Elizabeth Miller

Great Lakes Today Reporter/Producer

Reporter/producer Elizabeth Miller joined ideastream after a stint at NPR headquarters in Washington D.C., where she served as an intern on the National Desk, pitching stories about everything from a gentrified Brooklyn deli to an app for lost dogs. Before that, she covered weekend news at WAKR in Akron and interned at WCBE, a Columbus NPR affiliate. Elizabeth grew up in Columbus before moving north to attend Baldwin Wallace, where she graduated with a degree in broadcasting and mass communications.

A new report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration calls 2016 the warmest year on record around the globe.  The surface temperature of the Great Lakes was also above average -- and that's not good news.


In a long-awaited report, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says new measures are needed to prevent Asian carp from getting into the Great Lakes.

The report says the current defense at the Brandon Road lock in Illinois – an underwater electric barrier – should be beefed up. The Army Corps' recommended plan would add water jets and complex noises – like the underwater recordings of a boat motor. 


The first woman to lead the Coast Guard district that covers the Great Lakes is retiring Wednesday. 

In the two years Rear Admiral June Ryan has been Commander of the 9th District, the winters have been mild.  And there hasn’t really been a need for ice-breaking – what she calls the Coast Guard Great Lakes' greatest challenge.


Seventy-five years ago, the SPARS were created to take the job of thousands of Coast Guardsmen who had to leave their posts to fight in World War II. 

Mabel Johnson was one of them – she enlisted in 1943 and was first sent to Cleveland.  The 102-year old returned Thursday for a visit.


There’s more than just fish and sand in the Great Lakes.   According to the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum in Michigan, there are over 6,000 shipwrecks in the lakes – and an estimated 30,000 lives lost.


​As scientists forecast a significant algae bloom in Lake Erie this summer, environmental groups are calling for tougher government policies to reduce pollution from farms.


It’s easier to get to Sheila Consaul’s summer home by boat than by foot.  It sits at the edge of an Ohio state park 30 miles east of Cleveland.

“Unless you have a boat, the only way to get here is to park in Mentor Headlands Beach parking lot, walk out through the dunes area to the beach itself, walk along the beach, and then you have to get up on the breakwall,” she says.

  

"Anyone there? Please, tell us - we're all tired and we're all hungry. Please come back!"

Fake distress calls like this one placed via marine radio can sound identical to real ones. And the U.S. Coast Guard 9th District, which covers the Great Lakes, takes every call seriously.

But the number of fake calls has skyrocketed this year.


Part 3 in a series about President Trump's budget 

A lot of attention has focused on President Trump's proposal to eliminate funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which doles out $300 million a year for various projects. But his "skinny budget" has other cuts -- including the National Sea Grant program -- that would affect the region.


President Trump's 2018 budget eliminates $300 million from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which has funded wetlands restorations, pollution cleanup and much more.  

This interactive graphic shows how major federal agencies such as the EPA and the Fish and Wildlife Service have spread the money among the eight Great Lakes states.

Imagine one of the Great Lakes on a sunny day – the water is clear and kids are playing in it.  But the day after a big storm, that same lake can reek of raw sewage.

It’s caused by a combined sewer overflow – a common problem in over 700 cities and towns nationwide.   Some cities are finding a solution underground.

June marks the beginning of beach season in the Great Lakes – but it also means more people are at risk of drowning.  What does it mean to see a red flag at the beach?

 

The more rain we have this spring, the bigger the Lake Erie algae bloom this summer -- and it’s been a wet spring.

Algae blooms in western Lake Erie are primarily due to excess nutrients from fertilizer chemicals running off farm land.  Some blooms can become toxic, shutting down beaches or sickening people and pets.

Rain helps phosphorus travel from farms to the lake through rivers including the Maumee in western Ohio – and tracking from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration can predict the size of an algae bloom.

The Trump administration released details of its 2018 budget plan today. As expected, it eliminates a $300 million program to help the Great Lakes. But that isn’t the only environmental program targeted.


Before water contamination emergencies hit Flint, Mich., a crisis in Canada became deadly.

When E. coli invaded the drinking water in Walkerton, half of the town became ill and seven people died. That led to a turnaround in the way the community treats its water and trains workers. 

