Failure of Poe Lock at the Soo Locks would be devastating

charles m. beeghly, poe lock, sault ste. marie, michigan

charles m. beeghly, poe lock, sault ste. marie, michigan, photo by twurdemann

via today’s Five Things you need to know about Michigan on Absolute Michigan comes a Detroit Free Press report on  the potentially dire consequences for the US & Michigan if the Soo Locks fail:

A U.S. Department of Homeland Security report indicates a 6-month shutdown of the Poe Lock in Sault Ste. Marie, if one occurred, would plunge the nation into recession, closing factories and mines, halting auto and appliance production in the U.S. for most of a year and result in the loss of some 11 million jobs across the nation.

The report, obtained by the Free Press through the Freedom of Information Act, paints a grim picture of the outcome of any long-term shutdown of the Poe, the only one of the so-called Soo Locks able to handle the 1,000-foot-long vessels that each year move millions of tons of iron ore from mines in Minnesota and northern Michigan to steel mills dotting the lower Great Lakes and beyond.

….But what is also clear from the Homeland Security report is that while a longer-term shutdown would be catastrophic, even a shorter one could have a much wider impact than previously thought: If such a closure occurred at the Poe during the March 25-Jan. 15 shipping season, for instance, as much as 75% of the nation’s steel output could be halted within two to six weeks.

Read on for more, including a video of a ship going into the locks.

View twurdemann’s photo from Engineer’s Day (every June) bigger and see more in his Great Lakes Shipping slideshow.

More Soo Locks on Michigan in Pictures!

Doing nothing about Asian carp probably isn’t going to work

Salmon Fishing on the Sable River Outlet

Salmon Fishing on the Sable River Outlet, Ludington Michigan, photo by Craig Sterken

Traverse City based AP Environmental Writer John Flesher is (for my money) one of the best reporting on Great Lakes issues. His latest piece Effort to keep Asian carp from Great Lakes appears stymied begins:

When scientists discovered six years ago that aggressive Asian carp had made their way up the Mississippi River’s tributaries toward the Chicago area, the Obama administration and alarmed state officials pledged swift action to head off an invasion they feared could devastate fishing and boating on the vital Great Lakes.

Since then, federal agencies have spent more than $300 million on stopgap measures, including placing electric barriers on one likely route, a shipping canal that leads to Lake Michigan. But as the carp get closer_some are within 80 miles of the lake— the quest for a surefire deterrent seems to be coming up empty.

An advisory panel that has debated solutions for several years is scheduled to hold what may be its final meeting Thursday, with no sign of a consensus plan, several members said in interviews.

Even if talks continue, chances are growing that the carp will arrive before anything conclusive is done to stop them. At their recent pace, the first young carp could reach Lake Michigan within two years, although a number of obstacles could slow them considerably.

“It’s one of the things that keep me up at night,” said U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, a Michigan Democrat whose state borders four of the five Great Lakes. “Asian carp could devastate our Great Lakes and the hundreds of thousands of jobs that depend on them.”

…Environmental groups and the region’s fishing and boating industries, which generate $23 billion annually on the lakes, are most worried about two varieties of Asian carp: bighead and silver, which weigh dozens of pounds and gorge on the same tiny plant and animal life that feeds the lakes’ other fish. Scientists are still measuring their impact in rivers, but under worst-case scenarios, the large carp could leave popular sport fish to go hungry and suffer population drop-offs. Asian carp are edible but bony, and most Great Lakes fish connoisseurs regard them as a poor substitute for the walleye and whitefish.

Additionally, silver carp are notorious for springing from the water when startled, sometimes ramming boaters with bone-cracking force — a hazard that some fear could damage the Great Lakes’ tourism industry.

Read on for much more, and be sure to follow John on Twitter for more of the story. And please, make it clear to every elected official you interact with how important the health of the Great Lakes is to Michigan!

View Craig’s photo bigger, see lots more Great Lakes goodness in his slideshow and view & purchase photos from him on his website.(this one is in the Ludington collection)

More about the threat of Asian carp on Michigan in Pictures.

 

 

Smallmouth bass eating round gobys

Round Goby

Round Goby, photo by Dave Brenner, Michigan Sea Grant

The Great Lakes Echo reports that although a study has found that invasive round goby are “one of the most successful aquatic invaders” ever in the Great Lakes, smallmouth bass appear to be feasting on gobies:

25 years after their discovery in the Great Lakes, “we’re not documenting specific harms from gobies,” Popoff said, referring to feared environmental, economic and human health concerns.

