WBEZ | great lakes http://www.wbez.org/tags/great-lakes Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Have your say: Lake Michigan vs. Chicago River http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/have-your-say-lake-michigan-vs-chicago-river-109317 <p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/132056571&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_artwork=true" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><em>Editor&#39;s note:&nbsp;</em><em>Reporter Chris Bentley provided question-asker Devon Neff and his friend, Abby Ristow, with some homework; the idea was that reporting and insightful interviews could settle the pair&#39;s high-minded water fight. In the <a href="https://soundcloud.com/curiouscity/smackdowns-lake-michigan?in=curiouscity/sets/curious-city-podcasts" target="_blank">&quot;Smackdowns&quot;</a> podcast episode, you can hear the friends&#39; final take. In most circumstances, Curious City encourages peace among our readers, but here we hope you&#39;ll keep the fight brewing by voting in our </em><em><a href="#Poll">poll</a>&nbsp;and encouraging others to do so. <a href="https://docs.google.com/a/chicagopublicradio.org/forms/d/1UXSprLzQKqkThqcCOCbjuCAtNzz8xCG6TdU0gjxuAyY/viewanalytics" target="_blank">Current results</a>&nbsp;</em><em>are available if you&#39;d like to remain a bystander!</em><em>&nbsp;</em></p><p>Like so many questions for the ages, this Curious City query started as a bar debate. Our questioner Devon Neff and his friend Abby Ristow wanted to know:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><em>Which is more important to Chicago (historically and today): Lake Michigan or the Chicago River?</em></p><p>Even though they&rsquo;ve argued this since last April, the issue still isn&rsquo;t settled.</p><p>&ldquo;She took the river and I took the lake, and we were very adamant about our discussion at the time,&rdquo; Devon said. &ldquo;I just see the lake as being more of an asset to Chicago.&rdquo;</p><p>His view of the lake from his apartment in downtown&rsquo;s<a href="http://www.wbez.org/tags/aqua-tower" target="_blank"> Aqua Tower</a> might be a factor in his opinion. Abby acknowledged the river&rsquo;s got a bit of a checkered past (<a href="http://www.chicagojournal.com/News/09-16-2009/There_are_still_bubbles" target="_blank">bubbly creek</a>, anyone?), but she said that isn&rsquo;t the whole story.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;ve used it so much that we&rsquo;ve almost gotten it to the point of ruin. But I think it&rsquo;s changing,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;For me it&rsquo;s changing, but I&rsquo;m always a cheerleader for the underdog.&rdquo;</p><p>Whenever possible, we at Curious City like to settle things, but it&rsquo;s hard to be definitive in this case. Our editor, Shawn Allee, has been pulling his hair out over how broad this question is. And Devon and Abby&rsquo;s seemingly ironclad positions changed throughout our initial interview.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;m actually torn,&rdquo; Devon admitted as we wrapped up the discussion. &ldquo;The more and more I think about it, I&rsquo;m really not sure if I&rsquo;m for one or the other.&rdquo;</p><p>Abby chimed in with a similar equivocation: &ldquo;I think specific to Chicago the river has more of an impact. But the region? The lake.&rdquo;</p><p>Almost <a href="#Audio">everyone we talked to</a> &mdash; shipping people, environmentalists, kayakers, even Mayor Rahm Emanuel &mdash; was hard pressed to pick one over the other. Even those that were for the lake or the river usually added the caveat that we&rsquo;d be remiss to discount the other entirely.</p><p>&ldquo;It was the confluence between the river and the lake, and the connection we could make to the Mississippi River that was what was important,&rdquo; said Margaret Frisbie, executive director of Friends of the Chicago River.</p><p>So we&rsquo;re acknowledging right up front that the lake and the river work together, inextricably. Still, we need an answer.</p><p>So, what to do? Well, we&rsquo;re going to let you settle this one &mdash; with some help. We&rsquo;ve gathered facts on the waterways&rsquo; relative importance to our city and region below, as well as words of wisdom from a few people who work with <a href="http://www.wbez.org/tags/lake-michigan" target="_blank">Lake Michigan</a> and the <a href="http://www.wbez.org/tags/chicago-river" target="_blank">Chicago River</a>.</p><p>Here&rsquo;s how you can help:</p><ul><li><p>Read and listen to the evidence: <a href="#Water">Water</a>,&nbsp;<a href="#Shipping">Shipping</a>,&nbsp;<a href="#Pop">Pop culture and symbolism</a>,&nbsp;<a href="#Recreation">Recreation</a>,&nbsp;<a href="#Natural">Natural resources investment</a>,&nbsp;<a href="#Infrastructure">Infrastructure investment</a>. (For folks who love audio homework, we have <a href="#Audio">interviews with Mayor Rahm Emanuel and others</a>)&nbsp;</p></li><li><p>Participate in <a href="#Poll">our poll</a>!</p></li><li><p>Call our hotline: 1-888-789-7752. (Leave concise comments, please. Who wins: The lake? The river? Why?)</p></li><li><p>Leave a comment at the bottom of this page.