But a question lingers: Does Walkerton’s tragedy still resonate in the U.S.?

  

Environmental groups have filed a federal lawsuit, accusing the Environmental Protection Agency of violating the Clean Water Act.

The lawsuit involves a dispute over whether western Lake Erie should be classified as an impaired waterway. 

In a conference call Thursday afternoon, the Great Lakes Compact Council upheld its decision allowing Waukesha, ​Wisc., to draw water from Lake Michigan.

Representatives for all eight Great Lakes states voted to deny a challenge brought by local officials across the region.

Talk of a fictional pipeline that could carry Great Lakes water to the Southwest caused a recent uproar from folks around the lakes. But the NASA scientist who mentioned the idea says Phoenix and other desert cities aren’t coming for the Great Lakes’ water any time soon.

Pollution and other problems plague areas all over the Great Lakes region. And they can make drinking or swimming dangerous.  There’s plenty of blame to go around for this – city water utilities, agriculture, and politicians to name a few.

Now an unlikely industry has joined the search for solutions -- technology is taking on Lake Erie.


Lots of people were already upset about President Trump’s plan to slash Great Lakes funding in next year’s federal budget.  Now he’s recommending a $50 million cut to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative for this year.  


U.S. and Canadian commissioners representing the Great Lakes met in Buffalo, N.Y., Tuesday to hear from environmental groups and the public on the region’s progress.

The International Joint Commission's U.S. Chair, Lana Pollack, opened with a message: “What we’re here today to do is to hear from some experts, hear from the public, and thereby advise the governments in both countries as well as local jurisdictions on how lakes can best be protected."

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter Dan Egan has covered Great Lakes issues for 15 years.  This month, he released his first bookThe Death and Life of the Great Lakes, an in-depth biography of the lakes – from the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway to the current issues with harmful algae blooms and invasive species.


John Nicholls/Shutterstock

The Great Lakes shipping season officially kicks off Monday with the opening of the Welland Canal, the shipping channel that connects Lake Ontario and Lake Erie.


The Trump Administration’s proposed budget is out – and it eliminates the $300 million in annual funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI), which finances environmental projects all over the region.

The budget also zeroes out the $250 million allotted to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) grants, including 33 Sea Grant programs nationwide. Based at universities, Sea Grant programs focus on educating the public, outreach and research. 

Groups representing mayors, governors, and Great Lakes states are descending on Washington this week to push back against reported budget cuts for environmental programs. 

Tuesday begins three days of speakers and presentations at the Great Lakes Commission’s semi-annual meeting. It also means three days of meetings with Congress and the Trump administration to promote the region’s priorities, including money for infrastructure and an initiative to restore the health of the lakes.

The Trump Administration could be proposing a 97 percent cut in Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funding when it unveils the federal budget later this month -- a move that is drawing harsh criticism from some regional officials.  The initiative is one of many Environmental Protection Agency programs in jeopardy.


 

When the bars and restaurants in Put-in-Bay close at the end of summer, you might think the entire island shuts down. But a couple hundred hardy year-round islanders in Western Lake Erie stay put.  As winter sets in, eventually even the ferries shut down and the only way on and off is by plane.

A leaked list of infrastructure priorities for the Trump administration includes bridges and other big projects for the Great Lakes region.

It’s unclear whether the list is a draft or final version. But it’s sparking excitement about rebuilding the region.

The cost of the 50 projects is more than $130 billion, with half coming from private investment.

This week marks the start of a break in the Great Lakes shipping season.  A time when lakes freeze over, the locks at Sault St. Marie shut down, and crews on big freighters go home to their families.  

But not everyone stops working.

 

Most shipping on the Great Lakes comes to a close with the Soo Locks shutdown on Sunday.  It’s the end of a rough year for cargo companies.

According to the Lake Carriers Association, Great Lakes freighters transported over 83 million tons of cargo in 2016. That was a 4.5 percent decline compared to 2015.

The association’s Glen Nekvasil says shipments rose in only one category.  “Iron ore was the one cargo that increased. It was up about 8 percent, and our grain cargoes were down almost 30 percent.”

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