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

In his lab at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse, Greg Boyer stands beside his mass spectrometer. This machine is analyzing the chemical makeup of algae samples, specifically, those that produce deadly toxins.


by ANGELICA A. MORRISON

Out on farmland in western New York, near the shore of Lake Erie, is Five & 20 Spirits and Brewing. Here, they make more than just booze. They also raise fish.


Every winter outdoor enthusiasts gather on Black Lake in Cheboygan County Michigan, not far from Lake Huron, on a crusade to catch the state threatened prehistoric fish.


The Great Lakes Waterways Conference is this week in downtown Cleveland.  Sessions over the two-day meeting will focus on autonomous technology, government partnerships, and Great Lakes developments.

New plant in Toledo will increase shipping for city's port

During the summer, Lake Erie’s western basin is full of boaters and tourists, especially near the islands that lie west of Cleveland. But come winter, the lake is empty, still, and sometimes frozen.

This is the drive behind Julia Christensen’s newest art project, Waiting for a Break.


Canada's Royal Botanical Gardens sit near the western end of Lake Ontario, just a short drive from the U.S. border. When the weather is warm, visitors come to see acres of gardens with roses, lilacs and other collections in bloom.

In the winter, it’s much quieter. But scientists stay busy, protecting wetlands from destructive carp. And they're using an unusual weapon: Christmas trees.


Video: Surfing owl is coolest bird on Great Lakes

Jan 25, 2018

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. 

New Navy ship, USS Little Rock, stalled by ice

Jan 23, 2018

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.


Wolves in life-or-death dramas on Lake Superior

Jan 22, 2018

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.  

At the Six Nations of the Grand River reserve, about 10 men are gathered in a classroom in the Haudenosaunee community center.  The older men are teaching about traditions – on this day, a funeral ritual.  But soon, Leroy Hill shifts the conversation to a new topic: water.

 “Is there anybody here who don’t have to either buy water or get it hauled?” Hill asks.'

Bill Nehez/CSU Cleveland Memory Project

Would you want an industrial waste dump near your house? Probably not. But across the country, environmental hazards like waste dumps tend to be located near minority communities.


ANGELICA A. MORRISON

At a pediatric clinic located in one of the poorest sections of Buffalo, 7-year-old asthmatic Victor Small sits with his mother Laticka. The hood on his winter coat is pulled over his head, and as he fidgets with his black skeleton gloves, he begins to talk about what it’s like when he has trouble breathing.

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.


Biggest Great Lakes stories of 2017, month by month

Dec 26, 2017

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.


Who uses the Great Lakes' water?

Dec 14, 2017

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.


Recalling the doomed 'Christmas Tree Ship'

Dec 12, 2017

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.  


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