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 through a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Ways to Connect

The National Weather Service says the season's first lake effect snow is likely this weekend. That could be a harsh beginning to winter.

In the Great Lakes region, the effect kicks in when dry arctic air speeds over large expanses of warm water.

At the Maritime Academy of Toledo, students learn basics like math and English. They also take classes on  boatbuilding.

On a fall day in the boat lab, a few students are working on the inside of a small wooden boat. They’re gluing pieces of wood together along the inside of the boat before sanding it down.

What's killing birds on Lake Michigan?

Nov 14, 2016
Sam Corden

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is famous for its natural beauty.

But on this November day, the beach is littered with about two dozen dead birds: scoters, loons, ducks and others.


What's killing birds on Lake Michigan?

Nov 14, 2016

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is famous for its natural beauty.

But on this November day, the beach is littered with about two dozen dead birds: scoters, loons, ducks and others.

Donald Trump's election victory came with plenty of support from the Great Lakes region -- unofficial returns show him winning five of the eight states.

But in the aftermath of the election, environmental advocates were trying to determine how his presidency will affect the region, especially in light of his pledge to defund the Environmental Protection Agency.

A $500,000 fine in a federal consent decree is the latest environmental penalty for a Pennsylvania coke company based on the Lake Erie shoreline.

And the fine -- which mirrors penalties at a sister plant near Buffalo -- is the latest reminder of the toxic industrial legacy of the Great Lakes.

The Great Lakes are much warmer than usual, and that will be a factor in limiting ice formation this winter, the National Weather Service says in its "freeze-up outlook."

An analysis out this week from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports that algae blooms were "fewer, less dense, and less toxic" this year than in 2014 or 2015.

That's good news for the region, because the blooms can cause sickness in people and animals. They also can create problems in treating drinking water.

The head of the National Museum of the Great Lakes is on a quest. He’s trying to locate Navy pilots who trained on Lake Michigan during World War II. It’s a little known chapter of the lake’s history.


Advocates for the Great Lakes are watching the presidential election and hoping the next U.S. president will continue to prioritize restoration across the region.

 

Can we sell cattails -- and save wetlands?

Oct 31, 2016

Standing in the middle of Michigan's Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge, it’s hard to comprehend the size. It’s about two-thirds the size of Manhattan – some 10,000 acres of marshes and bogs, forest and farm land.

Everywhere you look; there’s a hawk or a heron. Bushes rustle with rodents; and the air is filled with mosquitos.

Here, researchers are tackling invasive cattails -- a common problem in wetlands across the Great Lakes.  

The Great Lakes Commission created a web tool designed to prevent sales of aquatic invasive species over the Internet. Now, the commission is working to get it into the hands of state and federal regulators.


Erosion threatens homes on Lake Michigan

Oct 24, 2016

Randy Vassh maneuvers an excavator in tandem with his co-worker at a lakefront home in the village of Caledonia, Wisc. 


This week marks the 100th anniversary of the "Black Friday Storm," a swirl of rain, wind and waves that left about 50 people dead on Lake Erie.

Invasive species -- ranging from sea lamprey to Asian carp -- are a constant concern in the Great Lakes region, and the fear of these aquatic creatures often dominates headlines.

The problem of storm water overflows has been a sore spot for many communities across the Great Lakes. Here in Erie County, the issue was on the table during a panel discussion about Green Infrastructure in the Buffalo-Niagara Region.

A new conference coming to Cleveland will offer a chance to “hack” Lake Erie for innovations and resolutions to the lake’s issues and problems.


With thousands of teams all around the world, dragon boat racing has become a fast-growing sport.  It’s also popular in the US and Canada, with festivals and races in places like Cleveland, Vancouver, and Buffalo.  There’s a surprising bond with one group in particular – cancer survivors.


Split pea soup – that’s how some folks describe the Great Lakes back when it was plagued by contamination, pollution and algae. A lot has changed since then.


A program to fund restoration and remediation projects in the Great Lakes region has an uncertain future.

A cove on the South Shore of Lake Ontario near Rochester, New York called Buck Pond is undergoing a transformation.


by ANGELICA A. MORRISON

Environmental groups are continuing their work to revive habitats along the Great Lakes corridor.

The issue of storm water runoff has plagued waterways in Great Lakes states for years. Areas like Toronto on Lake Ontario, the Buffalo River in Western New York and the Maumee River in Ohio are just a few examples.


Big changes are on the horizon for the western end of Lake Erie.

It's the nation's very first fresh water wind farm. The project known as Icebreaker, consists of six wind turbines located 8 to 10 miles offshore north of Cleveland.

Steel Winds farm, Lackawanna, NY

It’s easy to list the benefits of renewable energy, but calculating the costs can be difficult, like the impact on birds.


Elizabeth Miller

A big threat to the Great Lakes comes from outdated sewer systems that can carry bacteria into waterways.  That can lead to closed beaches and warnings about drinking water. Now, some cities are fighting back – with trees.


Dogs sniff out pollution along Great Lakes

Sep 26, 2016

In the town of Bridgman, Mich., investigators Sable and Kenna sniff samples from storm water drains near a beach. Sable is a 10-year-old German Shepherd. Kenna, a Golden Retriever, is 2.

Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump threw their support behind the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Thursday via surrogates speaking at a conference in Sandusky, Ohio.

Each campaign's representative spoke separately at the Great Lakes Restoration Conference.  They answered questions about harmful algal blooms, Asian carp, and clean water.                                                          

Each summer, many beaches along the Great Lakes are shut down because the waters have high bacteria levels.  But figuring out exactly when to close a beach is difficult, and scientists are trying out a new test that could lead to safer swimming.


The U.S. and Canada announced Wednesday that they have finalized a plan for restoring and protecting Lake Superior's water quality.

A 96-page document from the Lake Superior Partnership outlines major threats such as invasive species and climate change. It also lists priorities for preserving the relatively clean waters, including ending the release of nine toxic substances.

Ken Merryman

An eerie video takes you deep into Lake Superior, where a century-old shipwreck lies, with masts and rigging nearly intact. Explorers Ken Merryman, Jerry Eliason and Kraig Smith recently used a remote camera to photograph their find: the 187-foot Antelope. The coal-hauling freighter sank in rough waters in October, 1897.

On the Atwater Farm, a commercial dairy farm near Lake Ontario, the sound of diesel trucks thunders through the air as they bring in loads of harvested corn for cow feed. 


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