WBEZ | #fncwater http://www.wbez.org/tags/fncwater Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Detroit water wars emphasize passion over resources http://www.wbez.org/frontandcenter/2011-07-14/detroit-water-wars-emphasize-passion-over-resources-89033 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//frontandcenter/photo/2011-07-14/89033/A detroit water treatment facility.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>In the Great Lakes region, it’s easy to take abundant, fresh water for granted.</p><p>But in the Detroit metropolitan area, near Lake Huron, water has been at the heart of a decades-long battle pitting city against suburbs. &nbsp;</p><p><em>ambi: water rushing; you can smell it</em></p><p>That’s the smell of water.</p><p>I’m standing above 20 feet of settling liquid inside an enclosed treatment plant -- 1 million gallons in a space longer than an airplane. As I try not to get my high heel shoes caught in the walkway, I look below and watch a complicated chemical process rid the water of dirt particles.</p><p>Detroit Chief Operating Officer Chris Brown gives a quick primer.</p><p>BROWN: You’re making sure getting a good mixture like in your mixing bowl.</p><p>This is one of five Detroit water department treatment facilities. This site cleans 240 million gallons a day. The total system treats more than 1 billion gallons a day.</p><p><em>ambi: water rushing continues</em></p><p>The city built this amazing system and thus became the regional provider. The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department goes back to the early 1800s. The public utility grew as the region grew. Today the service area is more than 1,000 miles and 100 communities…more than 4 million customers.</p><p>But like many cities in the industrial Midwest, Detroit shrunk and turned black and the suburbs flourished and housed white flight.</p><p>Tension over water bubbled.</p><p><em>ambi: water fades</em></p><p>D’ANIERI: The problem in Metro Detroit is the race- and class-based political tension between city and suburb has been so great and going on so many years that suburban residents and suburban political leaders find it very easy to pick fights with Detroit over the water service.</p><p>Phil D'Anieri is an urban planner at the University of Michigan.&nbsp; He says the passion over water is palpable.</p><p>D’ANIERI: Water is so powerful because of its role in our daily lives. We need to it survive. We want what comes out of our tap to be clean and cool and to not have a bad taste. And if you are mistrustful of the person who’s ultimately in charge of that, that’s going to raise a lot of concerns.</p><p>There have been concerns. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency slapped a lawsuit against Detroit in the late 1970s for violating clean water standards by dumping sewerage in the Detroit River.&nbsp; The case morphed into surrounding counties wanting more control over the water system. Recent political indictments over water contracts fueled suburbanite arguments that the department was corrupt. On top of that, many suburbs felt the city gouged them in prices.</p><p>Robert Ficano is the executive of Wayne County, home to dozens of suburbs. He says there has been an us vs. them mentality between the city and suburbs.</p><p>FICANO: In a way it was a perfect foil for a number of suburban mayors to say ‘oh, this is just a cost, boy if we controlled the system maybe we could be more efficient and bring it down.’</p><p>Detroit maintains water rates aren’t inflated and that water bills are among the lowest in the country. There’s been no proof of Detroit gouging the system.</p><p>Detroit COO Chris Brown is acting water department director and says there are a lot of misunderstandings.</p><p>BROWN: There’s no large financial return to the city. The city manages on behalf of not only the residents of city of the Detroit but also the residents of the region for now value. So we get nothing to the general fund.</p><p>In fact, the department has run at a deficit.</p><p>The conflict led to mountains of legal motions, threats and two judges overseeing the water department. At one point, two of the counties even researched building their own system. But the price tag totaled $1 billion dollars and there was no pot of federal gold to help with funding. The intricacy of building of a new water network is akin to remaking an interstate highway system from scratch.</p><p><em>Crowd chanting: Hands off our water</em></p><p>More recently, last winter, there was a bill in the state legislature that would have allowed the state to take control of the water department.&nbsp;&nbsp; Detroiters were none too pleased.</p><p><em>Chants fade under Gaines</em></p><p>GAINES: My name is Gwendolyn Gaines and I’m a member and commissioner on the Detroit’s People Water Board.</p><p>Gaines has been a part of myriad protests with this ad hoc committee. She’s passionate about water …</p><p>GAINES: Because it’s the new gold of our society.</p><p>She wants transparency on contracts.</p><p>GAINES:&nbsp; We want all water board meetings televised. We don’t know what goes on in those meetings unless we go. I’ll wait a few months and if we don’t have no answers by then, I’ll get my crew of senior citizens and we gonna go right back in front of the water department and act a fool again.</p><p>The bill that sparked that protest never passed because a compromise was struck. A new mayor and new judge helped inspire a new climate.</p><p>The changes give suburbs more say. The water board still has seven members but the three suburban ones are appointed by the counties – not Detroit. And a super majority of votes is needed on some big-ticket approvals.</p><p>John McCulloch is the elected drain commissioner of Oakland County. &nbsp;A longtime critic of Detroit water, he’s now the one who appoints a suburban rep to the water board. &nbsp;McCulloch says there’s now transparency – even if it’s not the message constituents want to hear.</p><p>MCCULLOCH: I still tell people that, when asked, will we see some relief in these increases and rates. I indicate no. There’s a lot of reasons why they continue to go up.</p><p>The new water board hasn’t been in effect long and experts are waiting – and hoping – to see if this compromise will quell the simmering battle. Meanwhile, officials are turning their attention to why there was a lawsuit in the first place: clean water violations. They are working toward an August deadline to appease the feds and move on from judicial oversight.</p><p>Urban planner Phil D’Anieri says the balkanization of Metro Detroit has defined the area for the past 50 years. Water has been a landmark. But it’s not unique to other metro areas.</p><p>D’ANIERI: People like to look to Metropolitan Detroit as an example of how wrong things ago. And that’s fair enough. The risk that people face though is in thinking that what Detroit faces is unique to Detroit. In many ways the severity of what Detroit faces is unique. It’s way up there on the scale – no doubt about it. But the underlying problems of how to organize the region of race- and class-based political conflict, of sprawl that is leaving some areas very well off and some areas very poorly off – everybody is dealing with that.</p><p>Detroit’s water war brought out deep-rooted issues of race, political power and class. &nbsp;&nbsp;Issues familiar to most major American cities.&nbsp; And Detroit’s water solutions may offer a window into managing a precious resource.</p></p> Thu, 14 Jul 2011 12:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/frontandcenter/2011-07-14/detroit-water-wars-emphasize-passion-over-resources-89033 The battle over ballast waters http://www.wbez.org/frontandcenter/2011-07-11/battle-over-ballast-waters-88934 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//segment/photo/2011-June/2011-06-22/St. Lawrence Flickr Neil Smith.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Let’s say you’re the captain of a ship tied up at one of dozens of ports along the St. Lawrence Seaway or the Great Lakes.