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.

As the Healing Our Waters conference gets underway in Buffalo, environmental advocates from around the region have a front-row seat to issues central to the city.

But the conference is also a time to gather hundreds of environmentalists and start to inspire change -- on issues like diversity.  

Algae blooms continue to color western Lake Erie a deep green. Now researchers and scientists want to know more about toxins produced by the algae -- and they’re getting help from some unlikely sources.


Tens of thousands of fish were killed off in streams in the western Lake Erie basin earlier this year. Now the state of Ohio is holding three men responsible for the fish kills.


There are so many plans and programs in place to clean up the Great Lakes, it’s hard to keep track. In mid-October, environmentalists from across the region will meet to discuss their biggest challenges. 

Restoring wetlands, fish success stories, and the relationship between wildlife and microplastics will all be discussed at the conference hosted by the National Wildlife Federation’s Healing our Waters Coalition. 

There are thousands of islands in the Great Lakes – most of them small and only suitable for wildlife.  But a few have year-round residents, and there is a burgeoning plan to create an islands coalition.


The algae bloom season continues in western Lake Erie, casting turning the lake and Maumee River green.  These photos show the bloom's progression from mid-September to the end of the month.

Final part of a series

I meet Kim Smith-Woodford on a rainy day at Euclid Creek Reservation east of Cleveland.  It’s a big wooded area, with a trail lining the creek and shelters for birthday parties.

The park is an urban oasis – where folks from all backgrounds go for exercise or a picnic.  And it means a lot to Smith-Woodford.  It’s where she became more interested in the outdoors.


Part 2 of a series

You don’t have to look very far for events redefining the environmental movement – in terms of who works for advocacy groups and who they work for. Just go back to 2014.


Part 1 of a series

The environmental movement started more than a century ago.  Theodore Roosevelt was known as the conservation president, and there’s a famous 1903 photo of him with the Sierra Club’s founder.

“That photo represented the environmental movement of Teddy Roosevelt and John Muir and this is the two of them in Yosemite National Park,” says Aaron Mair, past president of the Sierra Club – and its first black president

Western Lake Erie’s algae bloom is in full swing – and the water is a sickly green.  

At Maumee Bay State Park near Toledo, Ohio, the lake looks like it’s covered in paint. Thick lines of scum swirl around as the sun beats down.

 

Researchers recently announced the discovery of over 7,000 grass carp eggs in a Lake Erie tributary.  The good news? This isn’t the Asian carp species we’re trying to prevent from entering the Great Lakes.  The bad news? Grass carp pose a different threat. 

Asian carp is a catch-all term for four different species of invasive carp: black, grass, silver, and bighead. 

Update 9/12/2017: The  City of Toledo has moved its water quality dashboard back to clear.

For a city on Lake Erie, it's the season for monitoring toxic algae blooms -- and drinking water.

Toledo Ohio know how dangerous the blooms can be. In 2014, toxins contaminated its water supply, forcing a "do not drink or boil” advisory for two days.

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.

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