</p></li></ul><p><a name="Water"><strong>Water &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</strong></a></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/LAKE%20FINAL.png" style="float: left; margin: 5px; width: 50px; height: 50px;" title="" />Before we dive in too deep, the lake has one very big thing going for it; namely, it&rsquo;s the region&rsquo;s principal source of drinking water. More than 26 million people drink from the Great Lakes, including residents in Chicago and many of its suburbs.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/river%202.png" style="float: left; margin: 5px; height: 50px; width: 50px;" title="" />But the river has also served an important purpose: In addition to connecting Lake Michigan to inland waterways, it&rsquo;s long served <a href="http://99percentinvisible.org/episode/episode-86-reversal-of-fortune/" target="_blank">as an engineered extension of the city&#39;s sewer system</a>. Its<a href="http://www.wbez.org/frontandcenter/2011-07-12/un-reversing-chicago-river-88976" target="_blank"> famous reversal in the 19th century</a> enabled the continued growth of a metropolis on the make that might otherwise have choked on its own waste. (<a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/jeanne-gang-and-henry-henderson-conversation-steve-edwards-94213" target="_blank">There&#39;s talk now of re-reversing the river</a>, which some say could spur another revitalization.)</p><p>So both serve a vital function to the city&rsquo;s daily life.</p><p><a name="Shipping"><strong>Shipping</strong></a></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/river 2.png" style="margin: 5px; float: left; height: 50px; width: 50px;" title="" />&ldquo;I would answer that from a broad and multi-state/national perspective, there is no doubt that the Lake itself is far more significant,&rdquo; said Stuart Theis, executive director of The United States Great Lakes Shipping Association. &ldquo;That said, certainly [the Chicago River] has much to do with commercial activity which takes place in Lake Michigan and in particular, Chicago.&rdquo;</p><p>The Chicago River<a href="http://www.navigationdatacenter.us/wcsc/webpub11/Part3_WWYs_tonsbycommCY2011.HTM" target="_blank"> saw more than 2 million short tons of cargo in 2011</a>, the last year for which data is available. Chicago is only the 34th most trafficked port in the country based on total cargo, but it is the second most popular in the Great Lakes (Duluth-Superior on the Minnesota-Wisconsin border is 21st in the country, with 35 million tons in 2011 compared to Chicago&rsquo;s 20 million). A lot of the bulk freight traffic at Chicago&rsquo;s port actually moves between the city and inland ports, staying out of the Great Lakes entirely. In 2011 Chicago handled about five times as much domestic freight as foreign.</p><p>But with highways, railroads and two major airports nearby, the port of Chicago could support more waterborne movement of cargo. In July Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Governor Pat Quinn<a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/mayor/press_room/press_releases/2013/july_2013/mayor_emanuel_governorquinnannouncenewportauthoritymanagmentplan.html" target="_blank"> announced plans</a> to spend $500 million updating the Port District over the next 10 years.</p><p>The connection between the river and the lake is still critical for shipping. Hear more from Delbert &quot;Del&quot; Wilkins, president of Illinois Marine Towing, Inc. in Lemont, Ill:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe frameborder="0" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/123118317&amp;color=ff6600&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="350"></iframe></p><p><a name="Pop"><strong>Pop culture and symbolism</strong></a></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/river%202.png" style="margin: 5px; float: left; height: 50px; width: 50px;" title="" />The river is on <a href="http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/d/d2/Chicago-muni-flag.png" target="_blank">Chicago&rsquo;s flag</a>, in the form of two horizontal blue stripes. It&rsquo;s also the inspiration for<a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/chicagos-municipal-device-citys-symbol-lurking-plain-sight-107637" target="_blank"> the Y-shaped &ldquo;municipal device&rdquo; found throughout the city</a>, including on the Chicago Theater marquee and inside the Cultural Center.</p><p>Hollywood also loves the river. Of course, the Blues Brothers <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QTOg4aYGtdY" target="_blank">jumped the Chicago River</a>. And in <em>The Hunter (1980)</em>, actor Steve McQueen&rsquo;s last flick,a driver<a href="http://www.marinacityonline.com/history/you_parked.htm" target="_blank"> famously flung a green Grand Prix Pontiac off the 17th floor of Marina City</a>, plunging it into the water.