Tag Archives: Great Lakes

More Problems For Lake Erie

It has been a summer of bad news for the Great Lakes:

-Asian Carp invasion.

-Increased climate change-driven warming, in Lake Superior and elsewhere.

-Sewage runoff problems.

Sorry to keep bringing you down, but here’s two more stories, both from The Toledo Blade. This one is about threats to the Lake Erie islands, and this is a detailed investigative piece about the algae blooms that have infested the Lake this summer.

-KG

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Report: Investment Needed to Solve Great Lakes’ Sewage Crisis

Billions of dollars of infrastructure investment are needed to stop untreated sewage from Great Lakes cities that flows into the Lakes, according to a study released earlier this month.

From January 2009 through January of this year, Detroit, Cleveland, Buffalo, Milwaukee and Gary, Indiana, discharged 41 billion gallons of untreated sewage and storm water into the Lakes, according to data analyzed by the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition.

“The Great Lakes are under siege from sewage overflows,” Jeff Skelding, campaign director for the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition, said in a statement. “This report underscores that we have solutions to keep our beaches open, our people healthy and our economy growing. Inaction, however, will exacerbate a problem that is already very serious.”

These sewage overflows are one of the most serious problems facing the Lakes, the report states. Among the problems this pollution can cause- beach closures, harm to wildlife and damage to the tourism industry.

It recommends a two-pronged approach:
– cities must separate miles of combined sewer pipes into sanitary and storm sewers and
– installing “green” infrastructure — such as rain gardens, vegetated roofs and pervious pavement — to capture and cleans this storm water and reduce the volume of storm water flowing off the landscape.

The bad news? “Communities in the Great Lakes basin (are) facing a $23.3 billion tab. Reducing the incidence of (combined sewer overflows) to a level the EPA considers acceptable would collectively cost the cities of Detroit, Cleveland, Buffalo, Milwaukee and Gary, Ind., about $3.7 billion.”

The good news? This investment would be good for public health and the economy, with thousands of jobs created, according to the group.

Read the detailed, 40-page report for more information about sewer overflows and to see what different cities are doing to fix this problem.

-KG

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Filed under Economic Development, Editorial, Green Jobs, regionalism, the environment

Great Lakes Journalist: Asian Carp will be a “game changer” for Lakes

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Reporter Peter Annin is an expert on all things Great Lakes-related: the environmental importance of the lakes and how they could be impacted by climate change, and the politics of water and water-sharing agreements involving the lakes and more.


He is the author of Great Lakes Water Wars, a book which details the political fighting and compromises surrounding the Great Lakes Compact – the agreement between the eight US states and two Canadian provinces that border the lakes and governs any diversion of lake water.


He is an associate director of the Institutes for Journalism and Natural Resources.

Last week, he spent some time talking with Rust Wire editor Kate Giammarise. It was quite a long conversation, so here is just a little bit of what we talked about, edited for space. I hope to return to some of the other topics we discussed in some later posts.


RW: One of the hottest Great Lakes topics in the news recently concerns the invasive species Asian Carp. How worried should we be?

“This is arguably the biggest potential game-changing issue (for the lakes) in the near term” and “definitely a threat to the ecosystem,” Annin believes.


There have been 180+ exotic species introduced into the Great Lakes in the last several decades, most of which we’ve never heard of. But there have been several notable ones, such as the sea lamprey, which decimated the lake trout population, and the zebra mussel, which upset the food web in the lakes.

“The next big game changer could be Asian carp- especially in Lake Erie.” That’s because the carp are “filter feeders” – feeding on algae on the water as they swim along. Lake Erie has the most algae, so from a fisheries standpoint, “Lake Erie has the most to lose” with its huge sportfishing industry.

Lake Superior is purer, clearer, and colder – “Asian Carp will not do as well in Lake Superior,” Annin predicts.

The carp, some of which jump out of the water when they hear the sound of a motor, are so threatening because they “could literally change people’s relationship with the body of water.” If people can no longer ride their motorboats, jet skis and water skis recreationally in the lakes, “that is a serious financial, cultural and social factor that could impact public policy.”

RW: Do you feel like closing the Chicago Area Waterways/locks is a realistic solution?

“It’s the Asian Carp today. It’s going to be something else tomorrow,” such as the snakehead fish, which has been found in the Mississippi.