&nbsp; You’re taking on a cargo of iron ore or corn or salt.&nbsp; As you fill your hold, you keep your ship level by pumping water out of your ballast tanks.&nbsp;The trouble is that all of that ballast water could have been collected just about anywhere on the planet.&nbsp;</p><p>James Tierney is assistant commissioner for water quality for New York state’s Conservation Department and an expert on ballast water pollution, he says, &nbsp;“Ballast water may be sucked out of a port in the Black Sea, or Singapore, or Amsterdam.&nbsp; And then it’s brought over and it’s released.&nbsp; So ballast water has been a very effective mechanism to bring in all sorts of invasive species.”</p><p>Tierney says tiny creatures literally hide in the scum and saltwater stored inside these ships. Once they're dumped here in the Seaway they are free to spread.&nbsp; And that’s exactly what they’ve done, turning up in waterways from Quebec in the east to Minnesota in the west.&nbsp;</p><p>Jennifer Caddick heads a green group called Save the River.&nbsp; On a brilliant summer day she takes me to a narrow stretch of the St. Lawrence Seaway near Clayton New York, not far from Lake Ontario. “Things like the zebra mussel, round goby, spiny waterfleas, quagga mussels, all of those things have come in through ship ballast tanks,” she says.</p><p>It looks like a healthy stretch of river.&nbsp; But Caddick says just two of those alien invaders – the zebra mussel and the quagga mussel – have spread so rapidly and grown so densely that they are altering the entire food chain of the Great Lakes.&nbsp; They're changing the chemistry in the water, and triggering nasty algae blooms. “We’re seeing massive outbreaks of this cladophora algae, which along with it harbors bacteria.&nbsp; And when cladophora algae dies and washes up on shore, it smells like sewage,” she says.</p><p>In the Great Lakes, invasive species have climbed to the top of the list of environmental threats, right up there with climate change. Jeff Alexander – an environmental activist and writer based in Ann Arbor Michigan – believes the opening of the Seaway triggered a kind of slow-moving ecological disaster, far more devastating than the Gulf oil spill. “ You know an oil spill can be cleaned up to some extent, while invasive species, the problem just continues to grow and spread,” he says.</p><p>Alexander published a book last year called "Pandora’s Locks."&nbsp; He argues that invasive organisms sneaking in through the Seaway could leave the Great Lakes unrecognizable, shredding the natural network of plants and animals that evolved over thousands of years. “The truth is that nobody knows how this story is going to play out.&nbsp; The scientists can’t do research fast enough to keep up with the changes.&nbsp; And no one can tell you what the lakes will look like in 5, 10 or 25 years,” says Alexander.</p><p>That danger has sparked an ugly international feud over just what kind of ballast water regulations are needed to keep new invaders out.&nbsp;Last year, New York state approved strict new regulations that could eventually force each cargo ship entering the Seaway to have its own miniature waste water treatment plant right on board.&nbsp;</p><p>James Tierney with New York’s Conservation Department says that’s the only way to be sure nothing nasty gets through, “You have to put equipment on your ship that kills animals, bacteria, viruses, crustaceans that might be carried in ballast water.”</p><p>&nbsp;New York’s regulation sets a standard for clean ballast water a hundred times more restrictive than current international rules – a fact that thrills environmentalists. The state planned to put the rules into effect next year, but under intense pressure Tierney delayed the deadline for compliance to August of 2013.</p><p>Canadian officials want the stricter standards scrapped entirely, arguing that the cost of buying and installing new equipment is too high.&nbsp; Last year, Canada’s government asked the US State Department to intervene, arguing that New York’s standards&nbsp;could “have the effect of shutting down access to the St. Lawrence Seaway."</p><p>Speaking in Montreal last month, Canadian environment minister Peter Kent warned that states and provinces shouldn't get too far in front of international standards.&nbsp; “We just have to make sure that as time goes on we have to stay closely aligned so that we’re in step and complimentary,” he said.</p><p>Canadians are angry, in part, because much of the Seaway lies in their territory and links their ports.&nbsp;&nbsp;But even ships moving between Canadian harbors that pass through New York waters would have to meet the new standards. Bob Dalley runs the Canadian port in Prescott, Ontario.&nbsp;&nbsp;He says none of the ships that dock here could comply, “That would be a huge issue for all vessels coming in and using the St. Lawrence.&nbsp;&nbsp;But yeah, that would definitely have a impact.”</p><p>Some US officials agree that New York state has gone too far.&nbsp;&nbsp;Collister Johnson heads the St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation, the agency that operates the US portion of the shipping route and says, “There is no other jurisdiction in the world.&nbsp; I’m talking not about states and provinces, but countries…that is proposing a set of ballast water regulations like the state of New York.”</p><p>Johnson says the current rules, introduced three years ago, are adequate.&nbsp;&nbsp;Those require ships to dump any water picked up in foreign ports while on the high seas.&nbsp;&nbsp;Vessels take on cleaner saltwater before entering North American harbors.&nbsp; If the Seaway is held to a higher standard, Johnson says, the cost of new equipment and technology will force shipping companies to take their cargoes to other ports on the East Coast, “ It is a great concern to the Seaway because it would shut down the Seaway.&nbsp; And it’s a great concern to Canada because it is impacting their sovereignty.”</p><p>The US Environmental Protection Agency and the Coast Guard plan to propose their own updated ballast water rules this November.&nbsp;&nbsp;Lisa Jackson, who heads the EPA, says some kind of new accord is needed to end the confusion, “Right now we sort of have the worst of all worlds.&nbsp;&nbsp;We have individual states doing standards.&nbsp; We have shippers who I guess in some reality could have to meet the most stringent.&nbsp; But that situation is evolving.”</p><p>All sides say New York state will face enormous pressure to change its regulations to match the Federal standards -- even if they're less stringent. As negotiations and backroom talks continue, scientists say new invasive plants and animals are still arriving in the Great Lakes every year, many of them shipped in through the Seaway.</p></p> Mon, 11 Jul 2011 14:31:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/frontandcenter/2011-07-11/battle-over-ballast-waters-88934 Big ship diary http://www.wbez.org/frontandcenter/2011-07-05/big-ship-diary-88726 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//frontandcenter/photo/2011-07-05/88726/5.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>The gravel in your driveway, the steel in your car, and the coal that produces electricity for your home may well have spent time on a Great Lakes freighter on its way to you. At the height of the steel industry, bulk ore ships were in bumper to bumper traffic on the Great Lakes.&nbsp; Shipping may seem an outdated mode of transportation, but it's still by far the most efficient way to transport bulk material. Each year, over 100 million tons of iron ore, coal, limestone and other products travel through the Great Lakes navigation system by boat.