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/JFEELqtNzGE" width="420"></iframe></p><p>Director Andrew Davis featured the river in <em>The Fugitive</em> as well as other films. He waxed poetic about this for the documentary <em><a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0252319/" target="_blank">Chicago Filmmakers on the Chicago River</a></em>. &ldquo;Almost every movie I&rsquo;ve done has shown some part of this river just because it is a vein of life in the city,&rdquo; Davis told documentarian D.P. Carlson. &ldquo;I think that showing the bridges, and the roads, the major roadways and the river is part of the blood of the city. It makes the city tick.&rdquo;</p><p>That visual fascination doesn&rsquo;t end with the pros. The tag &ldquo;Chicago River&rdquo; on the photo sharing site Flickr<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/tags/chicagoriver/" target="_blank"> returns nearly 34,000 results</a>. &nbsp;&ldquo;Lake Michigan&rdquo; turned up more than 256,000, but that isn&rsquo;t specific to Chicago. &ldquo;Chicago Lakefront&rdquo; produced 2,269 uploads. But maybe people are using different tags (and just &ldquo;lakefront&rdquo; is too generic).</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/LAKE%20FINAL.png" style="margin: 5px; float: left; height: 50px; width: 50px;" title="" />Skyline shots often include the lake &mdash; say, from the popular photo spot in front of the Adler Planetarium &mdash; and Navy Pier, the state&rsquo;s biggest tourist attraction, is obviously lake-centric. The river does host the very popular architecture boat tours, though.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><a name="Recreation"><strong>Recreation</strong></a></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/LAKE%20FINAL.png" style="margin: 5px; float: left; height: 50px; width: 50px;" title="" />Biking and jogging<a href="http://www.choosechicago.com/articles/view/The-Lakefront-Trail/454/" target="_blank"> along the 18-mile lakefront trail</a> is one of the more popular activities for tourists and locals alike, at least when the weather&rsquo;s nice. Beaches along Chicago&rsquo;s<a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/question-answered-how-has-chicago%E2%80%99s-coastline-changed-over-decades-104328" target="_blank"> &quot;forever open, clear and free&quot; shoreline</a> are packed during the warm months, a unique condition Joel Brammeier, president of Alliance for the Great Lakes, pointed out while singing the lakefront&rsquo;s praise.</p><p>Brammeier said the open lakefront is &ldquo;the envy of communities around the world.&rdquo; But it only got that way because of a series of careful decisions:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe frameborder="0" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/123118170&amp;color=ff6600&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="350"></iframe>.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/river%202.png" style="margin: 5px; float: left; height: 50px; width: 50px;" title="" />A lot of people still cringe at the thought of Chicago River water, but its quality has improved dramatically in recent decades. Since the Clean Water Act of 1972,<a href="http://www.ecomythsalliance.org/2009/08/the-chicago-river-is-too-dirty-to-be-useable/" target="_blank"> the number of fish species in the river has gone from 10 to 70</a>.</p><p>The <a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/feds-okay-chicago-river-cleanup-93801" target="_blank">Environmental Protection Agency approved Illinois&#39; new water quality standards</a> for the river recently, requiring the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District to start disinfecting the waste it pumps into the sanitary canal.<a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/alison-cuddy/2012-03-21/can-cultural-resources-help-spur-different-future-chicago-river-97515" target="_blank"> The river should even be clean enough to swim in by 2016</a>!</p><p>Our question asker Abby Ristow has kayaked a few times, but I asked Ryan Chew, who founded Chicago River Canoe &amp; Kayak in 2001, how recreation along the river has changed since then. He said it&rsquo;s up dramatically, and he thinks that&rsquo;s because the river provides an unexpected connection to nature in the middle of the city:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe frameborder="0" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/123118169&amp;color=ff6600&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="350"></iframe></p><p>Margaret Frisbie from Friends of the Chicago River made a similar point about seeing the city from the lake and from the river. She admitted the view from the lake captures Chicago&rsquo;s grandeur. But she says the river provides something different and, perhaps, more valuable:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe frameborder="0" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/123118321&amp;color=ff6600&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="350"></iframe></p><p><a name="Natural"><strong>Natural resources investments</strong></a></p><p>Recently, several groups have called attention to the economic benefits of investing in both natural resources.</p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-05/report-drop-money-river-watch-it-float-back-107107" target="_blank">A report commissioned by Friends of the Chicago River and Openlands said each dollar invested in the river provides a 70 percent return</a>.