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. 

Study Finds Evidence Of Self-Sustaining Lamprey

Feb 21, 2014
T. Lawrence / Great Lakes Fishery Commission

A study funded by the Great Lakes Fishery Commission says there is likely a landlocked population of sea lamprey in northern Michigan.

Scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey have found evidence of a self-sustaining population in two lakes, Burt and Mullet, above the Cheboygan River lock-and-dam.

This would be an expansion of the invasive predator’s reach.

Marc Gaden, spokesman for the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, says there are several things at stake.

Great Lakes Exploration

Archeologists studying a wooden beam pulled from northern Lake Michigan this summer can't say whether it is a piece of the first European ship to sail the upper Great Lakes or a post from an old fishing net. The group managing the project is close to issuing a report to the state archeologist, but it won’t reach any firm conclusion.

Read on to discover the evidence that points to each conclusion.

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.


And I'm Robert Siegel.

State lawmakers say they’re concerned that more isn’t being done by federal authorities to keep Asian carp from reaching the Great Lakes. Those concerns were part of a joint legislative hearing involving four separate House and Senate committees. They took issue with a recent Army Corps of Engineers study. It outlined options and costs, but made no specific recommendations. The plans could run into the billions of dollars and take 25 years to complete.

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Good morning, I'm Steve Inskeep.

The farm bill has about $57 billion for conservation.

Director of the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition Todd Ambs says a lot of people don't realize the farm bill is where we find the largest source of conservation money from the federal government.

"That’s because there are so many activities that happen on the land that bring us our food, that if done improperly can have a very adverse impact on the soil and also to surrounding waterways," he says.

Leelanau County Ice Cave Formations

Feb 17, 2014
Deb Poltorak

UPDATE 2-21-14: As of Friday, February 21, 2014 the ice caves off the coast of the Leelanau Peninsula are  VERY unsafe. County officials ask people not to enter onto the ice to walk toward the unique formations. Winds have moved the ice and there is now open water within feet of the caves. There are also large cracks in the cave’s arches and they are expected to collapse soon.

There are close to 70,000 miles of underground pipelines in Michigan carrying all kinds of materials around the state – things like natural gas, refined petroleum, and crude oil.

And for the most part, we really don’t notice these pipelines. That was true in Michigan until one summer day three and half years ago when this happened:

Researcher hunts for new medicines in the Great Lakes

Feb 4, 2014

Let's call today Throwback Tuesday, and go way, way back to the 1920s.

That's when Sir Alexander Fleming stumbled on a mold that stopped bacteria from growing in a petri dish. He called it penicillin.

Ever since that huge discovery, people have been looking all over the Earth for more organisms that can fight disease.

Brian Murphy has been searching at the bottom of the Great Lakes.


[CLARIFICATION: Mark Gill told IPR Grand Traverse Bay was iced over on Wednesday morning. Open water may be seen on the bay since as ice cover on the lake rises and falls, sometimes dramatically.]

Grand Traverse Bay is now mostly frozen along with almost half of Lake Michigan. Mark Gill at the U.S. Coast Guard says ice reaches from Traverse City to the Straits of Mackinac.

Ever seen a commercial for a face scrub or body wash that promises to “polish” your skin with “micro-beads?”

Or maybe one of the hundreds of these products already sits in your shower.

Ever wonder what those little beads are?

Chances are pretty good they’re plastic. And once they circle your drain and go down your pipes, chances are also pretty good they’re not going to get filtered out by your city’s sewage treatment plant.

Millions of tiny beads that look a lot like fish food

A Canadian court has slammed a trucking company and one of its drivers with a combined $75,000 fine for trying to haul live Asian carp across the U.S.-Canadian border.

Driver Yong-Sheng Zhang is with the Edmonton, Alberta-based Alltheway Trucking Inc.

Twice in early 2012, Zhang crossed the Ambassador Bridge connecting Detroit and Windsor, Ontario, with a truckload of fish from Arkansas. The fish were packed in ice, and included two species of Asian carp.

