 

Now a U.S. House committee has released a bill that would keep federal dollars flowing to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) for the next budget year. 

Panel Discussion: What's Next for Line 5?

Jul 7, 2017
Enbridge Energy

Environmentalists say the Line 5 oil pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac poses a risk to the Great Lakes, and the state is looking into it. Michigan recently received a list of potential replacements for the 64-year-old pipeline.

The U.S. Coast Guard has a message for us: knock it off with the prank calls. 

The Coast Guard is seeing a big jump in phony distress calls: more than 160 made across the Great Lakes so far this year.

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