</p><p>Likewise <a href="http://www.brookings.edu/research/reports/2007/09/04gleiecosystem-austin" target="_blank">a Brookings Institution analysis</a> said fully implementing the Great Lakes restoration strategy, which includes cleaning up pollution and preserving fisheries, would generate tens of billions of dollars in economic activity.</p><p>Even though he picked the lake, Henry Henderson of the Natural Resources Defense Council points out its value to the city is only guaranteed through constant and long-term investment &mdash; the kind he hopes the city will make in the river, too:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe frameborder="0" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/123134710&amp;color=ff6600&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="350"></iframe></p><p><a name="Infrastructure"><strong>Infrastructure investments</strong></a></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/LAKE%20FINAL.png" style="margin: 5px; float: left; height: 50px; width: 50px;" title="" />Plenty has happened along the lakefront. The 31st Street Harbor<a href="http://www.wbez.org/chicago-unveils-new-south-side-boat-harbor-99912" target="_blank"> opened in 2012</a>, and<a href="http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2013-07-30/morning-shift-revamping-lake-shore-drive-108220" target="_blank"> plans to revamp Lake Shore Drive</a> could include more park space, as well as additional routes for bicyclists. Some 600 lakefront acres formerly home to U.S. Steel&rsquo;s South Works plant could become a futuristic community that developers<a href="http://www.wbez.org/tags/lakeside-development" target="_blank"> U.S. Steel and McCaffery Interests have dubbed Lakeside</a>.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/river%202.png" style="margin: 5px; float: left; height: 50px; width: 50px;" title="" />But there&rsquo;s obviously a lot going on with the river these days, too, and even Mayor Rahm Emanuel said the river&rsquo;s catching up. He has<a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/mayor/press_room/press_releases/2012/october_2012/mayor_emanuel_announcesplanstocompletechicagoriverwalk.html" target="_blank"> called the river</a> &ldquo;our second shoreline,&rdquo; and plans to continue an ongoing shift from industrial land use to recreation along the river:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe frameborder="0" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/123118170&amp;color=ff6600&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="350"></iframe></p><p>The mayor&rsquo;s much-touted plan to extend the riverwalk downtown is the clear centerpiece: between State and Lake Streets, six themed areas like<a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/content/dam/city/depts/cdot/bridge/general/TheMarina.pdf" target="_blank"> The Marina</a> and<a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/content/dam/city/depts/cdot/bridge/general/TheRiverTheater.pdf" target="_blank"> The River Theater</a> are meant to attract businesses and pedestrians and give the riverfront a sense of place all its own. Construction on that could<a href="http://blog.archpaper.com/wordpress/archives/72708" target="_blank"> start soon</a>.</p><p>Three private developments where the main branch splits &mdash; Wolf Point, River Point, and 150 N. Riverside &mdash; all include landscaped parks at their bases, celebrating to varying extents their place along the Chicago River.<a name="Poll"></a></p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe frameborder="0" height="450" marginheight="0" marginwidth="0" scrolling="no" src="https://docs.google.com/a/chicagopublicradio.org/forms/d/1UXSprLzQKqkThqcCOCbjuCAtNzz8xCG6TdU0gjxuAyY/viewform?embedded=true" width="620">Loading...</iframe>;</p><hr /><br /><h2><a href="https://docs.google.com/a/chicagopublicradio.org/forms/d/1UXSprLzQKqkThqcCOCbjuCAtNzz8xCG6TdU0gjxuAyY/viewanalytics" target="_blank">Selected poll results</a></h2><p>&nbsp;</p><p><script type="text/javascript" src="//ajax.googleapis.com/ajax/static/modules/gviz/1.0/chart.js"> {"dataSourceUrl":"//docs.google.com/a/chicagopublicradio.org/spreadsheet/tq?key=0Ai7E2pZ6aCZtdEJQX25aMFUtdWpPcjE3OU1rUXJXNWc&transpose=0&headers=0&range=B1%3AC101&gid=0&pub=1","options":{"vAxes":[{"title":"Left vertical axis title","useFormatFromData":true,"minValue":null,"viewWindow":{"min":null,"max":null},"maxValue":null},{"useFormatFromData":true,"minValue":null,"viewWindow":{"min":null,"max":null},"maxValue":null}],"titleTextStyle":{"fontSize":16},"title":"Chart title","booleanRole":"certainty","height":320,"animation":{"duration":500},"page":"enable","width":620,"pageSize":5,"annotations":{"domain":{"style":"line"}},"hAxis":{"title":"Horizontal axis title","useFormatFromData":true,"minValue":null,"viewWindow":{"min":null,"max":null},"maxValue":null}},"state":{},"view":{"columns":[0,{"label":"","properties":{"role":"annotation"},"sourceColumn":1}]},"isDefaultVisualization":false,"chartType":"Table","chartName":"Chart 1"} </script></p><hr /><p>&nbsp;</p><p><a name="Audio"></a><iframe frameborder="no" height="450" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/playlists/16414907&amp;color=ff6600&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=true" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><br /><em>Chris Bentley is a reporter for Curious City. Follow him at<a href="http://twitter.com/cementley"> @cementley</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 05 Dec 2013 17:26:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/have-your-say-lake-michigan-vs-chicago-river-109317 Feds update plan to protect Great Lakes from carp http://www.wbez.org/news/feds-update-plan-protect-great-lakes-carp-108163 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP181239591861.