Great Lakes

Great Lakes plan to combat marine debris

Dec 2, 2016
Elizabeth Miller / Great Lakes Today

A conference in Cleveland is tackling marine debris, the pieces of plastic that wash up on the river, ocean, or Great Lake shores. It's a issue that has affected the health and appearances of beaches around the world.

Marine debris also has a deadly effect on wildlife, especially birds.

“They can get entangled in fishing line or balloon string,” says Jill Bartolotta, an educator with Ohio Sea Grant. “They also eat plastic because they think its fish or a food item, which will eventually cause them to starve to death.”

Maritime school teaches Great Lakes skills

Nov 26, 2016
Elizabeth Miller / Great Lakes Today

At the Maritime Academy of Toledo, students learn basics like math and English. They also take classes on boatbuilding.

On a fall day in the boat lab, a few students are working on the inside of a small wooden boat. They’re gluing pieces of wood together along the inside of the boat before sanding it down.

Researchers scope Cayuga Lake for invasive plant

Nov 24, 2016
Gabe Altieri / WSKG

In September, a class from Wells College was on Cayuga Lake near Aurora when someone noticed a non-native weed in the water. It was hydrilla, an invasive plant that can cause big problems.

Hillary Lambert with the Cayuga Lake Watershed is trying to figure out how widespread the hydrilla is before the lake gets even colder and freezes.

“If we let hydrilla take control, over several years time, it could make large areas of the shoreline impassable every summer,” she said.

Jaime / Flickr, Creative Commons

Saturday is Drug Take Back Day for people across the country. Educators with a program out of Cornell University and SUNY are particularly urging people who live near the Great Lakes to bring leftover prescription drugs to nearby collection sites.

Helen Domske, with Sea Grant New York, says unused prescription drugs are often dumped down the drain or the toilet. That means antibiotics, hormones and vitamins are making their way into our waterways, threatening marine life.

Green vs. gray: how can trees clean up the Great Lakes?

Oct 11, 2016
Elizabeth Miller / Great Lakes Today

A big threat to the Great Lakes comes from outdated sewer systems that can carry bacteria into waterways, and lead to closed beaches and drinking water warnings. Now, some cities are fighting back – with trees.

In nearly 200 communities, sewer systems handle both stormwater and sewage. When it rains a lot, these systems get overloaded, and untreated water -- or sewage -- runs into the Great Lakes or nearby streams and rivers.  

“These outflows happen up to 82 times per year at some spots in Cleveland,” says U.S. Forest Service scientist Michelle Kondo.

Environmental convention focuses on future of Great Lakes

Oct 10, 2016
Angelica A. Morrison / Great Lakes Today

Split pea soup – that’s how some folks describe the Great Lakes back when it was plagued by contamination, pollution and algae. A lot has changed since then.

During the Nature Conservancy conference last week, Jerry Dennis, author of "The Living Great Lakes," described how far the lakes have come.

Dennis’s deep connection with the Great Lakes starts on the shores of Lake Michigan.

Dogs sniff out pollution along Great Lakes

Oct 1, 2016
Rebecca Thiele / WMUK

In the town of Bridgman, Mich., investigators Sable and Kenna sniff samples from storm water drains near a beach. Sable is a 10-year-old German Shepherd, while Kenna, a Golden Retriever, is 2.

The dogs have been trained to sniff out polluted water, says Karen Reynolds, co-founder of Environmental Canine Services.

“If they smell any contamination that indicates human source bacteria, then they will give an alert,” Reynolds said. “Sable barks when he smells that and Kenna will sit.”

Kaylyn Izzo / WRVO News

Each summer, many beaches along the Great Lakes are closed because of high bacteria levels in the water.  But figuring out exactly when to close a beach is difficult, and scientists are trying out a new test that could lead to safer swimming.

Associated Press

Plastic debris is pervasive in the waters that feed the Great Lakes, according to a new study published by the United States Geological Survey (USGS).

The study found widespread microplastics in 29 tributaries, with the highest concentrations in the Huron River in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and the Buffalo River in Buffalo.

Microplastics are fibers and beads that come from decomposing bottles, bags, clothing, and even some cosmetic products.

