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. 

Michigan Department of Natural Resources

Salmon had been planted in the Great Lakes many times before but unsuccessfully. The fish planted in 1966 came back to the Platte and Manistee Rivers the next year and turned Lake Michigan into a sport fishing paradise that drew anglers by the thousands.

The man who led this effort was in Benzie County today to celebrate it.

“I could have been the biggest bum in the world if I screwed up the Great Lakes,” Howard Tanner told a crowd at the Platte River State Fish Hatchery. “Some people think I did.”

Enbridge Energy has maintained that their twin oil and natural gas liquid pipelines under Lake Michigan at the Straits of Mackinac are safe.

But what if one of them did break open? Where might the oil go?

Today, the University of Michigan’s Water Center released new computer simulations to help answer that question.

David Schwab is a hydrodynamics expert with the Water Center.

“I don’t know any place where the currents are as strong, and change direction as quickly, and as frequently as in the Straits of Mackinac,” Schwab said.

Anyone with even passing knowledge of the Great Lakes knows that there are secrets beneath those waves: ships that have foundered.

Many have been found, and their locations are well known, but there are still mysteries to be unlocked.

One of the biggest dates back to a night in September 1929. The ship Andaste was headed from Grand Haven to Chicago when it vanished in a sudden storm on Lake Michigan.

U.S. Senator Gary Peters (D) has two big projects on his plate in an effort to strengthen protections for the Great Lakes and provide funding for the city of Flint in the wake of the water crisis.

The U.S. Senate recently gave unanimous approval to a funding bill that includes important protections for the Great Lakes. The bill re-authorizes the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), which is the federal agency that oversees pipelines.

U.S. Forest Service

The Pine River is one of the fastest flowing rivers in Lower Michigan and one of the most popular. Heavy traffic in the summer has created a problem the U.S. Forest Service wants to fix.

The project would mean the end of a sandy bank, about 160 feet high, that attracts crowds of paddlers. It’s an issue that pits peoples’ enjoyment of the river against the river’s health and even public safety.
 

The bank is just above Low Bridge, about 20 miles east of Manistee. It’s almost almost pure sand from top to bottom.

Should a Wisconsin city with a contaminated groundwater supply be allowed to siphon drinking water from Lake Michigan?

Waukesha's groundwater supply has a radium problem. Being 17 miles from Lake Michigan, Waukesha's proposed solution is to draw water from the lake. 

But according to the Great Lakes Compact, Waukesha cannot just lay down a pipeline and start drinking Lake Michigan water. It has to ask, and all eight Great Lakes governors have to say "yes."

  

An industrial chemical is showing up in trout from the Great Lakes. It’s called perfluoro-1-butane sulfonamide, or FBSA.

Researchers traced this chemical back to several products on the market. Those include detergents and surfactants first used in 2003. Surfactants are materials made to stainproof and waterproof products.

Tall Ships America

Tall Ships America will return to the Great Lakes this summer. The event, Tall Ships Challenge, will bring the fleet to every lake and will include a stop in Bay City.  A race from Bay City to the Straits of Mackinac is also planned. On Lake Michigan, the race will likely be from Chicago to Green Bay.

There will be about 20 ships in the fleet, including two this year from Europe - a Spanish galleon and Viking-style ship from Norway.

NASA Landsat

The city of Waukesha, Wisconsin has high levels of radium in its water supply. The city hopes to solve the problem by taking water out of Lake Michigan.

Waukesha is in a county that straddles the Great Lakes basin and under the Great Lakes Compact, it’s allowed to ask for a water diversion. Waukesha’s proposal is now before the eight Great Lakes states that make up the compact. They’ll decide whether or not to allow the diversion.

Steady decline in wetlands endangers Great Lakes

Jan 4, 2016

The Next Idea

In Michigan and across the country, wetlands are known as marshes, swamps, bogs, fens and pocosins.

They are also known as threatened.

The Great Lakes region would become a 'high consequence area' for oil spills, under a bill before the U.S. Senate.

Sen. Gary Peters, who introduced the legislation, says the designation will make the Straits of Mackinac safer from a potential spill.

"It's going to increase the inspections," Peters told IPR News Radio in an interview. "It increases the reporting. It increases the standards that companies have to meet for those pipelines."

Environmental groups say a 60-year old oil pipeline crossing the Straits is high risk. Enbridge, the company that runs the pipe, says it’s safe.

Sen. Peters attached this legislation to a larger bill which reauthorizes the agency that inspects pipelines.


Waukesha wants to build a pipeline to the Great Lakes.

The city is in southeast Wisconsin, 17 miles from Lake Michigan. It has a radium problem in its groundwater supply.

Radium occurs naturally, but it’s a carcinogen.

Dan Duchniak, general manager of the Waukesha Water Utility, says as the city’s groundwater supply has been drawn down, it’s made the high radium concentration worse.