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p> <style type="text/css"> div .inline { width: 290px; float: left; margin-right: 19px; margin-left: 3px; clear: left; }div .inlineContent { border-top: 1px dotted rgb(170, 33, 29); margin-bottom: 5px; margin-top: 2px; }ul { margin-left: 15px; }li { font-family: Arial,Helvetica,sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: 1em; background-repeat: no-repeat; background-position: 0pt 5px; padding-left: 3px; margin-bottom: 0.5em; }</style> </p><div class="inline"><div class="inlineContent"><a href="http://www.wbez.org/frontandcenter"><img alt="" src="http://www.wbez.org/sites/default/files/story/insert-image/2011-June/2011-06-28/FNC-inset-promo.jpg" style="width: 280px; height: 50px;" title=""></a><ul><li><strong><a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/about-front-and-center-%E2%80%93-depth-reporting-great-lakes-87655">About Front and Center</a></strong></li><li><strong><a href="http://www.wbez.org/frontandcenter/2011-07-11/not-cruise-ship-88967">RELATED SLIDESHOW: Not a cruise ship</a></strong></li></ul></div></div><p>&nbsp;</p><p>Last November, radio producer Allison Swaim spent nine days aboard a bulk ore ship called the Calumet. It's a huge ship. At 630 feet, it's longer than two football fields and holds close to 20,000 tons of cargo. You'd need almost 1,000 semi-trucks to carry the same load.</p><p>Seventeen crew members live and work on the ship for a month at a time. It's a working boat, and the work never stops. When they're not loading or unloading thousands of tons of rocks into and out of the belly of the ship, they're headed full speed through the lake to the next dock. Then, both pick-up sized engines are at full throttle and the whole boat shakes and rattles.</p><p>Allison boarded the ship at a limestone quarry in Marblehead, Ohio, just west of Cleveland, and got off nine days later in South Chicago. This route took&nbsp; the Calumet from Lake Erie up the Detroit River, across Lake Huron, through the Straits of Mackinac, and back and forth across Lake Michigan.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-July/2011-07-05/GreatLakes_map.gif" style="width: 440px; height: 270px;" title=""></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><strong>Day 1:</strong> Marblehead, OH-- loaded limestone/dirt mix ("work dirt"-- used for construction)<br><br><strong>Day 2: </strong>Marine City, MI-- unloaded half the dirt, Marysville, MI-- unloaded the rest of the dirt, Sarnia, Ontario-- stopped for gas at a fuel dock<br><br><strong>Day 3:</strong> Meldrum Bay, Ontario-- loaded limestone</p><p><strong>Day 4: </strong>Grand Haven, MI-- unloaded limestone at a power plant<br><br><strong>Day 5: </strong>South Chicago, IL-- loaded coal at KCBX Coal Terminals, Inc.</p><p><strong>Day 6:</strong> Green Bay, WI-- unloaded coal<br><br><strong>Day 7:</strong> Port Inland, MI-- loaded limestone<br><br><strong>Day 8:</strong> Grand Haven, MI-- unloaded limestone<br><br><strong>Day 9:</strong> South Chicago, IL-- loaded coal</p><p>As part of Front and Center's series covering the Great Lakes region, Allison produced this audio documentary to tell the story of life on board a big ship on the lakes.&nbsp; See her slideshow,<strong> <a href="http://www.wbez.org/frontandcenter/2011-07-11/not-cruise-ship-88967">Not a cruiseship</a></strong> or visit <a href="http://out-here.tumblr.com/" target="_blank">Out-here.tumblr.com </a>to see and hear more from the Calumet multimedia documentary project.</p></p> Tue, 05 Jul 2011 14:20:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/frontandcenter/2011-07-05/big-ship-diary-88726 Dredging: Shipping industry declares state of emergency http://www.wbez.org/frontandcenter/2011-07-04/dredging-shipping-industry-declares-state-emergency-88579 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//frontandcenter/photo/2011-06-30/88579/Coal-Fired Power Plant, Grand Haven.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>The Great Lakes form a sprawling ecosystem of nature and industry.&nbsp; In a strong economy, ships can transport up to 200 million tons of cargo across these waters each year.&nbsp; But now the shipping industry has declared a state of emergency.&nbsp; The cause is a region-wide dredging backlog.&nbsp; Shippers worry that sediment buildup threatens to choke some navigation channels.</p><p>But before we begin this tale of sediment buildup and dredging and the government raiding crucial funds…let’s talk about…well…me.&nbsp;</p><p>I’m between four and six feet tall.&nbsp; Five foot four, to be exact.&nbsp;</p><p>In one year, that’s how much sediment can build up in the mouths of harbors around the Great Lakes.&nbsp; That’s when you call for a dredge.</p><p> <style type="text/css"> div .inline { width: 290px; float: left; margin-right: 19px; margin-left: 3px; clear: left; } div .inlineContent { border-top: 1px dotted #aa211d; border-top-width: 1px; border-top-style: dotted; border-top-color: #aa211d; margin-bottom: 5px; margin-top: 2px; } ul { margin-left: 15px; } li { font-family: Arial,Helvetica,sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: 1em; background-repeat: no-repeat; background-repeat-x: no-repeat; background-repeat-y: no-repeat; background-position: 0 5px; background-position-x: 0px; background-position-y: 5px; padding-left: 3px; margin-bottom: 0.5em; }</style> </p><div class="inline"><div class="inlineContent"><a href="http://www.wbez.org/frontandcenter"><img alt="" src="http://www.wbez.org/sites/default/files/story/insert-image/2011-June/2011-06-28/FNC-inset-promo.jpg" style="width: 280px; height: 50px;" title=""></a><ul><li><strong><a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/about-front-and-center-%E2%80%93-depth-reporting-great-lakes-87655">About Front and Center</a></strong></li><li><strong><a href="http://www.wbez.org/frontandcenter/2011-07-05/when-inch-means-ton-or-267-tons-be-precise-88748">When an Inch Means a Ton. Or 267 Tons, To Be Precise</a></strong></li><li><a href="http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-06-24/front-and-center-cant-we-all-just-get-along-disagreements-st-lawrence-88"><strong>Can't we all just get along? </strong></a></li></ul></div></div><p>“Basically it’s a vacuum that chews up the bottom of the sand,” said engineer Tom O’Bryan.&nbsp; “Sucks up the sand with water.&nbsp; And then we pipe that material 5,000 feet down the shoreline.”O’Bryan is with the Army Corps of Engineers in Grand Haven, Michigan.&nbsp; On one side of this dredge lies Lake Michigan.&nbsp; On the other, the inner harbor and one of its shipping targets: the city’s coal-fired power plant.&nbsp; The deeper this passage, the more coal each ship can carry without getting stuck.&nbsp; O’Bryan feels that efficiency helps consumers like him.</p><p>“If I can get coal to that plant cheaper, then I’m going to get cheaper electricity to my house and therefore my bill’s gonna be less,” he said.</p><p>But because of the dredging backlog, between 15 and 18 million cubic yards of excess sediment have built up in Great Lakes channels, according to the Army Corps of Engineers.&nbsp; That’s like pouring in a bag of mulch … 200 million times.&nbsp; Add in low water levels and many ships have to light load, meaning carry less.&nbsp; So costs go up.&nbsp;</p><p>At the port in Marblehead, Ohio, a long conveyer belt rumbled steadily, carrying limestone from a quarry to one of Mark Barker’s ships below.&nbsp; Barker is president of The Interlake Steamship Company.&nbsp;</p><p>He’s also a man who measures revenue with a ruler.&nbsp; For every inch of draft – that’s how deep a boat sits in the water –this 700 foot ship holds 110 tons of cargo.</p><p>“Our thousand-foot vessel, the largest vessel on the lakes, can lose over 250 tons per inch,” he said.&nbsp;</p><p>Barker said “lose” because he’s loading between six and ten inches less than he did last year.&nbsp; He said that could subtract millions of dollars from his bottom line.&nbsp;</p><p>Glen Nekvasil is vice president of a trade group called the Lake Carriers’ Association.&nbsp; He said early in the season, before a lot of snow melt, some ships left behind as much as 12,000 tons of iron ore or coal.