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. 

The City of Waukesha, Wisconsin says it has nowhere else to go for water but to the Great Lakes. This week, it submitted an application to take 10 million gallons a day, on average, from Lake Michigan. But first it would have to meet a number of strict requirements that all eight Great Lakes states have agreed to.

Exception to Ban

The states hammered out a ban on water diversions over several years and the governors signed it and the Congress ratified it five years ago.

Some household toilet water in Grand Traverse County may not be reaching the county septage treatment plant, according to some data unearthed by local officials. Already some recording errors are apparent, but the data makes some officials wonder if a few waterfront homeowners may be pouring sewage into nearby lakes and rivers. If intentional, that would likely be criminal.

Great Lakes Drownings Top 100 in 2012

Jan 7, 2013

More than 100 people drown in the Great Lakes last year and half of them were in Lake Michigan. That’s according to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project.

Spokesman Dave Benjamin says one explanation for so many deaths in Lake Michigan is the lake is so long, 320 miles. Most of the wind comes out of the north or the south.

Protecting Mackinac Island's History

Jan 4, 2013

A public hearing is set for next week on Mackinac Island. After that, there will be nothing left but for the city council to decide whether old buildings in the 200 year-old city need protection. Brad Aspey talks with IPR News Director Peter Payette. 

The same company responsible for the worst inland oil spill ever wants to increase the amount of oil going through its pipeline under the Straits of Mackinaw.

Enbridge Energy says it has increased safety inspections since the disaster at the Kalamazoo River a couple of years ago. And the company says the pipeline that runs underwater west of the Mackinaw Bridge is perfectly safe.

But a Great Lakes environmental group isn’t convinced and is trying to stop the plan.

Search For The Wreck Of The Griffon Resumes

Oct 8, 2012

The search for the oldest shipwreck in the Great Lakes resumed this month. The team that says it might have found the wreck, Great Lakes Exploration, is moving ahead after closing a legal dispute with the State of Michigan. They're trying to prove that what they've found in northern Lake Michigan could be a French ship that disappeared in 1679. And they're near the end of what they can do without digging into the bottom of the lake.

Lifetime search

Salmon Struggling To Pass Betsie Bay

Sep 14, 2012

Michigan Natural Resources officials are trying to avoid a mass salmon die-off on Betsie Bay near the mouth of the Betsie River. Extremely low water levels are making it difficult for the fish to enter the river and to spawn.

But Fisheries Biologist Mark Tonello says if people stay away from the area there is enough room for the fish to swim up river.

Meaning Of Test Results For Asian Carp Disputed

Sep 7, 2012

Last week officials in Ohio and Michigan announced they found more evidence of Asian carp in Lake Erie. They didn’t find a carp but numerous water samples tested positive for what’s known as environmental DNA. That suggests Asian carp were in Sandusky Bay this summer. If the exotic fish get into the Great Lakes its expected they’ll further upset the current ecosystem.

For most of us summer winds down this holiday weekend but not if you're a surfer. The surfing season is just starting up. The Dairyland Surf Classic is in Sheboygan, Wisconsin this weekend. It claims to be the largest freshwater surfing contest in the world.

New research this fall will try to find a better way to predict dangerous currents in the Great Lakes. The number of deaths attributed to rip currents has been rising each of the last few summers.

Using Doppler
The experiment will see if Doppler radar can predict rip currents. That’s the same technology that can look at how the air moves inside fast developing storms.

Plans For Lamprey Barrier In UP Move Forward

Aug 13, 2012

Michigan will take ownership of a dam on the Manistique River in the Upper Peninsula. That will allow the federal government to build a new barrier there to keep sea lampreys from breeding in the river. Managers of the fishery expect that will bring the lamprey problem under control in Lake Michigan.

It was a deadly weekend on the Great Lakes. Seven people drowned, including three in Lake Michigan.

Kevin Schlake, 40, of Cincinnati, died Sunday after swimming at Peterson Beach, toward the southern end of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Schlake was caught in a rip current. The family says he was trying to rescue a 12-year-old nephew. Schlake’s brother-in-law was able to make it to shore after a struggle in strong surf.

Also this weekend, a Chicago doctor drowned at St. Joseph beach while trying to rescue two children.

Shipwreck Lawsuit Closed

Jul 20, 2012

A legal battle over what might be the most historic shipwreck in the Great Lakes is over, for now. That means further exploration of a site in Lake Michigan could pick up again.

