Great Lakes Today

Last year, flooding along Lake Ontario caused millions of dollars in damage to homes and businesses. And  in some areas, it drove people from their homes for months.

One neighborhood in Hamlin, N.Y., was hit particularly hard. Now, residents in the community near Rochester say they fear another harsh flood season.


Scientists say climate change affects everything from weather patterns to animal migrations. And now, a popular breakfast condiment could be at risk as well – maple syrup. That’s bad news for the Great Lakes region, which produces a lot of it.


In northern Michigan, people who live near a landfill have been dealing with contaminated drinking water for decades. A new plan for the landfill makes them even more concerned.

Wisconsin factory sparks concern for Great Lakes water use

Mar 7, 2018

Foxconn Technology's plans for a Wisconsin factory were announced last summer with great fanfare. President Donald Trump led a White House event highlighting the factory that Foxconn says could eventually employ 13,000 people.


Many advocates for the Great Lakes are in Washington, D.C., this week to push back against President Trump's proposal to slash funding for the region. They want Congress to continue its bipartisan support on issues such as cleaning up pollution and protecting drinking water.

Pollution cleanup progresses along Lake Ontario

Mar 5, 2018

Just off Lake Ontario in Irondequoit Bay, Dave Hulburt is doing some work at the BayCreek Paddling Center.

The shop is closed in winter, but it’s unusually warm and sunny by the water. A few cars drive by, a flock of geese flies overhead, but other than that it’s quiet on the dock.

“As for the water quality right here, our staff swims in the creek every day in the summer time,” he says. “We haven’t grown any extra legs or anything.”

President Trump pushed Monday to slash funding for the Great Lakes -- repeating a move he made last year.

Trump released a budget proposal that would slash funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative from $300 million annually to $30 million.

This has to be one of the most Zen-like videos of the year: a snowy owl riding the icy waves of Lake Ontario. Now, it's a hit on social media. 

The USS Little Rock, a Navy ship that was commissioned in Buffalo in December, is still waiting for a clear path to the ocean. And it may be mid-March before the ship can leave Montreal, where it waits in port.


On Lake Superior, wolves and their prey are starring in a pair of life-or-death dramas. 

On a Canadian island, wolves threaten to wipe out a once-strong herd of caribou -- triggering rescue efforts. Across the lake, on the U.S. side, the decline of a wolf pack has led to a skyrocketing moose population -- and pleas to import more wolves.  

If you like ice, you have to love the Great Lakes, where it comes in all shapes and sizes. With the recent deep freeze, we're seeing a lot more ice than in the past few winters -- including a frosty Niagara Falls. ​Here's a look at some unusual shapes and sizes:

Michelle Laffin

Prolonged arctic cold is wreaking havoc on the maritime industry across the Great Lakes. The latest problem: A commercial freighter is stuck in ice in a lock near Massena, N.Y., and it's preventing the St. Lawrence Seaway from closing for the winter.

A new year brings new opportunities for recreation and commercial interests along the Great Lakes. It also means seven gubernatorial elections in states that border the lakes, and growing concern over climate change.

Great Lakes Today asked environmental groups and others for their thoughts on 2017 -- and what’s to come in the new year. One issue stood out: the wide gap between regional interests and the Trump administration. 

Flooding along Lake Ontario. A sunken ship. Eerie waves. A dissected Asian carp. All images from a memorable 2017 -- and part of Great Lakes Today reporting that ranged from Montreal to Duluth. Take a look at our favorite photos of the year. 

This year brought with it a few threats to Great Lakes health -- an above average algae bloom and an Asian carp sighting.  But a financial threat also loomed over the lakes this year. 


On the Great Lakes, boat and ship traffic is slowing down for the winter.  Meanwhile, in Cleveland, residents have a chance to watch Lake Erie change as ice builds up -- and breaks up.


The past year was loaded with turmoil for the Great Lakes. A new president tried to cut $300 million in  restoration projects. Homes were flooded along Lake Ontario. And one of the scariest invasive species -- the Asian carp -- was found less than 10 miles from Lake Michigan.

Here's a look at some of the biggest stories that Great Lakes Today brought you -- from New York to Minnesota, as well as the provinces of Quebec and Ontario. 

Over the years, pollution has been seen as a big threat to fish in the Great Lakes. Now, a data scientist says that might not always be the case.


Invasive garlic mustard -- love it or leave it?

Dec 18, 2017
Credit: Rebecca Thiele

Invasive plants and animals are an expensive problem in the United States -- federal agencies spent more than $104 million last year to control them.


The Great Lakes/St. Lawrence River make up the world's biggest freshwater system -- and an enormously valuable resource. It supplies drinking water for millions of residents and powers the region's economy.

Last year, 42 million gallons were withdrawn from the basin each day, according to a new report from the Great Lakes Commission. Here's where it went.

The Christmas spirit is popping up along the waters of the Great Lakes region.

In Port Huron, Mich., Santa Claus rode to shore on the Huron Spirit, a boat operated by the Lakes Pilots Association. In Toledo, Ohio, the tug Josephine brought him to the National Museum of the Great Lakes.

But the most poignant event of the holiday season was in Chicago, where the sinking of  "The Christmas Tree Ship" was remembered recently.

Caitlin Whyte

The grey sky seems a bit more ominous out here.

With the winds whipping around and waves crashing on the break wall, Douglas Dobson walks around his home. His neighborhood sits on a narrow strip of land, with Lake Ontario to the north and several ponds to the south. 


A new report from the International Joint Commission, a bi-national agency, says the Great Lakes restoration continues to progress -- but not quickly enough.

  

Climate change transforms Great Lakes forests

Nov 27, 2017

Second of three parts

In Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest in northern Wisconsin, it's easy to see what makes the forests of the Upper Midwest so special. They transition between Southern trees like oak and white pine, and the northern trees like fir and spruce.

But climate change is bringing more intense storms – as well as warmer winters. And that can hurt forests.  


It’s been a year of natural disasters in the U.S., with wildfires on the west coast, hurricanes in the south – and even flooding along Lake Ontario.  Are hospitals prepared to deal with extreme weather and other impacts of climate change?    


A new collaboration between the Great Lakes Commission and Lawrence Technological University in Michigan takes aim at sewer overflows that are polluting the Great Lakes.


It may be hard to imagine a composer being inspired by public hearings and court cases. But Lake Erie and its problems take center stage in a new oratorio from Cleveland composer Margaret Brouwer.


The Blue Water Bridge soars more than 200 feet above the St. Clair River at the southern tip of Lake Huron.  Every day, thousands of people cross this span, which stretches for more than a mile between the United States and Canada.

Crossing a bridge this high and long can be a little unsettling, even for an experienced driver. But what if you could make the trip with your foot off the gas and your hands off the wheel?


The 2017 algae bloom is over in western Lake Erie.  And while it didn’t directly threaten drinking water, its bright green hue prompted national attention and hurt Lake Erie’s tourism business. 


  

At Brighton Beach outside Duluth, the waters of Lake Superior are stunningly clear. Looking into about six feet of water, it’s easy to see smooth rocks at the bottom.

But Lake Superior has lost its long-held title as the clearest of the Great Lakes. A recent study showed that lakes Michigan and Huron have changed drastically.

  

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