</p><p>“That much iron ore will make the steel that’s used in 10,000 automobiles,” he said, “And that much coal will keep a couple big power plants going for thirteen hours.&nbsp; So that’s the impact of light loading.”&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>But light loading on the Great Lakes is already common.&nbsp; Nekvasil said the outlook for next year makes it worse.&nbsp;</p><p>Under President Obama’s budget proposal, only 11 of the 60 federal commercial harbors on the Great Lakes would get dredged next year.&nbsp; That’s because of a proposed 30 percent funding reduction for the region.&nbsp; Officials with the Army Corps of Engineers say if that stands, some commercial harbors could essentially close to big ships.&nbsp; In other words, channels might silt in too much to remain economical.</p><p>Under the current proposal, no port that sees less than a million tons of cargo transport would get dredged next year.&nbsp;</p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://www.wbez.org/sites/default/files/blog/insert-image/2011-June/2011-06-30/Cargo%20Load%2C%20Marblehead.JPG" style="width: 400px; height: 266px; float: left; margin-left: 5px; margin-right: 5px;" title="">All this is happening despite the fact that billions of dollars have been collected over the years precisely for harbor maintenance and dredging.&nbsp; Commercial shippers pay taxes on their cargo and that money goes into something called the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund.&nbsp; But that fund has been plundered by pirates … or in this case, the federal government.&nbsp; Just ask Candice Miller.</p><p>“They are raiding this fund,” she said.&nbsp; “They’re raiding it for other kinds of things.”</p><p>Miller is a Republican congresswoman from a Michigan district on Lake Huron.&nbsp; She’s also co-sponsor of a bill that would require every penny of the fund be spent on harbor maintenance, instead of being used to reduce the federal deficit.</p><p>“Think about your gasoline tax, those taxes go into the Highway Trust Fund,” Miller said.&nbsp; “And that money can’t be siphoned off for anything other than highway projects.&nbsp; We pay the tax, it fixes your roads.”</p><p>The idea of putting a firewall around the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund has bipartisan support in both chambers of Congress.&nbsp; As for shippers, they say remember the many thousands of jobs they support – in mining, in steel mills, in manufacturing, in construction.&nbsp; They say those jobs demand that Great Lakes shipping remains efficient.</p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://www.wbez.org/sites/default/files/blog/insert-image/2011-June/2011-06-30/FY%20%2712%20Dredging%20Map.PNG" style="width: 600px; height: 417px;" title="Courtesy of Army Corps of Engineers "></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Mon, 04 Jul 2011 13:57:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/frontandcenter/2011-07-04/dredging-shipping-industry-declares-state-emergency-88579 The first link: How a canal spanned a continent and built Chicago http://www.wbez.org/frontandcenter/2011-06-30/first-link-how-canal-spanned-continent-and-built-chicago-88598 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//frontandcenter/photo/2011-06-30/88598/LaSalle boat.JPG" alt="" /><p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">Back in 1900, engineers famously reversed the Chicago River, linking the Great Lakes with the Mississippi River. Almost everybody knows that. What you may not know is that Chicago actually first reversed the river 30 years earlier, diverting the water from the Lake to a canal. That first link between America’s two great waterways left an enduring mark on Chicago, and the country.</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">WBEZ’s Gabriel Spitzer has a profile of the canal, and a man dedicated to preserving its heritage.</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;"><b>Intro: </b></span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">Our series Front and Center has been bringing you in-depth reporting on issues affecting the Great Lakes. </span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">Back in 1900, engineers famously reversed the Chicago River, linking the Great Lakes with the Mississippi River. </span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">Almost everybody knows that. </span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">What you may not know is that Chicago actually first reversed the river 30 years earlier, diverting the water from the Lake to a canal. </span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">That first link between America’s two great waterways left an enduring mark on Chicago, and the country. </span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">WBEZ’s Gabriel Spitzer has a profile of the canal, and a man dedicated to preserving its heritage. </span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;"><i>(ambi up)</i></span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">Here in Lockport, the Illinois-and-Michigan Canal is pretty humble. </span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">It’s about the width of a two-lane road – basically a drainage ditch.&nbsp; </span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;"><b>Lockport up to here 3s</b></span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;"><b>The canal would have come up right to here …. (fade under)</b></span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">Jerry Adelman stands on a footbridge above its sluggish water. </span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">He’s president of the conservation group Openlands, and a historian of the canal. </span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">Or really, historian isn’t the right word: the man is a canal encyclopedia. </span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">He spearheaded creation of the canal’s National Heritage Corridor … he owns a home built by the canal’s chief contractor. </span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;"><b>(Little Adelman monologue up in clear for 2s, then back under)</b></span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">It’s kind of hard to see what there is to get so excited about. </span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">But this largely forgotten waterway was once the linchpin of a network that spanned the continent, and set the stage for Chicago’s rise. </span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">Adelman says the idea dates back to the first European settlers. </span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;"><b>Lockport early settlers 14s</b></span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;"><b>They recognized that the waters of the great Lakes and the Mississippi were very close to each other, and if you could dig a canal to connect those drainages then you could have continuous water travel possible from the Atlantic seaboard to the Gulf of Mexico. </b></span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">By 1848, the hand-dug channel stretched west from Bridgeport for 96 miles. </span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">A couple decades later they dredged it deeper, effectively reversing the Chicago River for the first time.