In fact, there are indications of possible benefits from their presence, he said. For example, “we are seeing amazing smallmouth bass,” as well as some “amazing walleye,” while lake trout have modified their diets from sculpin to round gobies.

One possible exception, according to Popoff, is a decline in sculpin population as documented in Lake Michigan’s Grand Traverse Bay because they compete with round gobies for space and food. However, scientists haven’t determined whether the lake’s overall sculpin population is down or whether they’ve merely moved to deeper areas with fewer round gobies.

…However, the study found the round goby is now a widely available food source for many native fish because of its “extreme abundance, tolerance to a variety of habitat conditions and relatively small size.”

In lakes Erie and Ontario, round gobies accounted for 75 percent of the smallmouth bass diet, Crane said. If all other species have maintained stable populations, that means the bass are putting less pressure on other food sources.

Nice to see the Great Lakes winning a battle – read on for lots more.

View the photo background big and see more in Michigan Sea Grant’s Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) slideshow.

Tuesday Tweet: Great Lakes Ice at 85%

NOAA Ice Coverage

Great Lakes Ice Coverage on Feb 23, 2015, photo by NOAA Environmental Visualization Laboratory

In Great Lakes Total Ice Cover Nears 85% NOAA reports:

The NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory is showing total ice cover of 84.4% as of February 22, 2015, well above the long term average and closing in on last year’s mark of 92.5% coverage on March 6, 2014. In this image, Lake Erie is a vast white plain, joining Lake Huron and Lake Superior with coverages above 90% and only small areas of open water. This image was taken by the Suomi NPP satellite’s VIIRS instrument around 1803Z on February 23, 2015.

Click through to see it big as the Great Lakes and see more photos of the Great Lakes from high above if you click the “Great Lakes” keyword.

PS: Follow @NOAA@NOAA_GLERL & @NOAASatellites on Twitter for lots more great images!

Lake Superior Wave Explosion

Lake Superior Wave Explosion

Lake Superior Wave Explosion, photo by Michigan Nature Photos

“These are not lakes. These are the world’s 8th seas, and her bottom is littered with the wreckage of over six thousand ships.”
~Rick Jones from Three Sisters by Song of the Lakes

It’s wave week on Michigan in Pictures!

Greg shot this on the evening of September 10th at Black Rocks near Marquette, MI. View it bigger, check out his Lake Superior Storms gallery and follow Michigan Nature Photos on Facebook.

Greg also has a video of these waves, some topping 15 feet, and you can venture further out in the Big Lake with this video of a freighter on Lake Superior from the Sep 10th as well.

 

 

Lake Effect Snow Season in Michigan

Lake Effect 4794-09

Lake Effect 4794-09, photo by StacyN – MichiganMoments

Many in Michigan are waking up to frigid temps, high wind and snow – the perfect conditions for lake effect snow. Meteorologist Robert J. Ruhf has an excellent article on Lake-Effect Precipitation in Michigan that explains lake effect snow and rain are common in Michigan, especially in late fall and early winter as cold polar air moves across the warmer Great Lakes. 

The unfrozen waters are relatively warm when compared with the temperature of the wintertime air mass. Therefore, the temperature of the air that comes into contact with the water increases. The warmed air expands and become less dense, which causes it to rise. This is an “unstable” situation. As the air rises, the temperature decreases until it reaches the dew point, which is the temperature at which the air becomes saturated.. Ice crystals or water droplets will then begin to collect until the force of gravity pulls them down. The result is “lake-effect” precipitation. When the cP air mass is very cold, as is often the case between December and February, the precipitation falls as snow. During late autumn, however, the polar air mass may be warm enough for the precipitation to fall in the form of rain.

“Lake-effect” precipitation can cause substantial intensification of snowfall amounts in very narrow bands, often referred to as “snow belts,” along the leeward (downwind) shores of the Great Lakes. The prevailing wind direction in the Great Lakes region is westerly; therefore, most “lake-effect” precipitation events occur to the east of the lakes.

…An interesting feature of “lake-effect” is that the heaviest bands of snow do not usually occur along the immediate shoreline, but tend to fall several miles inland. Snowfall accumulations are enhanced inland because the air experiences more uplift when it is forced over hills and higher terrain. 

Read on to learn lots more about lake effect snow in Michigan including four narrow bands  – Keweenaw Peninsula, Leelanau Peninsula, the Thumb and the southwest Lower Peninsula – where geographic features and the shape of the shoreline contribute to more intense snowfall. Hang on to your hats – winter is here!

Stacy took this photo of Lake Michigan from the North Muskegon shoreline in January of 2009. See it bigger and see more in her awesome Michigan BLUE Winter 2012 slideshow.

