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. 

There's nothing better during a Michigan summer than spending time at the Great Lakes.

Stateside asked you what questions you had about the state's freshwater seas, and we'll be bringing you answers all summer long. 

We'll start today with a question from listener Ted Bonarski in Grand Rapids. 

"Are there areas of the Lower Peninsula where the aquifer is filled with Lake Superior water, so that someone pumping up from a well was getting water that was chemically traceable to Lake Superior?" 

What happens if your dog likes to swim in the lake, but there might be toxins in the water?

It can happen in a local lake or somewhere like the western basin of Lake Erie. Toxin-producing cyanobacteria appear. Some people still call it blue-green algae.

Beaches along Lake Michigan are closed when E. coli bacteria gets too high. But a nasty critter found on the bottom of the lake might help keep the beaches open.

 

President Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan will be in Wisconsin this Thursday for the groundbreaking of the $10 billion Foxconn plant.

The Taiwanese electronics company has promised thousands of jobs in Racine County and in return has been offered $4.5 billion in tax incentives. 

Endangered plovers face new threat: snowy owls

Jun 20, 2018
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

A new predator has emerged for piping plovers in the Great Lakes.

Snowy owls were recently seen eating plovers in several locations along the Great Lakes, including Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in lower Michigan and Vermilion Point in the Upper Peninsula.

There's no better time than summer to enjoy Michigan's Great Lakes.

It is also a great time to learn something new about the freshwater seas that surround our state.

Because the lakes aren't just the perfect summer vacation spot, they're also a big part of Michigan's culture, economy, and environment.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Some members of the U.S. House of Representatives are meeting in northern Michigan on Monday to discuss lethal control of a fish-eating bird. 

 

If South Haven figures in your Memorial Day plans, get ready: You're going to see mermaids, mermen, and even merkids. 

It's the first-ever Mermaid MegaFest – four days of celebrating merfolk while focusing on preserving our natural freshwater resources. 

When you think of a mermaid story, maybe an ocean comes to mind.

But couldn’t a mermaid live in the Great Lakes? Lake Michigan maybe?

Writers Linda Nemec Foster and Anne-Marie Oomen posed that question to each other ten years ago. Their new book is called The Lake Michigan Mermaid: A Tale in Poems.

We’re coming up on the time of year when people will be testing lakes for toxic blooms of cyanobacteria.

Jason Deglint wants to speed up that testing process. Right now, he says it can take at least a few days.

U.S. Coast Guard

Michigan’s attorney general is suing an Escanaba-based shipping company that he claims is responsible for a mineral oil leak in the Straits of Mackinac earlier this month.

Aaron Selbig

CORRECTION 4/13: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that the U.S. Coast Guard said damage to an electric transmission line under the Straits of Mackinac may have been caused by an "anchor strike." The Coast Guard says the leak may have been caused by "damage from vessel activity."

Governor Rick Snyder is asking Enbridge Energy to accelerate it’s decommissioning of the Line 5 pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac.

Aaron Selbig

The U.S. Coast Guard has organized a command post in Mackinaw City to respond to a mineral oil spill in the Straits of Mackinac. Around 600 gallons of fluid leaked from underwater electrical lines west of the Mackinac Bridge earlier this week. 

 


At least 400 gallons of mineral oil have leaked into the Straits of Mackinac.

American Transmission Company operates power lines that deliver electricity between the Upper and Lower Peninsulas. The company called the U.S. Coast Guard on Monday night to inform them of a leak of dielectric fluid, which is used to insulate the electrical lines under the Straits.  

When you think about greenhouse gasses that are driving our warming climate, maybe you think about power plants or your car. But lakes can release greenhouse gasses, too, and the amount of nutrients that get into lakes from farms and cities matters.

Michigan Sea Grant

A Great Lakes group wants paddlers to help in the fight against invasive species. 

Michigan Sea Grant – a group run by the University of Michigan and Michigan State University – is starting a program to teach kayakers and canoers to report aquatic invasive species found along waterways.   

NASA

As Great Lakes advocates lobby Congress this week, a new report details how the federal government and states plan to fight algae blooms in Lake Erie.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s plan targets phosphorus, the main cause of the blooms.  It summarizes agendas from Michigan, Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Canadians offer plan to battle harmful algae blooms

Feb 28, 2018

Canada and the province of Ontario recently released their plan to combat toxic algae blooms in Lake Erie.  Phosphorus is the primary cause of the blooms that turn parts of the lake green most summers.

The U.S. and Canada hope to reduce phosphorus in Lake Erie by 40 percent, from 2008 levels.  It’s all part of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement.

Under that agreement, Canada and the U.S. must develop plans for reducing phosphorus by 2025.  The United States plan – which will summarize five state plans -- is set to be released later this week.

Lake Superior, the largest freshwater lake in the world, is awe-inspiring on many levels. But it’s also challenged. Though it seems pristine, a couple centuries of exploitation have taken their toll.

A new book Sustaining Lake Superior: An Extraordinary Lake in a Changing Worldpublished by Yale University Press, traces the history of the lake and some of the indignities it's suffered at the hands of humans.

Let's talk about water.

That's the invitation from the Michigan Humanities Council to communities and organizations around the state. The council is accepting applications for groups to host Third Coast Conversations: Dialogues about Water in Michigan.

Coalition hopes Congress will save Great Lakes funding

Feb 16, 2018
Elizabeth Miller/ideastream

Healing Our Waters, a coalition of environmental groups involved in protecting the Great Lakes, says President Trump’s 2019 budget and infrastructure plan are both “dead on arrival”.

About 100 members of the coalition will travel to Washington, D.C., next month to meet with senators and representatives from the region. They'll present some recommendations for a national infrastructure plan.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

On Tuesday, The Watershed Center said Grand Traverse Bay was officially frozen. The official designation happens after West Bay is frozen from Traverse City to Power Island for more than 24 hours. Even though that's only a fraction of the bay, that's been the official measurement for over a hundred years.

Heather Smith, Grand Traverse Baykeeper at The Watershed Center, says the bay didn’t freeze over the last two winters – not since 2015. She says, since 1990, it has only frozen between 20 to 30 percent of the time.

Trump again seeks to slash Great Lakes funding

Feb 13, 2018

President Trump’s 2019 budget outline has been released and Great Lakes funding would be cut substantially.

Released Monday, the budget outline reduces Great Lakes funding by 90 percent – to just $30 million.  The money is used for projects like cleaning up pollution, protecting wildlife and rebuilding wetlands.

Last year, Trump zeroed out Great Lakes restoration funding in his proposed budget -- but Republicans and Democrats in Congress came together to restore the money.

Insecticides widely used on farms, lawns and gardens — known as neonicotinoids — are showing up in rivers across the Great Lakes region.

Piping plovers are little white and gray shorebirds. You might’ve seen them running around on the beach.

Sarah Saunders is a post-doctoral researcher at Michigan State University.

“The majority of the piping plovers in the Great Lakes region nest at Sleeping Bear Dunes,” she says. “The chicks look like little fluffy cotton balls on toothpicks because their legs are really long and they’re very cute. And they make a very high pitched piping noise.”

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