</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;"><b>Lockport effluent 8s</b></span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;"><b>The problem though was that the volume of sewage and waste was so great that it would clog up and still back up into the Lake. </b></span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">His connection to the canal goes back generations. </span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">The museum here in Lockport contains his family’s memorabilia. </span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;"><b>Lockport horn 10s</b></span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;"><b>Here’s the only canal horn that we know of, it was my grandfather’s. When you approached the locks, you would blow the horn to alert the locktender that you were coming. </b></span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">His roots here date back to when Chicago was nothing more than a handful of buildings and an army fort on the river. </span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">He says Chicago’s transformation into the leading Midwestern city is tied directly to this waterway. </span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">The city itself was mapped by the canal commissioners … its legacy written in every right-angled intersection. </span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">And the canal opened up rich farmland in central Illinois, making it the nation’s breadbasket. </span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;"><b>Ottawa grain 21s</b></span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;"><b>The year the canal opened, the Board of Trade opened in Chicago. Also, the first grain elevators in the world were established. <i>So really, everything from that skyscraper on LaSalle Street to the right-angled grid of Chicago to the silos on Illinois farms all date their origins to the Illinois-and-Michigan Canal</i>. That’s largely true. </b></span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">And the influence goes even deeper. </span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">If not for this canal, Chicago might be in Wisconsin. </span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">No joke: the original boundary line between the states ran south of the city. </span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">But to keep the canal all in one state, Congress nudged the border north, placing Chicago comfortably within the Prairie State. </span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;"><i>(ambi car passing)</i></span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;"><b>LaSalle intro 5s</b></span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;"><b>So we’re in downtown LaSalle, and this is the terminus of the Illinois-Michigan Canal. </b></span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">Jerry Adelman is standing next to the canal visitors center. </span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">Down below tourists can ride aboard a recreated passenger canalboat. </span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">Those original canalboats had a short reign. </span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">The canal was quickly eclipsed in the popular imagination by trains and covered wagons. </span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">But Adelman says this was a brief but crucial chapter for the American heartland. </span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;"><b>LaSalle character 18s</b></span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;"><b>When we think of going west we think of wagon trains, and so forth, all of which is true. But the rivers were our original arteries. It’s the canal that really gave shape and character to this whole central part of the United States, and really positioned Chicago at its terminus to become this great metropolis. </b></span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">The Illinois-and-Michigan Canal is fragmented now. </span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">Much of it is dry, forming a sloppy dotted line from the South Side to Starved Rock. </span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">But modern Chicago still bears the signature of that first link between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi. </span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">For Front and Center, I’m Gabriel Spitzer. </span></p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Thu, 30 Jun 2011 20:49:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/frontandcenter/2011-06-30/first-link-how-canal-spanned-continent-and-built-chicago-88598 Postcard: Shipwreck graveyard http://www.wbez.org/frontandcenter/2011-06-30/postcard-shipwreck-graveyard-88447 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//frontandcenter/photo/2011-06-28/88447/tombstone1.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>The Inverhuron Cemetery is a small pioneer cemetery dating back to the 1800s.</p><p>It sits nestled in the aged trees in what is now a Provincial Park along the Canadian Coast of Lake Huron. It was once a town, until a fire in 1887 burnt every building to the ground. One of the only surviving elements is the cemetery. In the middle of the cemetery is a 200-year-old maple tree, surrounded by gravestones that have worn smooth over time.</p><p>Adrienne Mason used to lead tours of the cemetery. She would sing songs, answer questions and tell stories. The tale she says garnered the most interest was the story of the unknown sailor from 1880.</p><p>“His body was found washed up on shore,” Adrienne explained. “Along with a mason jar, or preserving jar containing a gold captain’s watch, and on that watch it said ‘to my wife’. But, no one ever learned of the sailor’s identity… so it’s kind of a mystery.”</p><p>Most people buried in the cemetery are a mystery. There are about 80 tombstones, but they estimate that almost 700 people are buried in about a hectare of land, mostly in unmarked graves.&nbsp;</p><p>“Most of the markings for the graves were actually made of wood, and unfortunately have decomposed,” Adrienne said.</p><p>More than one of the people buried in the Inverhuron Cemetery died on the waters.</p><p>The water was so integral to the lifestyle in the 1800s, the back roads were often impassable and everything was shipped into the port.<br> <br> <style type="text/css"> div .inline { width: 290px; float: left; margin-right: 19px; margin-left: 3px; clear: left; } div .inlineContent { border-top: 1px dotted #aa211d; border-top-width: 1px; border-top-style: dotted; border-top-color: #aa211d; margin-bottom: 5px; margin-top: 2px; } ul { margin-left: 15px; } li { font-family: Arial,Helvetica,sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: 1em; background-repeat: no-repeat; background-repeat-x: no-repeat; background-repeat-y: no-repeat; background-position: 0 5px; background-position-x: 0px; background-position-y: 5px; padding-left: 3px; margin-bottom: 0.5em; }</style> </p><div class="inline"><div class="inlineContent"><a href="http://www.wbez.org/frontandcenter"><img alt="" src="http://www.wbez.org/sites/default/files/story/insert-image/2011-June/2011-06-28/FNC-inset-promo.jpg" style="width: 280px; height: 50px;" title=""></a><ul><li><strong><a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/about-front-and-center-%E2%80%93-depth-reporting-great-lakes-87655">About Front and Center</a></strong></li><li><strong><a href="http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-06-23/front-and-center-how-chicagos-excrement-killing-fish-gulf-mexico-88234">How Chicago's excrement is killing fish in the Gulf of Mexico </a></strong></li><li><strong><a href="http://www.wbez.org/frontandcenter/2011-06-21/how-likely-fear-west-could-steal-great-lakes-water-88162">Could the West steal Great Lakes Water? </a></strong></li></ul><p><strong>SLIDESHOW</strong></p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/frontandcenter/2011-06-27/scientists-climb-bald-eagle-nests-measure-health-great-lakes-88390/"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-June/2011-06-29/jim_climbing.jpg.crop_display.jpg" style="width: 116px; height: 78px; float: left; margin-left: 6px; margin-right: 6px;" title=""></a><p 12="" font-size:=""><a href="http://www.wbez.org/frontandcenter/2011-06-29/postcard-scientists-climb-bald-eagle-nests-measure-health-great-lakes-8839"><strong>Fiesty is good:</strong><br> <strong> Healthy eagles </strong><strong> indicate healthy lakes</strong></a></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><strong>&nbsp;</strong></p></div></div><p>But, Adrienne says around here it’s known that the mighty Lake Huron can turn on you faster than you’d think.