Need a winter background?

The Oldest Ship on the Great Lakes: The St. Mary’s Challenger

Departing........

Departing…….., photo by smiles7

7 years ago I shared the story of the Southdown Challenger on Michigan in Pictures. I was happy to see that the oldest operational freighter on the Great Lakes is still in action. The feature on the St. Marys Challenger on Boatnerd.com begins:

Currently holding the honors of being the oldest lake boat still trading on the Great Lakes, the self unloading cement carrier St. Marys Challenger was built as a traditional Great Lakes bulk carrier as hull #17 by Great Lakes Engineering Works, Ecorse (Detroit), MI in 1906. This veteran of the lakes was launched February 7, 1906 as the William P. Snyder for Shenango Steamship & Transportation Co. (subsidiary of Shenango Furnace Co.), Cleveland, OH. Retaining her original overall dimensions, the St. Marys Challenger is now powered by a Skinner Marine Unaflow 4 cylinder reciprocating steam engine burning heavy fuel oil rated at 3,500 i.h.p. (2,611 kW) with 2 water tube boilers. The power is fed to a single fixed pitch propeller and the vessel is equipped with a bow thruster. The vessel is capable of carrying 10,250 tons (10,415 mt) in 8 holds at mid summer draft of 21’09” (6.63m). Cargoes of bulk or powdered cement can be unloaded by a fully automated system including air slides, conveyor equipment and bucket elevators feeding a forward mounted 48’ (14.63m) discharge boom.

Of note, the St. Marys Challenger is one of only two remaining U.S. flagged vessels still active on the Great Lakes to be powered by the classic Skinner Marine Unaflow steam engine. The other vessel is the car ferry Badger (2) which is powered by two of these engines and, in turn, remains as the only coal fired vessel still in active service on the Great Lakes. The only remaining Canadian-flagged steamer powered by a Canadian-built (Vickers) Skinner Unaflow engine is the James Norris.

Read on for more and also check out this set of photos by Wade Bryant, who served aboard the Challenger.

Julie took this shot as the St. Marys Challenger steamed out of Charlevoix last week. Check it out bigger and see more in her boat slideshow.

Many more Michigan ships & boats on Michigan in Pictures!

Our Great Lakes would be a lot less pretty with Asian carp

Lake Michigan near Brevort, Michigan

Lake Michigan near Brevort, Michigan, photo by daveumich

I tried to find something amazing about Lake Michigan – a poem, a legend, anything – but I really couldn’t find something to match up with this stunning photo. I’ll fall back on the real & urgent need to protect the beauty of Lake Michigan and the rest of the Great Lakes from the  very real threat of Asian carp.

Asian carp just suck: massive, leaping fish that seriously injure boaters and eat everything else in the lake. They would be an apocalypse for the $7 billion Great Lakes fishing industry, and it is estimated that just 20 fish getting in would be all it would take.

So of course, yesterday John Flesher (IMO the best environmental journalist in the Great Lakes who also happens to be my neighbor) wrote an article on Asian carp that begins:

The recent discovery of a large Asian carp near Chicago underscores the need to protect the Great Lakes from the voracious fish and other invasive species that could slip into Lake Michigan, two members of Congress said Tuesday.

“If Asian carp are not stopped before they enter the Great Lakes, they could destroy the ecosystem, as well as the boating and fishing industries, and hundreds of thousands of jobs,” said Sen. Debbie Stabenow, a Michigan Democrat.

…John Goss said the 53-inch, 82-pound fish was caught about a month ago in Flatfoot Lake, on the Illinois-Indiana state line.

Flatfoot Lake is landlocked and surrounded by a berm that would prevent it from flooding and enabling Asian carp to escape, said Chris McCloud, spokesman for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

But it’s very close to Chicago’s Lake Calumet, where commercial fishermen landed a 3-foot-long Asian carp in 2010 about six miles from Lake Michigan. Lake Calumet and Lake Michigan are connected by the Calumet River.

The latest find “is another reminder that we must find a permanent solution to protect the Great Lakes,” Rep. Dave Camp, a Michigan Republican, said Tuesday.

Indeed. How about we work on that? The Great Lakes are far too beautiful to be filled with the likes of Asian carp. If you agree, please share this with others. We can do something about this threat to our lakes.

Check this photo out background bigtacular, see more in Dave’s slideshow and also check out his photography website, Marvin’s Gardens including a shot of what I’m pretty sure was his breakfast up on Brevort Lake!

Regrettably, there’s more Asian carp on Michigan in Pictures.

