Michigan Environmental Roundup: Ice jams, Lake Michigan and shipwrecks

SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. - Departing the Poe Lock March 16, the Canadian Coast Guard Cutter Samuel Risley heads for Thunderbay, Ontario. (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers photo by Kim Dautremont used under Creative Commons license)

Bridge Magazine is committed to sharing the best environmental journalism in Michigan, an experiment known as #EnviroReads.

Every two weeks, in Bridge’s Michigan Environment Watch, we’ll share a roundup of stories on the Great Lakes or other issues. If you see a story we should include next time, use the hashtag #EnviroReads on Twitter or email Environmental Reporter Jim Malewitz at jmalewitz@bridgemi.com.

On U.P.'s Sugar Island, ice jams hinder access to mainland, throwing lives into chaos

Detroit Free Press, Jan. 22

“It's a lifeline for the 800 or so year-round residents of Sugar Island, on the St. Marys River just east of Sault Ste. Marie: the car ferry that every runs the 1,200-foot trek every half hour to and from the mainland — to school, to work, to the supermarket, for health care,” reports Keith Matheny. “But a mixed-up winter of deep freezes and warm-ups has contributed to major ice jams on the river, bringing the ferry boat to a near-halt in recent weeks. To say it’s disrupted islanders’ lives would be like saying it was a little chilly in Michigan at the end of last month.”

Lake Michigan has become dramatically clearer in last 20 years — but at a steep cost

Chicago Tribune, Jan. 26

“Decades ago, Lake Michigan teemed with nutrients and green algae, casting a brownish-green hue that resembled the mouth of an inland river rather than a vast, open-water lake,” Tony Briscoe reports — not the best for swimmers, but still supporting a robust fishing industry. Since then, Lake Michigan has become even clearer than Lake Superior. Exciting news? Not exactly. That’s because a key cause of that transformation —phytoplankton-sucking invasive mussels — is ravaging underwater food chains. “For much of the past decade, prey fish, like alewives, have remained at historic lows, prompting state managers to scale back the annual stocks of prized predators, such as king salmon. The startling evolution has called into question the future of Great Lakes marine life and the region’s $7 billion fishing industry.”

Rockford may have been drinking contaminated water before 2000

MLive.com, Jan. 23

“Rockford officials are proud and relieved the city's municipal drinking water supply has tested free of toxic chemicals used by Wolverine World Wide at the company's former tannery complex on the Rogue River,” Garrett Ellison reports, citing the city’s switch 18 years ago to a groundwater well system. “But prior to 2000, the city sourced water from the Rogue River about 300 yards downstream of the Wolverine tannery grounds, where testing in October confirmed groundwater near the riverbank was polluted by extremely high levels of toxic chemicals known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, called PFAS or PFCs.”

In the Great Lakes, They’re Battling Ice, and Time. Take a Look.

New York Times, Jan. 18

“An intricate boat ballet plays out each January on the frigid waters of the northern Great Lakes. Thousand-foot freighters scramble to make final deliveries of iron ore to steel mills,” reports Mitch Smith. “The Coast Guard carves paths through ice-clogged shipping routes. And the Soo Locks, the engineering marvel connecting Lake Superior with points to the south and east, shut down for 10 weeks of maintenance while the weather is at its most brutal.” Photographs and video by Sam Hodgson offer a vivid look at the dance.

Historic shipwreck preservation in danger in the Great Lakes

Michigan Radio, Jan. 16

“More than three centuries of thriving marine commerce and those notorious storms in the Great Lakes have given Michigan a wealth of historic shipwrecks,” Tracy Samilton reports. “There are nearly a thousand on the bottomlands of the state's 13 designated underwater preserves alone. But Michigan's mostly volunteer system of protecting the shipwrecks is showing signs of trouble.”


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Tony Infante
Fri, 02/02/2018 - 8:54am

Tom Casperson has been a loyal stooge for Canadian and transnational companies like Enbridge and Nestle that want to plunder Michigan's natural resources and leave our local communities in worse shape than they were in before they showed up to mine, lay pipe or suck water for export outside the Great Lakes basin. Since he's term limited - it won't be a shock if ends up at a "multi-client" lobby shop working on behalf of the same industries he's been working for in the legislature -with a big bump in pay for his ignoble efforts.