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. &mdash; A federal plan for keeping hungry Asian carp from reaching the valuable fish populations of the Great Lakes calls for reinforcing electrical and other barriers currently in place and for field-testing other methods, including the use of water guns and hormonal fish love potions.</p><p>The Obama administration made improving its network of barriers a primary focus of an updated blueprint for keeping bighead and silver carp from reaching the five inland seas, even as they continue infesting the Mississippi River and many of its tributaries. The Associated Press obtained an outline of the government&#39;s $50 million plan ahead of its official release later Wednesday.</p><p>&quot;This strategy continues our aggressive effort to bolster our tools to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes while we work toward a long-term solution,&quot; said John Goss of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, who oversees the anti-carp initiative. &quot;The 2013 framework will strengthen our defenses against Asian carp and move innovative carp control projects from research to field trials to implementation.&quot;</p><p>The much-maligned carp were imported decades ago to clear algae from fish farms and sewage lagoons in the Deep South. They escaped during floods and have migrated northward, gobbling huge amounts of plankton &mdash; tiny plants and animals that virtually all fish eat at some point. Scientists differ about how widely they would spread in the Great Lakes, but under worst-case scenarios they would occupy large areas and severely disrupt the $7 billion fishing industry.</p><p>With this year&#39;s spending, the administration will have devoted $200 million over four years to keep the Great Lakes carp-free. But many state officials and advocacy groups contend that the only sure way to prevent invasive species from migrating between the lakes and the Mississippi system is to build dams or other structures near Chicago, where a man-made canal links the two giant watersheds by forming a pathway between Lake Michigan and the Illinois River.</p><p>Under pressure from Congress, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has promised to release by year&#39;s end a short list of options for slamming the door, although such a project could require many years and billions of dollars.</p><p>In the meantime, federal officials say an electric fish barrier in the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal 37 miles southwest of the city is keeping the carp at bay. Critics note that dozens of water samples taken beyond the barrier have tested positive for Asian carp DNA, although just one live carp has been found there.</p><p>The barrier consists of three metal bars at the bottom of the canal that emit electric pulses to repel fish or jolt those that refuse to turn back.</p><p>Under the administration&#39;s plan, a new section would be added this year to replace a demonstration model installed a decade ago. Two segments at a time will operate, with the third on standby.</p><p>To supplement the stationary barrier, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources will oversee design and construction of a mobile electric device that can be dragged behind a boat like a curtain. It could be used in Chicago rivers and canals or elsewhere to herd fish away from places where they don&#39;t belong.</p><p>The plan also calls for rebuilding a ditch berm to support a chain-link fence in a marshy area near Fort Wayne, Ind., that has been identified as a potential link between the carp-infested Wabash River and the Maumee River, which flows into Lake Erie. Studies suggest that Erie could be particularly vulnerable to a carp invasion because its shallow, warm waters are hospitable to fish.</p><p>Other barriers are planned for the Ohio Erie Canal and Little Killbuck Creek in Medina County, Ohio, which have been identified as potential crossover points for invaders.</p><p>Additionally, federal agencies will continue developing and testing other methods of catching, killing and controlling the unwanted fish. Methods on the drawing board range from toxins that target Asian carp to water guns and specially designed nets. Scientists also are developing ways to use pheromones &mdash; chemicals secreted by fish to attract mates &mdash; to lure Asian carp to where they could be netted or killed.