Songs Of The Sea

Jan 17, 2014

For hundreds of years, sailors aboard ships have sung simple songs that make work easier and keep one another entertained.

These songs are called sea shanties.

And a workshop and concert in Traverse City Saturday at the Maritime Heritage Alliance in Traverse City will help keep the tradition alive.

Jason L. Jenkins / University of Missouri

A new report says a permanent solution to the Asian carp threat to the Great Lakes could take years to build and cost billions of dollars.

The report says it’s very possible for the invasive species to slip from the Mississippi River system into the Great Lakes. And that it’s possible for the species to live in the lakes and grow in population.

The report was prepared by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for Congress.

North Dakota and western Canada are producing crude oil faster than it can be shipped to refineries.

Rail car manufacturers can't make new tank cars fast enough, and new pipeline proposals face long delays over environmental concerns. So energy companies are looking for new ways to get the heavy crude to market.

One proposed solution is to ship the oil by barge over the Great Lakes — but it's a controversial one.

Governor: More Renewables, Less Coal

Dec 19, 2013

Governor Rick Snyder says it’s time for state lawmakers to set new energy goals for Michigan. He says those goals should include burning less coal and increasing renewable energy production over the next decade.

Snyder outlined a broad set of goals for energy policy between now and 2025 during a roundtable Thursday in Detroit.

Holland To Phase Out Coal

Dec 19, 2013

The city of Holland will phase out the burning of coal to generate electricity. Holland reached a settlement with the Sierra Club to stop burning coal in one of three units at its city-owned power plant in 2016. The other two units will be off coal in ten years.

The Sierra Club claims the DeYoung plant is pumping out air pollutants at 3.5 times the limit set by the EPA to protect public health.

Sierra Club had challenged coal burning permits issued by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to Holland and to Wolverine Power Cooperative based in Cadillac.

Imagine walking down a picturesque beach along Lake Michigan, and stumbling upon the carcasses of dead birds. That’s a very real and unpleasant problem along Lakes Michigan, Huron, Ontario and Erie. (It’s not as big of an issue in Lake Superior because of the lake’s colder water temperatures.)

Loons and other deep-diving birds are suffering from a disease called avian botulism. It’s form of food poisoning that kills wild birds in the Great Lakes ecosystem.

Electric customers in northern Michigan will not be paying for a new coal fired power plant.

Wolverine Power Cooperative announced Tuesday that it will not build its Clean Energy Venture near Rogers City. The Cadillac-based utility supplier put an estimated $20 million dollars into developing plans for the plant over the last seven years.

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Plastic junk in our oceans has concerned scientists for decades. Over the weekend, the New York Times reported on new research that minute plastic beads, the kind used in cosmetics and toothpastes, are ending up in the Great Lakes.

  Michigan’s two U.S. Senators are raising a series of questions about the safety of an oil pipeline that runs under the Straits of Mackinac. Debbie Stabenow and Carl Levin are asking for a response from the federal agency that oversees pipeline safety.

Earlier this year Enbridge Energy increased the flow in line 5 by 50,000 barrels a day. That also meant increased pressure in the 60 year old line.

The senators point out that a spill in the waters of the Straits would have devastating effects on the Great lakes and on the region’s economy.

The human remains of 126 Native Americans are going home this week.

Over the course of the week, representatives of the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe are retrieving the remains and associated funerary objects from the University of Michigan, Wayne State University, and a Mount Pleasant State Police Post.

Shannon Martin is a member of the delegation and director of the Ziibiwing Center of Anishinabe Culture and Lifeways for the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan. 

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.

Researchers have found evidence of a small invasive fish in southern Lake Michigan for the first time. It could be an early warning that the species may be spreading and could migrate into the Mississippi River system.

The Eurasian ruffe entered the northern Great Lakes 25 years ago in the ballast water of a ship in Duluth harbor.