Great Lakes shipping

David Cassleman

The Great Lakes iron ore trade had its best year since 2012. 

Freighters transported more than 60 million tons of iron ore from Great Lakes ports in 2017. That’s an increase of 10 percent compared to 2016, according to data released by the Lake Carriers’ Association on Wednesday. 

David Cassleman

A group of Michigan lawmakers has introduced legislation in Washington, D.C. to authorize building a new lock at Sault Ste. Marie. 

Supporters of the project say a new lock is needed as a backup for the Poe Lock. 

David Cassleman

Advocates for a new Soo Lock have been trying to get Congress to fund the estimated $600 million project for decades. Congress first authorized the construction of the lock in the 1980s but has not come up with the money to pay for it. 

It's a mighty tall order: maintaining navigation channels through the Great Lakes all winter long.

That mission is fulfilled by a mighty ship: the USCGC Mackinaw. She's the only heavy ice-breaker the U.S. Coast Guard has on the Great Lakes.

She docks in Cheboygan, and during the winter months she maintains navigation channels through the Great Lakes by splitting ice.​

Vasilios Tasikas, the commanding officer of the Mackinaw, spoke to Stateside about his ship’s unique mission.

David Cassleman

Some supporters of building a new Soo Lock are hopeful that President Trump could finally be the one to deliver the goods.

Groups like the Lake Carriers’ Association have been trying to get a new lock built at Sault Sainte Marie for decades. 

Amanda Holmes

Small harbors in Michigan have a big problem. Over time, access to harbors gets blocked by sand and sediment, and the harbor needs to be dredged. But the money to pay for dredging just isn’t there anymore.

David Cassleman

The Soo Locks will be closed for several hours Tuesday morning while workers remove a sunken hazard from the water. 

Last week, a 100-foot-long section of sheet metal piling fell into the channel just west of the locks. The sheet metal wall is part of a pier that is under construction. The accident happened when a ship’s propeller wash broke temporary anchors on the wall and knocked it over.

David Cassleman

There’s a good chance that the car you’re driving is made from American steel.

Steel comes from iron ore, and American car companies rely almost exclusively on the kind that’s mined in Minnesota and Michigan called taconite. It’s carried down the Great Lakes in 1,000-foot-long iron boats to the steel mills.

That supply chain relies on a critical piece of infrastructure at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan: the Soo Locks.  

If there was a major problem there, the effects could send the entire nation into recession. And that has advocates saying it’s time to build a new lock – but they’ve been saying that for decades. 



David Cassleman

U.S. Sen. Gary Peters is pushing a federal agency to speed up a report that could lead to a new lock built at Sault Ste. Marie.

A 2015 analysis from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security warns of a scenario where a six month closure at the largest lock at the Soo, Poe Lock, leads to the nation’s automobile industry grinding to a halt. That could send the economy spiraling into a deep recession.

“It is a critical piece of infrastructure not just for Michigan but for the whole country,” U.S. Sen. Gary Peters says in an interview with IPR News Radio. Sen. Peters along with Sen. Debbie Stabenow have been advocating for a new lock at the Soo.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

A repair project at the Soo Locks in Sault Ste. Marie is taking longer than expected. Workers drained the MacArthur Lock two weeks ago to fix a broken gate but then discovered additional problems.

Engineer Kevin Sprague says the lock was built in 1943 and is showing its age.

“Structures start to get fatigued (and) a lot of different issue start to happen. We’re seeing an increase in the amount of maintenance we have to put into these locks every year to keep up with their age.”

Sprague says he hopes repairs will be finished by August 19th.

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.

Huge ice chunks stacked some 8 feet deep on Lake Superior have left 18 freighters stuck. The U.S. and Canadian Coast Guards have gotten involved, sending Canadian icebreakers and American vessels to help the ships break free from Whitefish Bay.

Great Lakes shipping picks up after slow start

Sep 5, 2014
Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation

Great Lakes shipping has rebounded this summer after a sluggish start to the season.

Icy waters slowed shipping in the spring – but total cargo shipments on the St. Lawrence Seaway are now up 3 percent compared to last year, according to Betty Sutton. She is the Administrator of the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation.

Maritime Heritage Alliance

  A replica of an armed sloop from the 1700s is leaving the waters of Grand Traverse Bay and heading to Emmet County. The Maritime Heritage Alliance will begin the process of moving The Welcome this week. Thursday they’ll use a crane to pull her mast.

The Welcome was built in Mackinaw City. It’s no longer safe for passengers, so Emmet County is now hoping to build a museum around it as a welcome center to the Headlands International Dark Sky Park.

I thought I knew a lot about the Great Lakes, until I met Chris Gillcrist. He’s the kind of guy you want on your Trivial Pursuit team.

This is the kind of fact I learned from him every few minutes:

“The first millionaire in American history is John Jacob Astor. It’s a guy trading beaver pelts from the Great Lakes and sending them to Europe.”

Gillcrist is the executive director of the new National Museum of the Great Lakes. It opens this Saturday, April 26, in Toledo.

There are a lot about shipwrecks here, sure,  but Gillcrist wants you to know it’s much more than that.

“We look at it as retrofitting American history to more accurately depict how the Great Lakes impacted the nation as a whole over the past 300 years,” he says.

It's been a mystery that has haunted Lake Huron since the Civil War: What happened to the Keystone State?

The wooden steamer set out from Detroit, bound for Milwaukee, around November 9th, 1861.

She never made it — and no one knew the Keystone State had run into trouble until wreckage washed up on the shore near Lexington.

But thanks to David Trotter, the Keystone State has been found — in nearly 175 feet of water.

Listen to the full interview above. 

150-Year-Old Shipwreck Discovered In Lake Huron

Dec 9, 2013
Undersea Research Associates

A shipwreck explorer from Southeast Michigan announced today his crew has discovered a 150-year-old shipwreck in Lake Huron.

In November 1861 the Keystone State would normally have been headed back to its home port in Buffalo. But David Trotter of Undersea Research Associates says, for some reason the steamer turned and headed for Milwaukee in a rush. It left Detroit without lifeboats during a stormy month.

Detour's Freighter Cottage

Sep 4, 2009

In the quaint tourist town of Detour, in the Eastern Upper Peninsula, a couple is slowly chipping away at decades of rust. They're creating a summer cottage out of the front-end of a 1920s freighter. So far this is just a big hunk of steel, filled with all the junk no one else wanted when the ship was retired in 1980.

A crowd gathered when the freighter-home first arrived in Detour on a barge, back in 2005. Four years later, and house movers are just finishing up the process of solidifying the freighter's cement foundation.