About a decade ago, a shipwreck hunter working out of the Garden Peninsula in the Upper Peninsula found what he says might be the Griffin. The ship owned by French explorer Robert de La Salle disappeared in 1679, but a legal battle involving the State of Michigan and the French government ensued that has slowed attempts to identify whatever he found. 

The number of sea lampreys remains high in Lakes Michigan, Huron and Erie, according to a new report to the Great Lakes Fishery Commission. The eel-like fish was one of the first invasive species to arrive in the lake. It frequently kills lake trout and can also harm white fish and salmon.

According to the report, the number of lampreys in Lakes Michigan and Huron is just above the goal, but the problem with sea lamprey is most serious in Lake Erie. There are believed to be more lampreys in Erie now then there were when control programs began there.

State fishery biologists have to answer a critical question about Lake Michigan this year. How many salmon can it support? Everyone involved in the salmon fishery is worried about its future and now some sport fishing groups say drastic action might be required. They want the state to stop putting more fish into the lake.

State fishery biologists have to answer a critical question about Lake Michigan this year. How many salmon can it support? Everyone involved in the salmon fishery is worried about its future and now some sport fishing groups say drastic action might be required. They want the state to stop putting more fish into the lake.

It's getting harder and more hazardous to navigate the Great Lakes. A lack of funding for dredging has left many shallow harbors even shallower and some are closing. Chuck May has been working on this problem since he saw a yacht run aground trying to get into Portage Lake from a storm.

Salmon Stocking Could Be Cut In Lake Michigan

Apr 9, 2012

Managers of Lake Michigan want to cut the number of Chinook salmon being put into the lake by as much as 50 percent next year. They say changes in the lake’s food web make it possible the entire salmon fishery could collapse. Cutting the number of fish stocked should reduce that risk. There’s a meeting this weekend in Benton Harbor to discuss the proposals.

Dan Thomas, President of the Great Lakes Sport Fishing Council, says most people who pay attention to what’s happening in Lake Michigan see the danger. Thomas says there’s not much food for salmon in the lake these days.

Managers of salmon in Lake Michigan must soon decide how many fish to put into the lake each year. The salmon fishery is a man-made industry in the Great Lakes, produced by planting millions and millions of fish in the lakes. Keeping the salmon population in balance with the food supply is a challenge these days. Some scientists are raising new questions about the salmon's demise in Lake Huron and whether it can be stopped in Lake Michigan.

Sturgeon Heyday

Mar 9, 2012

Lake sturgeon is not a fish you hear much about these days but it was once part of the everyday vernacular around the Great Lakes. The story of its demise is an unusual one. For Americans moving into the region in the 1800s the fish was at first considered worthless but suddenly became a prized food. Laura Bien writes about the history of the sturgeon in her most recent article for The Ann Arbor Chronicle.

There were 87 people who died by drowning last year in Great Lakes waters, according to numbers reported by the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project.

A significant number of swimmers were caught in rip currents. Project CEO Bob Pratt says safety experts are still learning about rip-current survival, but there's some evidence to suggest the best thing for a swimmer to do if caught in a rip current is to stop swimming.

Underwater researchers say there's enough evidence to warrant taking samples from what may be the historic Great Lakes ship, the Griffon. The French owned vessel is thought to have sunk in northern Lake Michigan in September of 1679. The ship was part of explorer Rene de La Salle's effort to link trade from the Great Lakes to settlements on the Mississippi River.

Mercury Problem Improves In Region

Oct 11, 2011

A new study of mercury in the Great Lakes region says the problem has significantly improved in recent decades. But in a few places it appears to be getting worse. That could include northern Michigan.

Mercury has been a problem in the Great Lakes regions for much of the past century.  Coal-fired power plants and incinerators have been the main sources. Mercury accumulates in fish that are eaten by people and birds. It can impair brain development in children.

The federal government is ready to give three more lighthouses to historical groups in Michigan. One is the Waugoshance Lighthouse in northern Lake Michigan. It's an offshore light about 25 miles west of Mackinac City. Chris West is the President of the Waugoshance Lighthouse Preservation Society. He says the light has been out of use for almost 100 years but is still well known to boaters.

Writer's Quest To Know Great Lakes

Sep 23, 2011

Jerry Dennis is a writer from Traverse City who has been writing about the Great Lakes region for decades now. His newest book is en extended meditation on the Lakes in winter time. It's called Windward Shore: A Winter on the Great Lakes, published by University of Michigan Press. At the front Dennis suggests the lakes might be the most poorly understood place in North America. So with the help of injured knee to slow him down, he devotes himself to understanding them better. He spoke with Peter Payette on Points North.

Pages