Stories tagged Great Lakes

Just when you thought it couldn't get worse, now there's an oil spill in the Kalamazoo River in Michigan. Enbridge, the company responsible, is trying to keep the spill from reaching Lake Michigan.

Asian Carp
Asian CarpCourtesy kate.gardiner
ScienceBuzz is covering the danger Asian carp present to the Great Lakes. Last week a 19.6-pound, 34.6-inch bighead carp became entangled in a fishing net about six miles from Lake Michigan.

“Asian carp are like cockroaches; when you see one, you know it’s accompanied by many more you don’t see,” said Henry Henderson, of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

You can learn more in The New York Times


Lake Erie offshore wind potential
Lake Erie offshore wind potentialCourtesy Less Salty

Lake Erie Energy Development Corporation (LEEDCo)

LEEDCo is leading efforts to build, install, and deploy an offshore wind farm on Lake Erie. An initial five wind generators (20-megawatts, enough to power 16,000 homes) are to be located near Cleveland, Ohio, with a 2012 completion target. The expected cost is projected to be $100 million.

The 20 MW venture is just the initial phase. If the test phase is successful, LEEDCo would like to see the Lake Erie wind farm generating up to 1000 MW of energy by 2020. ConsumerEnergyReport

LEEDCo recently announced a long-term partnership with GE who will provide the 5 direct-drive wind turbines for LEEDCo’s 20-megawatt offshore wind project.

Obstacles to the Great Lakes wind project

Many hoops and hurdles need to be traversed before obtaining major financial commitments. (learn more at

  • Approval from at least 16 federal and state agencies, including the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio. LEEDCo has yet to file any permit applications but does meet weekly with an interagency task force, the Lake Erie Offshore Wind Team, that Strickland created 18 months ago.
  • Concerns that the turbines will harm birds and bats. A $350,000 study is under way, including radar, laser and acoustic identification of bird and bat flight paths. The proposed site will need a four-mile radius of air space in which few if any birds have been detected.
  • How to anchor the towers in Lake Erie. Engineers must determine whether to sink steel piles down to bedrock, typically some 60 to 80 feet below the "glacial till" on the lake bottom. If pilings are needed, officials are uncertain whether the region still has the capacity to produce enough of the heavy steel that would be required.
  • A way to get the power to shore. Underwater cables from the turbines to shore would need right-of-way approval from the state.
  • The impact of winter ice. Plans call for an ice cream-cone shaped foundation at the water's level, which forces the ice down and breaks it, hopefully saving on cost, LEEDCo's Wagner said.
  • A means of paying for the project. Financing details are still tenuous -- and could be more complicated than the engineering, said Wagner.
  • Feb

    Viral hemorrhagic septicemia: a fish infected with the virus
    Viral hemorrhagic septicemia: a fish infected with the virusCourtesy Dr. Mohamed Faisal
    No… not a rock bass (even though it has a red iris). Nor any normal walleye you might be lucky enough to snag. This fish you might not even need to actually catch. It could be floating next to the boat along with most of the other fish in your favorite river, lake, or reservoir. That is if the dreaded VHS continues to spread and strike us deep in the land of 10,000 lakes. Move over zebra mussel, Eurasian milfoil, and the Asian carp, VHS is viral hemorrhagic septicemia and the latest migrant in the spread of invasive species.

    Viral hemorrhagic septicemia (VHS) is a virus. It is a small invading critter that can be quite infectious. Not all fish will show obvious signs. Those that do can exhibit hemorrhaging in the eyes, around the fins, or on the gills. Bloating, erratic behavior, bulging eyes, or even lesions could also be present. On the inside, the disease will attack the liver, kidneys, spleen or swim bladder. Those fish that do survive can still be infected and spread the disease. Blood, urine and even the reproductive fluids of infected fish can pass on the virus. Larger fish can get it from eating smaller infected fish.
    Fish kill: sights like this are all the more possible with the new viral invader
    Fish kill: sights like this are all the more possible with the new viral invaderCourtesy JoelDeluxe

    The disease can be wide spread and is known to affect up to 28 different species of fish. Some of the fish kills have numbered in the tens of thousands. Many of our popular game fish are susceptible. Walleye, Northern Pike, Muskellunge, Smallmouth Bass, Perch, Crappies, Bluegills, Sheepshead and many others are on the list. Even some species of shiner bait fish have been found to carry the disease. While deadly for many fish, the disease is of no harm to humans. The warmth of our bodies is too hot for the virus to survive.

    The virus has been known for many decades, but until recently was mainly a scourge of European fish farms. Viral hemorrhagic septicemia was first detected in American coastal waters in 1988, among the salmon populations of the Pacific Northwest. Then in 2005, tested fish showed up positive between Lake Huron and Lake Erie, and were confirmed in samples harvested two years earlier. Now, local news just recently reported on a Cornell study that found VHS diseased fish in the bay waters of the Duluth-Superior harbor on the western edges of Lake Superior. Make no mistake… the ‘bleeding fish’ disease is here at our doorstep.