</p><p>Teams also will expand water sampling areas in southern Lake Michigan, western Lake Erie and other likely invasion spots. Other experts are scheduled to complete a study of whether positive DNA hits mean live Asian carp were actually present.</p><p>&quot;Much progress has been made in the development and refinement of Asian carp detection and control tools and in the understanding of the food and habitat required for Asian carp reproduction and survival,&quot; said Leon Carl, Midwest Region Director of the U.S. Geological Survey. The goal now is to &quot;get these new technologies and information into the hands of managers and other decision makers,&quot; he said.</p></p> Wed, 24 Jul 2013 08:37:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/feds-update-plan-protect-great-lakes-carp-108163 Deep cuts proposed to funding for Great Lakes http://www.wbez.org/news/deep-cuts-proposed-funding-great-lakes-108157 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Great Lakes.jpg" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr">A U.S. house subcommittee proposed a bill that would reduce the <a href="http://greatlakesrestoration.us/">Great Lakes Restoration Initiative</a> budget from $285 million dollars to just $60 million, a nearly 80% cut.</p><p>&ldquo;When we first saw these numbers I could surmise that somebody miscounted and thought there was just one Great Lake,&rdquo; said Todd Ambs, the campaign director for the <a href="http://healthylakes.org/about/">Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition.</a></p><p>Since 2009, the initiative has tackled some of the Great Lakes&rsquo; biggest ecological problems, including <a href="http://greatlakesrestoration.us/projects/index.html">invasive species, runoff, and contamination.</a> Many proponents say the initiative will become even more important with climate change, which will have a drastic impact on the lakes.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;ve got these toxic hot spots that need to be cleaned up. And if we don&rsquo;t do it now it&rsquo;s just going to cost more in the future&rdquo; said Ambs.</p><p>The Great Lakes funding was not alone in the potentially drastic <a href="http://appropriations.house.gov/uploadedfiles/bills-113hr-sc-ap-fy2014-interior-subcommitteedraft.pdf">cutbacks.</a> The bill proposed cutting the Environmental Protection Agency&#39;s budget by over 30% and the National Endowment for the Arts&rsquo; budget by nearly 50%.</p><p>Sub-committee representatives said the bill made the hard choice of cutting &ldquo;<a href="http://appropriations.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=343384">nice to have&rdquo; programs, in order to save &ldquo;need to have&rdquo; programs.</a> But Joel Brammeier, president of the <a href="http://www.greatlakes.org/">Alliance for the Great Lakes</a>, said that even in this tough budget year, programs like the Great Lakes Initiative are singled out for disproportionate cuts. &nbsp;&quot;Cuts of this magnitude would bring Great Lakes programs to a halt,&quot; he said.</p><p dir="ltr">The bill is unlikely to be discussed by the full house until this fall, at which point it could be drastically revised during continuous budget negotiations in both the House and Senate. &nbsp;</p><p><em>Shannon Heffernan reports for WBEZ. You can follow her<a href="https://twitter.com/shannon_h"> @shannon_h</a></em></p></p> Tue, 23 Jul 2013 16:37:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/deep-cuts-proposed-funding-great-lakes-108157 Gov. Pat Quinn open to Great Lakes, Mississippi basin separation http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-06/gov-pat-quinn-open-great-lakes-mississippi-basin-separation-107523 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Conceptual-rendering-of-a-physical-barrier-%28HDR%2C-Inc.%29.jpg" title="A conceptual rendering of a physical barrier and cargo transport station. Though initially costly, such a system would prevent economic turmoil from invasive species and create other benefits, proponents say. (HDR, Inc.)" /></div><p>In <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-04/asian-carp-might-have-entered-lakes-so-what-106613" target="_blank">the perennial battle to keep Asian carp and other riverborne invaders out of the Great Lakes</a>, one intervention is <a href="http://www.wbez.org/frontandcenter/2011-07-12/un-reversing-chicago-river-88976" target="_blank">often proposed as the only long-term solution</a>: separate the Mississippi River and Great Lakes watersheds.</p><p>Or, put another way: <a href="http://www.glc.org/caws/reportimages/CAWS-historicflowca1900-800pxw.jpg" target="_blank">restore the divide</a> that existed until <a href="http://www.wbez.org/frontandcenter/2011-07-12/postcard-historical-glimpse-reversal-chicago-river-89000" target="_blank">engineers reversed the flow of the Chicago River during the 19th century</a>, a feat that earned Chicago its can-do reputation and paved the way for the city&rsquo;s explosive growth.</p><p>Gov. Pat Quinn <a href="http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/U/US_GREAT_LAKES_GOVERNORS?SITE=AP&amp;SECTION=HOME&amp;TEMPLATE=DEFAULT" target="_blank">took the appreciable and unexpected step of endorsing, to some extent, the &quot;ultimate solution&quot;</a> of basin separation during a conference of the Council of Great Lakes Governors last week. It&rsquo;s a controversial position, as creating a system of physical barriers in the Chicago Area Waterway System would cost billions of dollars.