“And ultimately the radium exceeded the federal drinking water standard and we are now under a court order to come into compliance with that, and the means by which we are going to do that is to develop a new water supply,” he says.

The city has to come up with a permanent solution for its radium problem by 2018.

Clements Library, University of Michigan

Henry Rowe Schoolcraft did as much as anyone else to make Michigan a state. As the U.S. Indian agent, he negotiated a treaty with tribes up north, who gave up millions of acres of land in the deal.

Schoolcraft married Jane Johnston Schoolcraft, a poet who was half Ojibwe. But he still thought of Indians as savages and that it was his job to lift them out of their “barbaric” state, according to Eric Hemenway.

Hemenway is a member of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians who works in cultural preservation.

Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy

Petobego Pond was a big winner at the Natural Resources Trust Fund board meeting this week. The fund board recommended spending almost $2.5 million to help preserve 43 acres at the south end of the pond along East Grand Traverse Bay near Elk Rapids. The land is privately owned and forms a peninsula between the bay and the pond.

Today in 1958, the Carl D. Bradley sank

Nov 18, 2015
Wikipedia

Thirty-three men lost their lives when the freighter Carl D. Bradley broke in two during a terrible storm on Lake Michigan.

Elizabeth Kowalski's brother, Bernard Schefke, died that day.   

"A girlfriend called me on the phone and told me that one of our boats had gone down,” she recalls. “She had a husband who sailed, too.  And she said, ‘don't worry, it's not our boat, it's the Bradley.’ And I said, ‘Oh my God, my brother's on that boat!’”

Only two men survived the storm.  Out of the 33 who perished, 26 were from the small town of Rogers City.

Illustrated for Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper in 1860

On the 40th anniversary of the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, we got to thinking about how much the media has covered this particular event. With 8,000 known wrecks on the Great Lakes alone, why would this wreck be so popular? And why does it seem like our collective knowledge of maritime history starts and ends with the Edmund Fitzgerald? 

The best explanation seems to be Gordon Lightfoot and his chart-topping song “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.” 

 


A scientific panel weighs in on fish farming

Nov 3, 2015

A report on fish farming in the Great Lakes suggests Michigan should move carefully if it allows the industry to start up.

State officials asked a panel of scientists to study the issue. There have been two proposals from companies that want to start raising rainbow trout in net pens in the Great Lakes.

Canadians raise millions of trout in Lake Huron every year and some people want Michigan to do the same.

The Coast Guard is investigating a leak from a 78-year-old tank barge in western Lake Erie that's believed to be the Argo.

It sank in a storm in 1937.

Researchers are finding flame retardants and stain repellent chemicals in herring gull eggs in the Great Lakes region.

These chemicals are used in a lot of consumer products, but they can last a long time in the environment and some of them can build up in the food web.

Michigan lawmakers are talking about banning tiny balls of plastic in products sold in Michigan.

A lot of us use products with microbeads in them. They’re tiny, perfectly round plastic beads that companies add to face and body scrubs and toothpaste.

We wash them down the drain, but they’re so small that wastewater treatment plants can’t filter them out.

This week, the 2nd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in New York ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to write new rules for the ballast water in ships.

Four environmental groups sued the EPA over its current ballast water rule.

Invasive species can get into the Great Lakes in ballast water. Salties are ships that cross the ocean, and lakers are ships that travel only within the Great Lakes. In the decision, the judges criticize the EPA for exempting lakers from certain regulations. 

Michigan officials are taking a victory lap in their efforts to reduce the amount of phosphorus flowing from state farms and other sources into Lake Erie. 

Phosphorus helps those slimy, bright green blooms of toxic cyanobacteria grow.

Michigan's U.S. senators have unveiled legislation they say will protect the Great Lakes from oil spills.

The bill would require a review of all pipelines in the Great Lakes region, plus it would ban transporting crude oil on tanker ships. That's something that doesn't happen at all right now, but Sen. Gary Peters says it could be a threat in the future.

"This has been a possibility that's being discussed," Peters says. "It has not been done up to this point because people frankly believe that it's just unacceptable."

There are more than 180 species in the Great Lakes that are not supposed to be here.

Euan Reavie is a researcher with the University of Minnesota-Duluth.

“Duluth-Superior harbor is the most invaded freshwater port in the world,” Reavie says. “This is kind of the end of the water road for a lot of ships that come in here.”

David Cassleman

A new report in Bridge Magazine this month questions how much state and federal officials know about the condition of an oil pipeline that crosses the Straits of Mackinac.

Reporter Ted Roelofs also details the inspection process governing oil and gas pipelines in the United States.

“The pipeline network in this country, which is about 2.5 million miles, it’s essentially self-regulated by the industry," Roelofs says.

"The federal agency that oversees it [Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, or PHMSA] essentially outsources the inspection to the industry itself.”


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