Draken Expedition America

The replica Viking ship Draken Harald Hårfagre has sailed out of the Great Lakes, wrapping up a contentious visit.

The 115-foot Norwegian vessel sailed across the Atlantic Ocean this spring and toured Canadian and U.S. waters all summer. It made stops in Chicago, Detroit and Green Bay where visitors came aboard for tours. But as of now, the Draken has no plans to return to the Great Lakes.

Veronica Volk / WXXI News

Some of the migratory songbirds that pass through the Great Lakes region are already on the move, and volunteers at the Braddock Bay Bird Observatory are preparing for them. Hundreds of species – swallows, finches, warblers and more -- visit the observatory on the shore of Lake Ontario, just west of Rochester.

Today, the volunteers are repairing large nets, about 12 feet high with very fine mesh. That’s how they catch the birds.

"When they're flying along, they kind of hit these soft nets and fall into little pockets or hammocks," says education director Andrea Patterson.

Deadly currents -- why they hit the Great Lakes

Sep 3, 2016
Elizabeth Miller / Great Lakes Today

Powerful currents on the Great Lakes have caused more than 150 drownings since 2002, according to researchers. Those currents can appear suddenly, says Mark Breederland, an educator with Michigan Sea Grant.

Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority

Each year, ports on the Great Lakes dredge tons of material to keep shipping lanes open. But disposing of the spoils is a big problem. The Port of Toledo has a creative approach: farming.

The Port of Toledo dredges more sediment than any port on the Great Lakes – up to a million cubic yards every year.  The idea of reusing sediment as soil for agriculture is new for the Great Lakes region and ideal for Lake Erie’s western basin.

Great Lake Ontario National Marine Sanctuary

Shipwrecks are a big draw for divers and tourists in the great lakes. Now – for the first time in 20 years -- more communities are getting help in preserving and showing off their underwater treasures. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is expanding its national marine sanctuary program. For Oswego and other communities on the Great Lakes, that designation would bring federal funding and a boost to tourism

Farmers helping to limit algae in Great Lakes

Jul 2, 2016
Elizabeth Miller / Great Lakes Today

Summers along the Great Lakes include fishing, boating -- and dangerous algae blooms that can shut down beaches. These blooms are caused by excess phosphorous, a lot of which comes from farms. Now some of the region's farmers are testing agricultural practices that could reduce harmful runoff.

Duane Stateler and his son Anthony run Stateler Family Farms, one of a handful of demonstrations farms across the country. Over the next five years, three farms in Northwest Ohio will test different practices to find out what reduces phosphorus runoff.

Jim Kennard

A schooner that sank off the shores of New York in Lake Ontario almost a century and a half ago has been discovered.

Underwater explorer Jim Kennard says he and his colleagues Roger Pawlowski and Roland Stevens were canvassing miles of lake bottom with a remote control video camera when it happened.

"All of a sudden you see something and the adrenaline kicks in."

Jason Smith / WRVO News

Oswego County Administrator Phil Church is a shipwreck diver and photographer in his off time. These days, he's bringing his hobby to work. Church is coordinating an effort between Oswego, Jefferson, Cayuga and Wayne counties and the city of Oswego to have the southeastern part of Lake Ontario designated as a national marine sanctuary. There are only 14 in the world and Church said Oswego has a good case to join that list.

Worst of the worst Great Lakes invasive species: Sea Lamprey

Jun 4, 2016
Angelica A. Morrison / Great Lakes Today

The sharp scent of chemicals bites the air as Jason Krebill wades in a creek and pulls out two slippery, slimy, parasitic creatures.

He’s holding dead adult sea lampreys, one in each hand. They’re about two feet long, with suction-cupped mouths, lined with nearly a dozen rows of sharp teeth.

Like a vampire, the sea lamprey latches onto its prey and sucks the blood and nutrients out of fish in all five of the Great Lakes. Krebill, a biological science technician with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, is a part of a team whose job it is to control the invasive species.

Corey Seeman / Flickr

Over the past several years, Sen. Charles Schumer has been able to secure federal money to help with upgrading facilities, including the improvement of rail lines and even dredging the Port of Oswego. He calls the upgrade of the port one of his "pet projects."