“The weather can at one point seem perfect. Blue sky and 30 degrees, and all of a sudden a clouds rolls across the horizon. And all of a sudden the lake becomes so destructive and frightening,” she said.</p><p>Adrienne tells the story of a captain who sank to the bottom of the lake with a brand new pair of boots around his neck, she explains how a woman once washed ashore in a current&nbsp; from the other side of Lake Huron.</p><p>“I think that having the cemetery here is a testament to that period of history, the stones themselves have stories to tell. You can feel the stories when you walk through the trails, walk through the forest,” Adrienne said. “It sets your imagine ablaze when you know you’re standing in the place where those stories took place.”</p></p> Thu, 30 Jun 2011 06:05:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/frontandcenter/2011-06-30/postcard-shipwreck-graveyard-88447 Postcard: Scientists climb into bald eagle nests to measure health of the Great Lakes http://www.wbez.org/content/postcard-scientists-climb-bald-eagle-nests-measure-health-great-lakes <p><p><em>Biologists with the National Park Service are in their sixth year of visiting eagle nests on Lake Superior for blood and feather samples that help them monitor the level of toxic pollutants in the lake</em></p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe src="http://player.vimeo.com/video/25677824?title=0&amp;byline=0&amp;portrait=0" width="513" frameborder="0" height="341" scrolling="no"></iframe></p><p><a href="http://vimeo.com/25677824">Feisty is good</a> from <a href="http://vimeo.com/wbez">WBEZ</a> on <a href="http://vimeo.com">Vimeo</a>.</p><p>Jim Spickler is wearing an orange hardhat and hanging on a climbing rope 100 feet up in a white pine tree on Basswood Island in Lake Superior.</p><p> <style type="text/css"> div .inline { width: 290px; float: left; margin-right: 19px; margin-left: 3px; clear: left; } div .inlineContent { border-top: 1px dotted #aa211d; border-top-width: 1px; border-top-style: dotted; border-top-color: #aa211d; margin-bottom: 5px; margin-top: 2px; } ul { margin-left: 15px; } li { font-family: Arial,Helvetica,sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: 1em; background-repeat: no-repeat; background-repeat-x: no-repeat; background-repeat-y: no-repeat; background-position: 0 5px; background-position-x: 0px; background-position-y: 5px; padding-left: 3px; margin-bottom: 0.5em; }</style> </p><div class="inline"><div class="inlineContent"><a href="http://www.wbez.org/frontandcenter"><img alt="" src="http://www.wbez.org/sites/default/files/story/insert-image/2011-June/2011-06-28/FNC-inset-promo.jpg" style="width: 280px; height: 50px;" title=""></a><ul><li><strong><a href="http://www.wbez.org/frontandcenter/2011-06-23/runaway-algae-returns-lake-erie-88249">Runaway Algae</a></strong></li><li><strong><a href="http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-06-23/front-and-center-how-chicagos-excrement-killing-fish-gulf-mexico-88234">How Chicago's excrement is killing fish in the Gulf of Mexico </a></strong></li><li><strong><a href="http://www.wbez.org/frontandcenter/2011-06-21/how-likely-fear-west-could-steal-great-lakes-water-88162">Could the West steal Great Lakes Water? </a></strong></li></ul><p><strong>SLIDESHOW</strong></p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/frontandcenter/2011-06-14/postcard-detroits-floating-post-office-88094"><img alt="" src="http://www.wbez.org/sites/default/files/blog/insert-image/2011-June/2011-06-28/img_1542.jpg" style="width: 120px; height: 90px; float: left; margin-left: 5px; margin-right: 5px;" title=""></a><p 12="" font-size:=""><br> <strong><a href="http://www.wbez.org/frontandcenter/2011-06-14/postcard-detroits-floating-post-office-88094">&nbsp;J.W. Westcott,</a></strong><strong><a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/postcard-detroits-floating-post-office-87236"><br> Detroit's floating<br> post office</a></strong><br> &nbsp;</p><p><strong><a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/postcard-detroits-floating-post-office-87236"> </a></strong></p></div></div><p>“Good morning, Mr. Eagle,” he says to a fuzzy brown bird sitting on the six-foot-wide jumble of sticks that serves as the eaglet’s nest. Spickler is a wildlife biologist and an expert climber from northern California where he works in giant redwood trees. It’s his job to gently stuff the eaglet into a sack and bring it to the ground for a quick checkup. The eaglet is only seven weeks old, but it’s already the size of a small goose, and it has formidable talons attached to its bright yellow feet.Waiting for Spickler on the ground is Bill Route, an ecologist with the National Park Service’s Inventory and Monitoring Program, which keeps tabs on the wellbeing of plants and animals on Park Service land.&nbsp; Route heads up this survey of eagle nests.“Eagles are a success story,” Route says. “Their numbers are increasing.”</p><p>Route says there were no eagles at all nesting on the Great Lakes in the late 1960s, thanks in part to the insecticide DDT, which left the eagle’s eggs perilously thin and nearly wiped the birds out. But DDT was banned in 1972, and eagles started to bounce back. They were removed from the Endangered Species List in 2007.</p><p>“We still find traces of DDT in eagles,” Route says. “It’s very persistent. And that’s what we’re worried about: persistent, toxic chemicals that accumulate up the food chain.”</p><p>Like some flame-retardant and stain resistant chemicals. The scientists will screen the eaglet’s blood for those, too.</p><p>“Eagles are a sentinel species,” Route says.&nbsp; “They get this magnification. Since bald eagles sit on top of the food chain, they get a lot of the contaminant because they eat other organisms that are also contaminated.”</p><p>As Route is talking, Jim Spickler descends the climbing rope with the eaglet. They draw a blood sample from the bird and make some measurements. The eaglet hisses at them and makes some klutzy attempts at biting their hands. In minutes, Spickler is on his way back up the rope to put the eaglet back on its nest.</p><p>Two adult eagles circle above the trees letting out a steady stream of cries. The sound is surprisingly thin and high-pitched for a bird with a seven-foot wingspan. The biologists say adult eagles can be noisy, but they rarely attack humans. The adults will be back on the nest soon after the humans leave.</p><p>A few minutes later, the eaglet is in its nest and Jim Spickler is on the ground.</p><p>“It’s a little bit of a feisty chick,” he says as he starts packing his climbing gear. “But that means that it’s well fed and it’s likely to survive. So, mission accomplished.”</p><ul></ul></p> Wed, 29 Jun 2011 14:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/content/postcard-scientists-climb-bald-eagle-nests-measure-health-great-lakes Runaway algae returns to Lake Erie http://www.wbez.org/frontandcenter/2011-06-23/runaway-algae-returns-lake-erie-88249 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//frontandcenter/photo/2011-06-23/88249/2009 Algal Bloom Stone Lab 001 (8).jpg" alt="" /><p><p><strong>READ: Toxic Water, Part 1,&nbsp; </strong><strong><a href="http://www.wbez.org/frontandcenter/2011-06-22/anniversary-cuyahoga-fires-igniting-environmental-movement-88161">Anniversary of Cuyahoga fires igniting environmental movement </a></strong></p><p>Runaway algae blooms that killed fish and fouled beaches in the 1970's have been making a comeback on Lake Erie – and they're showing up now in other Great Lakes.&nbsp; Until recently, they didn't get much attention, but the problems have been getting worse.&nbsp; After years of research, scientists think they've finally pinpointed the source of the blooms.&nbsp; But they worry it won't be as easy to fix this time around.