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/CAWS-allbarriers-750pxw.jpg" style="height: 490px; width: 610px;" title="Possible points of intervention. The study group that produced this map determined the Mid-System alternative provides the best bang for the buck — $4.27 billion bucks, to be exact. (Great Lakes Commission)" /></div><p>Critics say physical separation would cost communities along the industrial corridor that surrounds the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal. Blocking shipping lanes, for example, would disrupt barge traffic. Although it is a fraction of what it once was, shipping on the canal would need to change significantly, perhaps transferring cargo to freight trains.</p><p>And some worry even a physical barrier would do little to interrupt the most important vector of invasive species: human transport. <a href="http://www.annualreviews.org/eprint/RVivFUwWAidsIA7P6zAV/full/10.1146/annurev-marine-120710-100952" target="_blank">A recent survey of Great Lakes invaders since 1936</a> found only two species, the alewife and sea lamprey, made their way into the Great Lakes by swimming. The vast majority were &ldquo;unintentionally transported or released.&rdquo;</p><p>But others argue separation will generate significant benefits beyond stopping the spread of Asian carp. Waste from Chicago winds its way down the Mississippi, ending up in the Gulf of Mexico. Barrier locations could also house water treatment equipment, and returning some of that flow to Lake Michigan might even slightly <a href="http://nextcity.org/daily/entry/a-dutch-approach-to-flood-and-drought-management-takes-root-in-st.-louis?fb_action_ids=10101031603390335&amp;fb_action_types=og.likes&amp;fb_source=aggregation&amp;fb_aggregation_id=288381481237582" target="_blank">ease flooding downstream</a>.</p><p><em><a href="http://www.studiogang.net/publication/2011/reverse_effect" target="_blank">Reverse Effect</a></em>, a project by Chicago architects Studio Gang, the Natural Resources Defense Council and Harvard University&rsquo;s Graduate School of Design, investigated how a barrier in the Chicago River&rsquo;s south branch could &ldquo;connect and recharge surrounding neighborhoods&rdquo; both culturally and economically.</p><p>Quinn and several governors <a href="http://greatlakesecho.org/2013/06/03/can-snyder-and-quinn-revive-dormant-great-lakes-governors/?utm_source=feedburner&amp;utm_medium=email&amp;utm_campaign=Feed%3A+greatlakesecho%2Fall+%28Great+Lakes+Echo+%28All%29%29" target="_blank">met in Mackinac Island, Mich. to discuss a range of Great Lakes economic and environmental issues</a> &mdash; the first time so many Great Lakes governors convened around the topic in eight years. Indiana Gov. Mike Pence maintained his state&rsquo;s opposition to separating the basins, citing economic concerns.</p><p>With Asian carp <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-04/asian-carp-might-have-entered-lakes-so-what-106613" target="_blank">on Lake Michigan&#39;s doorstep already</a>, many ecologists say now is the time to act. Next year the Army Corps of Engineers will make a recommendation on Asian carp, and separating the Great Lakes from the Mississippi will be among the options. Quinn&rsquo;s unexpected remarks Saturday encouraged those in favor of separation, but belied a divided group of Great Lakes governors.</p><p><em>Chris Bentley writes about the environment. Follow him on Twitter at <a href="http://www.twitter.com/Cementley" target="_blank">@Cementley</a>.</em></p></p> Tue, 04 Jun 2013 12:09:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-06/gov-pat-quinn-open-great-lakes-mississippi-basin-separation-107523 Heavy rain overwhelms combined sewer system http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-04/heavy-rain-overwhelms-combined-sewer-system-106731 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="https://www.mwrd.org/irj/portal/anonymous?NavigationTarget=navurl://eec9b2f677d42e0dea742ba5e2b45713" target="_blank"><img alt="" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/cso%20april%2018.png" style="height: 700px; width: 610px;" title="The red shows unconfirmed combined sewer overflows on April 18. (Metropolitan Wastewater Reclamation District of Greater Chicago)" /></a></div><p>Inundated by nearly 5 inches of rain in less than 36 hours, Chicago water officials have <a href="../../news/rain-causes-flooding-delays-and-sinkhole-106711">had to &quot;re-reverse&quot; the flow of the Chicago River</a>, opening the large gates that separate Lake Michigan from the river to relieve pressure on a sewer system swollen with runoff and waste.