Schumer has been advocating modernizing the port for several years and says when all is said and done, he expects the job impact to be in the thousands.

USGS commissions, christens new research vessel

Aug 8, 2014
Gino Geruntino / WRVO

The United States Geological Survey has added a new research vessel to its Great Lakes fleet, which will help monitor the health of Lake Ontario.

The new boat replaces a boat that was in use for fifty years and was finally decommissioned a couple years ago. The Research Vessel Kaho, which means searcher or hunter in Ojibwe, was commissioned and christened in Oswego Wednesday morning, even though it's been in use since last year.

Martin Abegglen / Flickr

The United States is not yet generating a watt of energy from commercial offshore wind. A couple of years ago, it looked like the Great Lakes might lead the nation. Pennsylvania was among a handful of states working with federal agencies to speed up the process.  As recently as a couple of months ago, construction of a wind farm in Lake Erie, off the Ohio shoreline near Cleveland, looked promising. But now some are sounding the death knell for any wind development in the Great Lakes.

Center for Environmental Initiatives

Community members from across western New York came together in Rochester Thursday to address the issue of pollution in the Genesee River, and create an action plan for the immediate future.

The summit, run by the Center for Environmental Initiatives, was spurred by a new study which suggests human activity along the Genesee River Basin is having a direct impact on the water quality in Lake Ontario.

Gino Geruntino / WRVO

The threat of Asian Carp entering the Great Lakes has been talked about for years. While the potential of the invasive species on the lakes has not been fully determined, environmentalists are concerned the fish could hurt the lakes' ecosystem.

Dave White, with New York Sea Grant, says big head and silver carp have been detected very close to the Great Lakes, so the risk of a flood introducing them into the lakes is always present.

Should a ship be deliberately sunk in Lake Ontario?

Oct 4, 2013
Vlad Litvinov / Flickr

The possibility of deliberately sinking a ship in Lake Ontario will be discussed at a seminar Saturday at SUNY Oswego. Dave White, of New York Sea Grant, which is hosting the conference, says sinking a vessel along the shoreline would create a tourism spot for recreational divers and also provide a habitat for fish.

Kate O'Connell / WXXI

Shipping lanes and ports along the Great Lakes are big contributors to the economies of upstate cities.  Federal funding to remove sediment and keep these shipping lanes open is available, but funds are limited and some of the smaller ports struggle to secure the money to dredge shipping channels on a yearly basis.

And, difficulty freeing federal funds has led one company to take matters into their own hands in western New York.

Ashley Hirtzel/WBFO

The Great Lakes Fishery Commission estimates that more than 40 million people in the U.S. and Canada depend on the Great Lakes for food, drinking water and recreation. A state-of-the-art research vessel, called the “Muskie,” is currently making its way through Lake Erie collecting data samples for the U.S. Geological Survey.

International Joint Commission

A federal program dedicated to environmental restoration and cleaning up of the Great Lakes has escaped a massive budget cut. A committee in the U.S. House of Representatives has voted to amend a bill that looked to slash the program’s funding, partially restoring it to $210 million for fiscal year 2014.

The House bill originally aimed to cut 80 percent of the program’s budget, from nearly $300 million to just $60 million for next year.

A House committee has since revised that figure from $60 million to $210 million.

Ryan Delaney / WRVO

A small cylinder armed with research equipment is bobbing through Lake Ontario this week. It’s collecting data from a seasonal temperature barrier known as a thermal bar.

Groups hope for post-election focus on environment

Nov 13, 2012
Vladimer Shioshvili / Flickr

While environmental issues did not play a prominent role in this year's presidential election, some activists were cheered when the president mentioned global warming in his election night speech. And one area group says this is a crucial time in determining how the federal government will focus on issues of climate, pollution, water levels and invasive species.

The Great Lakes Week

Jul 25, 2012

John Weeks discusses the events of the 1984 Great Lakes Week. This festival included Native American storytelling, water sports, film screenings and concerts.WeeksThis essay describes the activities and goals of this free (and now extinct) celebration. Weeks explains how each citizen should be well aware of the history and uses of the 193 mile-long Lake Ontario.

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