</p><p>There's no sign yet of algae in the muddy water here at the mouth of the Maumee River in Toledo on western Lake Erie.&nbsp; But it's late spring and Tom Bridgeman knows it's coming, “It's getting worse, the last couple years have been really bad.”</p><p>Bridgeman is a researcher at the University of Toledo's Lake Erie Center. He's been watching the algae come back every year since he first saw the satellite image of a massive algae bloom in 2003. “It started near the mouth of the Maumee River, so several hundred square kilometers was covered by this bloom,” &nbsp;says Bridgeman, “It looked like a scum of bright green paint on the surface of the water.&nbsp; And as boats went through it...you could see them cutting trails through this sort of green scum on the surface.”</p><p>The scum is Microcystis, a toxic form of blue-green algae that can give you cramps and diarrhea if you swallow it and can also cause a nasty skin rash.&nbsp; The toxins accumulate in the livers of fish, but Bridgeman says so far fish don't seem to be affected, nor are people who eat them.&nbsp; But the algae does have an impact on Toledo's drinking water, which comes from Lake Erie. “I've heard that the city of Toledo spends an extra 3 or 4-thousand dollars per day in extra filtration costs during an algal bloom,” says Bridgeman.</p><p>Bridgeman says it's wreaking havoc with sport fishing and tourism on the lake.&nbsp; And more people are staying away.&nbsp; Bridgeman says the algae smells even worse than it looks, “Especially when it washes up on shore and starts to dry out and decompose, it really has sort of a fishy, you know, garbage-y sort of odor.”</p><p>Bridgeman's research is crucial to helping predict the blooms and their severity.&nbsp;&nbsp; Many forms of algae are a natural and necessary nutrient for fish, but they can get out of control when their food source is ramped up by human activity.&nbsp;</p><p>In the last few years toxic algae has also been showing up along beaches in Lake Ontario.&nbsp; And in Lake Michigan and Lake Huron, thick blankets of non-toxic, nuisance algae often coat the shoreline.&nbsp; Scientist and educator Jeff Reutter is head of Ohio Sea Grant. &nbsp;He's spent his entire career working on Lake Erie issues.&nbsp; Standing near Cleveland's Lake Erie harbor, Reutter remembers when algae as thick as pea soup bloomed in the lake in the 1970's., “The breakwall here, a little bit east of where we're standing, someone had painted on the breakwall, 'Help me, I'm dying' and signed it 'Lake Erie.'”</p><p>Reutter says in fresh water, phosphorus is the nutrient that algae needs to grow.&nbsp; Too much causes rampant blooms. Reutter says cutbacks of phosphorus from laundry detergents and sewage treatment plants nearly a generation ago seemed to solve the problem.&nbsp; Reutter believes the return of algae blooms is a sign that Lake Erie is once again sick, “The big concern I have is that I feel like I started with Lake Erie really bad.&nbsp; Huge improvements brought about by the mid-1980's.&nbsp; And unfortunately, since 1995, it's been going downhill ever since.”</p><p>Reutter says the mid-90's was when dead zones - much like those in the Gulf Mexico - started showing up again in Lake Erie.&nbsp; Dead zones form when decaying algae blooms use up oxygen in the water, forcing fish and other wildife to migrate – or die.&nbsp; So scientists like Pete Richards, a researcher at the National Water Quality Research Center at Ohio's Heidelberg University, have been working to solve the phosphorus mystery.&nbsp; Richards thinks he's found the answer. “When 80-percent of the land use in a watershed is agriculture, it's almost inevitable that a major source of the phosphorus loading is going to be from the agricultural fields,” says Richards.</p><p>Richards worked on the investigating team with the Lake Erie Phosphorus Task Force, which last year released new recommendations about how and when farmers should fertilize their fields “In some senses, the fixes are obvious.&nbsp; You don't do it in the fall, you get it underground, rather than on the surface.&nbsp; But for every obvious fix, there's a good reason why it doesn't get done,” says Richards. He says he task force recommends fertilizing in the spring, when plants will use it up.</p><p>At a farm about 50-miles south of Lake Erie, dairy farmer Ted Sonnenberg says it isn't always possible to follow the recommendations – like this spring when he saw record-breaking rainfall, “There aren't enough good days in the spring.&nbsp; We have not been able to touch the fields behind the dairy, because they're too wet.”</p><p>A recent study by Ohio State University found 30-percent of Ohio's farmland has too much phosphorus.&nbsp; With federal money from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, Sonnenberg&nbsp; is reducing the phosphorus output of his dairy by building new ponds to store the manure.</p><p>Sonnenberg is trying to be more sustainable, but many farmers aren't.&nbsp; And some researchers admit they're not sure that voluntary compliance from farmers will be enough to reduce the phosphorus that's feeding Lake Erie algae.&nbsp; There are other things that may help.&nbsp; Last year, 16-states, including Ohio and six other Great Lakes states, passed bans on phosphorus in dishwasher detergents.&nbsp; And several manufacturers, like Scotts, have removed phosphorus from their lawncare products.</p><p>For now, algae blooms will likely continue to plague Lake Erie and its shoreline.&nbsp; And that worries Toledo resident Alli Weber whenever she swims here at Maumee Bay State Park, a few miles east of Toledo.&nbsp; Weber and her 3-year old daughter Lillian enjoy cooling off in Lake Erie, but not when smelly mats of algae wash ashore.<br> <br> “I don't like it,” says Webber, “ I don't know if it's safe.&nbsp; Especially when I bring her, because she, like, touches it and I don't like that.”</p><p>This summer, Ohio health officials unveiled a new website that tells swimmers and boaters where algae blooms are located and how to avoid getting sick from them. Scientists say if they can figure out solutions, the lakes will recover quickly.&nbsp; But if the blooms get worse, the impacts on human health and the environment could grow.&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Thu, 23 Jun 2011 15:53:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/frontandcenter/2011-06-23/runaway-algae-returns-lake-erie-88249 Waukesha's request for Great Lakes water is complex first test of law http://www.wbez.org/frontandcenter/2011-06-21/waukeshas-request-great-lakes-water-complex-first-test-law-88160 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//story/photo/2011-June/2011-06-21/waukesha 018.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>A law that’s designed to prevent other parts of the country and the world from draining the Great Lakes is getting its first big test in our own backyard.</p><p>The water-use compact is part of an agreement between eight Great Lakes states and two Canadian provinces to figure out who can have Great Lakes water. It prohibits diversions, though it makes a few exceptions, including for communities that straddle the Great Lakes basin or for those that are in counties on that line.</p><p>One of those communities, a suburb of Milwaukee called Waukesha, is asking for Great Lakes water because it has too much radium in its water supply.</p><p>Waukesha Water Utility General Manager Dan Duchniak said the city’s had five well failures in the last year. The aquifer it depends on is getting lower.</p><p>“That water is getting older and older and older, and so the radium concentration levels get higher and higher,” Duchniak said. “As you draw down deeper and deeper in the aquifers, you get to a point where it’s brackish water or higher levels of salt. And so what you’re going to have to do then is remove the salt out of the water because people do not want to have water to have a high salt concentration. It’s not aesthetically pleasing and it’s not good to use.”