Great Lakes Today

Great Lakes Today, a collaboration of public media stations, was created to highlight issues affecting the lakes. The main partners are WBFO (Buffalo), ideastream (Cleveland) and WXXI (Rochester). Other stations in the region will also contribute reports. Great Lakes Today is funded in part by a grant from The Joy Family Foundation.

Ways to Connect

Erie County Sheriff's Office

Six people were safely rescued from the ice about 150 yards off Sturgeon Point Marina Sunday.

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:

Recent icy conditions were the cause of concern for fans of the USS Little Rock. The Navy ship was commissioned in Buffalo last month, but has not made it out to sea.


Finger Lakes Construction and Diving

The Marshall Island flagged Federal Biscay was finally dislodged from ice in the Snell lock near Massena this weekend. St. Lawrence Seaway crews, including three tugs, had worked for five days to move the massive international freighter. It was blocking passage for four other ships on their way down the St. Lawrence River to Montreal as the Seaway tries to close for the winter.

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.

At the Novelis plant in New York, machines are preparing aluminum rolls for manufacturing.

The Oswego Co. plant processes the metal for companies like Ford, Toyota and General Motors. And most of its aluminum comes from Canada.


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.

As America confronts the opioid crisis, environmental scientists are warning about a related problem. Chemicals from pain-killers and other drugs often end up in lakes and rivers, creating what some scientists say could be a deadly cocktail for fish and other wildlife.


The problem of sewer overflows affects the entire Great Lakes region. More than 182 municipalities have systems that can release untreated sewage during big storms, the Environmental Protection Agency says.


Note: Updated on Dec. 6, based on lake surface temperatures in November, which significantly lowered predictions for the ice cover. --

Over the past two winters, the Great Lakes have had a below-average ice cover. And that’s expected to continue this year.  


Amid climate change, tiny bug causes big problems

Dec 4, 2017

Last of three parts

On a rainy day, City Forester Jeanne Grace takes me on a tour of the City Cemetery where tall, evergreen trees hang over many of the graves. Hemlock trees.

The cemetery has the peace and quiet of any cemetery, but if you take a closer look at the hemlocks -- reeeal close -- you’ll spot the hemlock woolly adelgid.


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.


Angelica Morrison / Great Lakes Today

Federal recovery aid will be coming to Lake Ontario shoreline communities after President Donald Trump issued a major disaster declaration for spring and summer flooding.

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 city of Toledo and nearby communities have earned the dubious distinction of being the first to report outbreaks of human illness due to algae toxins in municipal drinking water, according to a report published Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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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