    Guests of the inland waterways will be reminded to be vigilant in safe boating and fishing practices by local resource managers. Be mindful not to transport fish, plants, or bait from one water body to another. Keep those live-wells empty, and dry or rinse that boat! It will fall upon all of us to remain vigilant. Let’s not allow this disease to become a crippling blow to our native fisheries. If we do, it is possible that we’ll witness many seasons of massive fish kills.

    More good VHS information:
    Wisconsin Dept. of Natural Resources

    Univ. of Wisconsin Sea Grant


    Great Lakes fishing industry endangered

    Asian carp
    Asian carpCourtesy kate.gardiner
    The commercial fishing industry in the Great Lakes, worth more than $7 billion a year, is threatened by Asian carp. Asian bighead (Hypophthalmichthys nobilis) and silver (H. molitrix) carp imported in 1970 to remove algae from catfish farms escaped into the Mississippi River during a flood. Since then they have outcompeted other fish. Along some stretches of the Illinois River, the carp make up 95 percent of the biomass. In December, the State of Michigan filed a lawsuit against the State of Illinois to close of locks between Chicago-area waterways and Lake Michigan.

    "We cannot allow carp into the Great Lakes. It will destroy our Great Lakes fisheries, the economy," Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm said in a prepared statement." New York Times

    Supreme Court denies appeal to protect Great Lakes ecosystem

    On Jan 19, 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court turned down Michigan's request to block Asian carp invasion of Great Lakes (Scientific American). The Supreme Court didn't reveal any of the reasoning behind its ruling, which simply read: "The motion for preliminary injunction is denied."

    White House appeal

    Governor of Michigan, Jennifer Granholm, is "asking for an immediate summit at the White House with the administration to shut down these locks, at least temporarily, until a permanent solution can be found.”

    The AP reported the White House response to be:

    “The Obama administration clearly understands the urgency of this critical issue, and we look forward to meeting with them on the threat the Asian carp poses to the Great Lakes.” Dayton Daily News

    Yellow submarine: While the Beatles' Yellow Submarine looks very funky, the actual research yellow submarine cruising about in Lake Superior is much more plain.
    Yellow submarine: While the Beatles' Yellow Submarine looks very funky, the actual research yellow submarine cruising about in Lake Superior is much more plain.Courtesy Wongx AT
    In a collision of Beatles and Gordon Lightfoot song topics, an unmanned, small yellow submarine is puttering about the depths of Lake Superior, providing lake quality data to researchers back on shore. Launched earlier this week, the seven-foot-long, $74,000 device is on a two-week test run to see if it can prove to be a more cost-effective way of monitoring the lake's water quality than by using people on boats.

    Is the sub's color a tribute to The Beatles? Not really. Creator Jay Austin of the University of Minnesota-Duluth told the Star-Tribune: "Yellow's the international color of research. It's an easy color to see in the water, so it's very typical to paint your equipment yellow. I've got a research buoy that's the same color."

    And so far into the mission's run, no sign of any Blue Meanies in the great waters of Gitchigumi.


    Cargo ships carry invasive species in ballst water
    Cargo ships carry invasive species in ballst waterCourtesy AviatorDave
    A recently released report warns that the Great Lakes have been invaded by foreign aquatic species resulting in ecological and environmental damage amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars.

    Monitor, detect, and take required action

    The findings support the need for detection and monitoring efforts at those ports believed to be at greatest risk. The report identified 30 nonnative species that pose a medium or high risk of reaching the lakes and 28 others that already have a foothold and could disperse widely.

    The National Center for Environmental Assessment issued the warning in a study released (Jan 5, 09). It identified 30 nonnative species that pose a medium or high risk of reaching the lakes and 28 others that already have a foothold and could disperse widely. (click here to access report)

    Flush out ship's ballast tanks with salt water

    One preventive measure that works 99% of the time is to flush out the ballast tanks with salty sea water. This usually kills any foreign marine life hitch hiking a ride in the ballast tank water. Both Canada and the United States have made this a requirement for almost two decades now. Both nations also recently have ordered them to rinse empty tanks with seawater in hopes of killing organisms lurking in residual pools on the bottom.

    Learn more about invasive species in the Great Lakes


    Since 2005, an ebola-like virus has been killing fish in the Great Lakes. A major die-off was recently reported near Milwaukee, affecting some 30 species. While the disease does not affect humans, it could devastate sport and commercial fishing in the region. Though the disease has not hit Lake Superior yet, it is starting to spread out from the Great Lakes region, thanks to infected fish swimming into rivers and streams.