</p><table style="width: 290px;" align="left" border="0" cellpadding="10" cellspacing="10"><tbody><tr><td><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/frontandcenter"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://www.wbez.org/sites/default/files/story/insert-image/2011-June/2011-06-21/waterspromo.jpg" style="width: 280px; height: 50px; float: left; margin: 5px;" title=""></a></p></td></tr><tr><td><p><strong><a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/about-front-and-center-%E2%80%93-depth-reporting-great-lakes-87655">About Front and Center – in-depth reporting from the Great Lakes</a></strong></p><p><strong><a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/great-lakes-face-increasing-pressure-water-world-own-backyard-88093">Great Lakes face increasing pressure for water from world, own backyard</a></strong></p><p><strong><a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/how-likely-fear-west-could-steal-great-lakes-water-88134">How likely is the fear the West could steal Great Lakes water? </a></strong></p></td></tr></tbody></table><p>Duchniak said the city is looking to lake water because there are no other good alternatives.&nbsp; He said other water sources aren’t as reliable long-term or would cause more harm to the environment.</p><p>Local environmentalists aren’t convinced.</p><p>Cheryl Nenn, the Milwaukee Riverkeeper, is worried about the impact on Underwood Creek, where Waukesha would return its treated wastewater, as required by the compact. The creek empties into Menominee River, then into the Milwaukee River and finally into Lake Michigan.</p><p>This river already has flooding issues.</p><p>"It can rise by 5 to 6 feet within 15 to 30 minutes,” Nenn said. “It can be pretty scary to be out there right at the beginning of a rain event. It’s pretty dramatic how fast the creek can change.”</p><p>Nenn said the discharge from Waukesha would increase that flooding dramatically. The city proposes to divert its water during the worst storms and make up for the lost water by bringing in water from another system later.&nbsp; Nenn said blending water like that appears to violate the compact and ups the risk of introducing invasive species or disease.</p><p>“We’re certainly worried about any impacts to water quantity that cause a flooding issues for folks downstream, but (we’re) also looking at impacts to water quality not only for fish and critters that live in the stream but for kids who play here in the summer,” Nenn said. “A very high percentage of that river water is going to have treated wastewater in it.”</p><p>Peter Annin, the author of “The Great Lakes Water Wars,” said Waukesha’s solution to this has been described as “Rube Goldberg like.” &nbsp;Getting water under the compact is a complex process by design. Annin said Waukesha’s application is so complicated, it would take at least two trips up the Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower) to explain it.</p><p>That’s a concern to some lawmakers, officials and environmental advocates. They said they’d hoped that this first big test would have been, well, a little cleaner, a little less complicated.</p><p>That’s because they’re concerned this case will set precedents that could determine how high – or low – the bar will be set for future diversions from the Great Lakes.</p><p>“By setting the bar too low, by ignoring the fact this is the first big precedent set, would just open the door to a bunch of mediocre, subpar applications around the region,” said lawyer Jodi Habush Sinykin with Midwest Environmental Advocates. “If we have this first application meet a high bar, we can have a far better chance &nbsp;that the rest of the region will follow likewise.”</p><p>To give you an idea just how complicated this application is, consider the fact the city’s own mayor is arguing the city has other alternatives than lake water. He won election partly by arguing against the need for Milwaukee water.</p><p>The rest of the council has pretty much voted to say, hey, no, we don’t have other alternatives. That’s a key requirement under the compact. Waukesha needs to get an OK from all eight Great Lakes governors, and it’s easy to see at least one set of gubernatorial eyebrows wagging over the mayor’s stance.</p><p>One hundred years ago, Waukesha used to have so much water, it bubbled from the ground all over the city. The famous springs fed lavish resorts and one of the nation’s largest bottling companies.</p><p>Duchniak took me to Hobo Springs to show me part of what’s left. Hobo Springs is now just a small stone fountain with a little water and a lot of pennies, like a wishing well.</p><p>“It is kind of ironic that the once water capital of the world is now looking for water and is looking at the Great Lakes as their water supply,” Duchniak said.</p></p> Tue, 21 Jun 2011 23:24:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/frontandcenter/2011-06-21/waukeshas-request-great-lakes-water-complex-first-test-law-88160 Kayaking along the St. Lawrence Seaway http://www.wbez.org/frontandcenter/2011-06-21/kayaking-along-st-lawrence-seaway-88131 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//frontandcenter/photo/2011-06-21/88131/kayakseaway1.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>It’s a beautiful summer day and I’m paddling my little kayak right down the main channel of the St. Lawrence Seaway. This moment, I have it all to myself--there’s a lighthouse just off my bow, and not a big ship in sight. And that’s good because today I’ve come to explore sort of a different side of this river, the side that existed for thousands of years before people started transforming the St. Lawrence.<br> <br> I make my way slowly around Wellesley Island and soon I come across a delicate little marsh filled with birds. There’s a red-wing black-bird. Their little chevrons are just the reddest red you can imagine.<br> <br> The truth, of course, is that the human footprint here is enormous and pervasive, from the big freighters that rumble past to the vacation cottages crowded on shore. In one bay, I pull up my kayak paddle and find it snared by a tangle of bright green weeds that shouldn’t be there. I see thick mats of an invasive plant called Eurasian water milfoil. It grows everywhere and squeezes out all the native plants. Invasive plants and animals that we brought here have literally changed the chemistry and the food chain of the St. Lawrence.<br> <br> Scientists say the fact that the river level no longer fluctuates naturally has also damaged habitat along the shore. But for all that, I still catch glimpses of what this place must have looked like when the first European traders and explorers paddled their canoes upriver a couple of centuries ago. I’ve come across an osprey nest up in a white pine. I can see the mother osprey right now watching over her chicks and little osprey heads poke up out of the nest. A few minutes after that encounter, I’m sitting at the edge of another grassy marsh and an entire flotilla of baby Canada geese fumble right by my boat--so close I could pluck them out of the water.<br> <br> Not all the wildness on the seaway comes in these small packages.This is a massive river that drains half a continent. Late in the afternoon I start to paddle for home. I find myself in a cut between two rocky islands where the current surges, throwing waves over my bow and tugging me away downriver. Now in this big seaway, the kayak I’m in feels pretty small.<br> <br> Because we use these big rivers as highways and industrial sites, it’s easy to start thinking of them like that. All the policy debates and the talk about plumbing and engineering and commerce can sort of eclipse the fact that the St. Lawrence is still alive and powerful--and at least in places remarkably wild.</p></p> Tue, 21 Jun 2011 16:59:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/frontandcenter/2011-06-21/kayaking-along-st-lawrence-seaway-88131