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. 

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.”


 

OK, this is where I fess up and tell you that the answer to that headline is "only time will tell."

A scientific advisory panel is studying the possibility now (see their names here), and we expect to see their findings this October. After that report, there will be more "time telling" as state officials decide whether to allow it.

In northern Michigan, the water problems of California seem far away. But water scarcity is a growing problem in the world, and the crisis out west has inspired a group of journalists and scientists based in Traverse City who are studying the issue.

Circle of Blue is leading a series of seven online town hall discussions about California's water crisis and what it means for the rest of the world. It's called 'Catalyst: California,' and Interlochen Public Radio is providing the group a base of operations for the project.

“What we learn in California can be applied in the Great Lakes," says J. Carl Ganter. He's co-founder and director of Circle of Blue.


A Minute With Mike: Carp Carp Hooray!

Aug 12, 2015

Once again it's time to dust off the ol’ Future-tron 2000 and see what might be happening in our state's future.

Dateline: Summer, 2050

 

Lake and river towns throughout Michigan are undertaking final preparations for tonight's 30th annual Celebration of Carp, or “Carpration” as some Michiganeers fondly refer to it. Since its arrival in the Great Lakes in 2020, the Asian Carp has revolutionized Michigan's industry and diet.

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.

Google Images

 

Michigan is fortunate to have one of the largest sources of fresh water in the world. And much of it is protected by the Great Lakes Compact. Many other states are not so fortunate.

 

Interlochen Public Radio is hosting the Circle of Blue, a Michigan-based source of news about the world’s water supply founded by journalists and scientists, on a series of virtual town halls about the future of water. To find out more, visit h2ocatalyst.org.

 

Lake Superior is the largest freshwater lake in the world by surface area, and it has something the other Great Lakes don’t — stable populations of mostly native fish species.

But scientists say a key fish in Superior’s food web is now in trouble because of mild winters and an appetite for caviar in Europe.

U.S. Geological Survey

Researchers have discovered a widespread infestation of quagga mussels in Crooked Lake near Petoskey. It’s the first time the mussels have been reported in an inland lake in Michigan.

Quagga mussels spread rapidly through the Great Lakes in the 1990s and eventually displaced their cousin, the zebra mussel. Kevin Cronk from the Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council says quagga mussels have a wide range and reproduce very quickly.

What makes someone want to live on an island?

Loreen Niewenhuis pondered this question in her book, A 1,000 Mile Great Lakes Island Adventure, which recounts her journey traveling to many of the islands in each of the Great Lakes. This is the third in her Great Lakes Adventure series and the last time she spoke with us she had just completed hiking the shorelines of all five Great Lakes.

NASA Landsat

The Great Lakes Compact is facing its first big challenge. Signed into law in 2008 by the leaders of eight Great Lakes states and two Canadian provinces, the compact says only communities in the Great Lakes Basin can draw their drinking water from the lakes.

The challenge to the compact is not coming from thirsty states like California or Texas. It comes from Waukesha, Wisconsin – a suburb of Milwaukee that’s only about 15 miles from Lake Michigan.

David Cassleman

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette says the days of an energy pipeline running beneath the Straits of Mackinac are numbered. But, a task force led by Schuette does not recommend that day should come anytime soon.

Peter Payette

Traffic over the Mackinac Bridge last year was down more than 20 percent compared to the late 1990s, and there is no single explanation for the trend. But there is one region where residents say they know what happened to their tourists and have a plan to rebuild.

Susie Keirns has been coming to the Les Cheneaux Islands area her whole life. She’s sitting next to a cabin on the beach in Hessel that her mom stayed in 70 years ago when she was expecting Susie’s sister.

“My sister’s 70 now,” she says. “So that tells you how many years we’ve been coming up.”

"Lake Erie is dead" and "the Cuyahoga River is on fire."

Those were actual headlines in the late 1960s spotlighting the deteriorating conditions of the Great Lakes in an age when rampant pollution was the norm.

Stories like these led to the passing of the Clean Water Act of 1972, which helped restore the Great Lakes.

So you want to stroll along a Great Lakes beach. Can a cottage-owner come shoo you away?

Today we looked at the water rules in the Great Lakes State.

If you ever get a chance to meet a sea lamprey, you won’t forget it.

They look like an eel but they’re actually a fish. They have a suction cup for a face, with hundreds of razor sharp teeth.

Great Lakes Exploration

The head of underwater archeology in France is still interested in a site in Michigan he visited in 2013, looking for the remains of the Griffin.

Michel L’Hour is listed as the project director in a proposal to the State of Michigan to take wooden samples from beams on the bottom of Lake Michigan. The beams, and other debris, were found off the Garden Peninsula near an area that was excavated two years ago.

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