Algae Blooms threaten Lake Erie

like an oil slick

like an oil slick, photo by 1ManWithACamera

I’d like to offer an apology of sorts for this photo. It goes like this: “I’m really, really sorry that I sometimes have to blog photos of the ugly things that threaten what’s beautiful in Michigan. I wish I didn’t have such a good reason to!”

Michigan has only the tiniest sliver of Lake Erie shoreline, so little that we sometimes forget that it is one of the lakes that define our Great Lakes State. Lake Erie served once at the canary in the coal mine for pollution of the Great Lakes, and it may once again be sounding a warning call. A recent front page of the New York Times featured scary news about algae blooms on Lake Erie:

For those who live and play on the shores of Lake Erie, the spring rains that will begin falling here soon are less a blessing than a portent. They could threaten the very future of the lake itself.

Lake Erie is sick. A thick and growing coat of toxic algae appears each summer, so vast that in 2011 it covered a sixth of its waters, contributing to an expanding dead zone on its bottom, reducing fish populations, fouling beaches and crippling a tourism industry that generates more than $10 billion in revenue annually.

…Dead algae sink to the lake bed, where bacteria that decompose the algae consume most of the oxygen. In central Lake Erie, a dead zone now covers up to a third of the entire lake bottom in bad years.

“The fact that it’s bigger and longer in duration is a bad thing,” said Peter Richards, a senior research scientist at the National Center for Water Quality Research at Heidelberg University in Ohio. “Fish that like to live in cold bottom waters have to move up in the thermocline, where it’s too warm for them. They get eaten, and that tends to decrease the growth rates of a lot of the fish.”

Read on for a whole lot more including how farming practices are intersecting with invasive zebra mussels and climate change to magnify the dangers.

Larry’s photo is from Lake Huron and shows a different kind of algal bloom. I got some similar ones on Lake Michigan, and the folks at Michigan Sea Grant have a whole album of them.

See it on black, view happier shots in his Caseville & Port Austin slideshow and see more of Larry’s work on Michigan in Pictures.

More Lake Erie on Michigan in Pictures.

Low Point for the Great Lakes

Low water levels, West Arm Grand Traverse Bay

Low water levels, West Arm Grand Traverse Bay, photo by michiganseagrant

On Michigan in Pictures I usually blog beautiful things, but today I’m featuring an ugly thing that we in Michigan should all be concerned about. Traverse City based Circle of Blue has an in-depth feature on the record-low level of Lake Michigan-Huron:

The latest numbers released by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on February 5 show that both lakes Michigan and Huron — which are two connected lakes — are experiencing their lowest point since records began in 1918. Water levels were an average of 175.57 meters (576.02 feet) for the month of January, approximately 2.5 centimeters (1 inch) lower than the previous record set in 1964.

“Not only have water levels on Michigan-Huron broken records the past two months, but they have been very near record lows for the last several months before then,” said John Allis, chief of the Great Lakes Hydraulics and Hydrology Office at the Corps, in a press release. “Lake Michigan-Huron’s water levels have also been below average for the past 14 years, which is the longest period of sustained below-average levels since 1918 for that lake.”

The low water levels, which the Corps attributes to: below-average snowfall during the winter of 2011-2012, last summer’s drought, and above-average evaporation during the summer and fall of 2012, have the potential to hurt the Great Lakes’ shipping industry.

…For the water levels on Lake Michigan-Huron to reach even near-average water levels again, the Corps said it will take many seasons with above average precipitation and below-average evaporation.

Read on at Circle of Blue for much more including the struggles that wildlife are having with the changing climate. You can also view the release from the Army Corps of Engineers and see historic Great Lakes levels back to 1918. From the Army Corps, I learned that at 1 1/2 ft below normal, ships are losing 8-10% of their carrying capacity.

Beyond harm to the multi-billion dollar shipping industry which feeds countless industrial endeavors, the low lake levels are making many of our recreational harbors inaccessible. These feed our multi-billion dollar sport fishing industry and  this has prompted Gov. Snyder to endorse a $21 million emergency dredging plan, $11 million of which would come from Michigan’s general fund. With over a half a million jobs in Michigan alone tied to the health of the Great Lakes, getting a handle on the threats that impact them are likely to be at the center of our policy and spending for a long time.

In a curious bit of synchronicity, you can see just how vital the Great Lakes are to Michigan in Michigan Sea Grant’s reports on Economic Vitality and the Great Lakes. View this photo bigger and see more in their Grand Traverse Bay Low Water slideshow.

Lots more Lake Huron and Lake Michigan on Michigan in Pictures.