“The debate (over invasive species) is not over” and it will continue as long as there is an unnatural connection between the two major waterways in the US.

“We need a solution that doesn’t punish barge operators. It’s going to take some ingenuity. It’s going to take some stimulus money.” It could involve containers, or conveyor belts, but it would involve an “ecological separation”… “It’s not politically feasible to shut the canals, which are a core part of the regional economy.”

RW: For people who want to learn more, what’s a good source for Great Lakes news and information?

Annin recommends The Great Lakes Information Network as a good source with leading Great Lakes news stories of the day.

-KG

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Brookings: Great Lakes Metros Should Boost Exports

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The folks at Brookings released a report Monday on the importance of exports to the economies of Great Lakes cities.

Among the findings:

– Exports support 1.95 million jobs in Great Lakes metros

– Cities in this region have some of the highest volumes (dollar-wise) of exports and the greatest reliance on exports. Out of the nation’s top 100 metro areas, Chicago ranks third and Detroit ranks ninth in total dollar volumes of exports. Minneapolis, St. Louis, and Indianapolis all rank in the top 20, the study states.

How does your city compare?

“Now is a particularly critical time for Great Lakes areas to be smart about their export strategies,” the report’s authors write.

“There is new national attention to increasing the volume of US exports.  In his 2010 State of the Union Address, President Obama called for a doubling of US exports in the next five years.  Administration officials have also cited greater exports as a way to bolster the condition of the hard-hit manufacturing communities in the US.”

It’s part of a larger Brookings report on how the nation’s cities can lead export growth.

What conclusions should we draw?

“The metropolitan areas of the Great Lakes region are among the most globally engaged metros in the country,” says the report.

“They produce goods and offer services that are in demand around the world, particularly in rapidly emerging markets like Brazil, India, and China.  A national effort to double exports in the next fi ve years holds great promise for these metros that are already fairly export-oriented.  But this opportunity may be squandered if Great Lakes metros do not focus intensely on innovation, both in terms of expanding the range of products and services that they offer and in their specific product and service lines.  A legacy of success in exports does not guarantee future dominance, a lesson that Great Lakes metros should have learned through rough experience.”

What do you think?

-KG

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Filed under Economic Development, Featured, Good Ideas, regionalism, U.S. Auto Industry

Lake Superior Warming

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A troubling article from The New York Times via ClimateWire: Lake Superior, the largest, deepest and coldest of the Great Lakes is on track to have its warmest year ever.

“(T)he warming shows no sign of abatement,” the story reports. “This year, the waters in Lake Superior are on track to reach — and potentially exceed — the lake’s record-high temperatures of 68 degrees Fahrenheit, which occurred in 1998.”

The trend appears to be going on in the other lakes as well, the story states.

This is problematic because it can create a more conducive climate for invasive species, such as the blood-sucking sea lamprey, the article explains.

It’s not totally clear how much and how fast climate change will alter the lakes, but “various models forecast that the Great Lakes region may see lower lake levels “on the order of 1 to 2 feet,” said one EPA official.

“In February, the Obama administration rolled out a five-year Great Lakes Action plan dedicated to adapting to some of these effects and restoring the area. The plan, which would cost more than $2 billion to carry out, lays out five central goals it hopes to address in the coming years: restoring lost wetlands, controlling invasive species, tackling runoff pollution, addressing toxics like mercury, and promoting accountability and education efforts.”

This article was brought to my attention by Peter Annin, journalist and author of Great Lakes Water Wars. Thanks!

-KG

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GLUEsters descend on Cleveland

Today, the Great Lakes Cities: Urban Laboratories conference kicks off in Cleveland. The program promises a mix of policy discussions, neighborhood tours of Cleveland and lots more.

Read what Bruce Fisher has to say about it in his column in Buffalo’s ArtVoice. He’s very enthused about “the hopeful, the engaged and the talented” who will convene in Cleveland. And he gives Rust Wire a shout out!

-KG

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Blog Spotlight: For All Things Legal and Great Lakes-Related

Check out the Great Lakes Law blog from The Great Lakes Environmental Law Center in Detroit.

Here, you can read information about how invasive species (Asian Carp), global climate change and more can impact the Great Lakes.

-KG

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