</p><p>As <em>Chicago Magazine</em>&rsquo;s Whet Moser reported, <a href="http://www.chicagomag.com/Chicago-Magazine/The-312/April-2013/Chicagos-Torrential-Rains-Fill-Deep-Tunnel-Burst-Water-Mains/">the deluge has easily outpaced recent upgrades to the city&#39;s water and sewage infrastructure</a>. Michael Hawthorne of the <em>Chicago Tribune </em><a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2011-12-15/news/ct-met-chicago-river-sewage-overflows-20111215_1_deep-tunnel-flood-and-pollution-control-project-green-infrastructure-projects">reported in 2011 that Lake Michigan had been hit with more sewage in recent years than the previous two decades combined</a>.</p><p>The Metropolitan Wastewater Reclamation District said Thursday that its 109-mile network of tunnels and reservoirs was 100 percent full. The Mainstream Tunnel was full by 12:31 a.m., while the Des Plaines Tunnel filled up at 3:30 a.m. Built to contain 2.3 billion gallons, the system hit capacity and poured enough stormwater and sewage into Chicago-area waterways to help raise their levels higher than Lake Michigan. Following protocol, MWRD tried to relieve some of that pressure by dumping the tainted water into the lake.</p><p>Contaminants can spread <a href="http://www.greatlakesmapping.org/great_lake_stressors/7/combined-sewer-overflows">kilometers away from shore</a>. MWRD has asked residents to minimize their water use to help ease the strain on the heavily burdened system. Not that it&#39;s a great day for a swim, anyway, but you might not want to hit the beach, either.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="http://www.greatlakesmapping.org/great_lake_stressors/7/combined-sewer-overflows" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/CSOs%20great%20lakes%20map%20GLEAM.jpg" style="height: 471px; width: 610px;" title="Combined sewer overflows across the Great Lakes. (Great Lakes Environmental Assessment and Mapping Project)" /></a></div><p>Chicago&rsquo;s sewer problems may be stark, but they are not unique. <a href="http://cfpub.epa.gov/npdes/cso/cpolicy_report2004.cfm">A 2004 EPA report to Congress</a> found Chicago&rsquo;s overflows plagued mainly by bacteria, while the city of Toledo, Ohio suffered pollution from copper, lead, silver and zinc. Water samples taken near Toledo&#39;s sewer outfalls showed effects of chronic toxicity. A 2010 <a href="http://www.nwf.org/News-and-Magazines/Media-Center/Reports/Archive/2010/Turning-The-Tide-Great-Lakes-Sewage.aspx">study by the National Wildlife Federation</a> found cities around the Great Lakes discharged 41 billion gallons of untreated sewage and stormwater into the lakes in 2009, with Chicago and Detroit leading the way.</p><p>There has been some progress. Detroit has decreased sewer overflows by 80 percent below 1995 levels by adding capacity, but had to back off its own deep tunnel project in 2009 <a href="http://www.tunneltalk.com/Detroit-outfall-Apr09-Detroit-outfall-contract-terminated.php">due to lack of funding</a>.</p><p>Chicago&rsquo;s waterways have cleared up, too, but face a murky future. The total number of fish species found in the Chicago and Calumet river system <a href="http://www.epa.gov/npdes/pubs/csossoRTC2004_chapter05.pdf">increased six-fold between 1974, around the time that MWRD upgraded their facilities, and 2001</a>. But the Deep Tunnel project originally meant to help the system avoid overflows <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2011-04-21/news/ct-met-deep-tunnel-climate-change-20110420_1_climate-change-sewers-deep-tunnel-project">won&rsquo;t be complete until 2029, and may still be inadequate</a> in the face of <a href="www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-03/climate-change-could-worsen-chicago-floods-106174">floods pumped up by climate change</a>.</p></p> Thu, 18 Apr 2013 16:17:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-04/heavy-rain-overwhelms-combined-sewer-system-106731 Asian carp might have entered lakes, but so what? http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-04/asian-carp-might-have-entered-lakes-so-what-106613 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/43254442@N05/4797302102/" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/silver%20carp%20by%20michigan%20sea%20grant.jpg" style="height: 458px; width: 610px;" title="Silver carp, one of the several species collectively referred to as Asian carp. (Michigan Sea Grant/Dan O'Keefe)" /></a></div><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-04/new-study-finds-asian-carp-dna-chicago-waterways-106520">New evidence suggesting Asian carp may already be in the Great Lakes basin</a> has renewed fears that the invasive species could pose an existential threat to the area&rsquo;s lucrative fishing industry.</p><p>&ldquo;The fact that fish may already be in the lake does not mean it&rsquo;s game over,&rdquo; said Lindsay Chadderton, aquatic invasive species director for The Nature Conservancy. &ldquo;The real risk is that if we continue to debate and don&rsquo;t act, we may lose that opportunity.&rdquo;</p><p>But the charismatic fish, <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jb8OmEr7VqI">infamous for their tendency to leap out of the water</a> (though they&#39;re unlikely to do so in the deep waters of Lake Michigan), are no shoe-in when it comes to colonizing the Great Lakes.</p><p>&ldquo;In my view, the Mississippi River basin is the least of Lake Michigan&#39;s worries, because the habitat is so warm, rich and shallow that its denizens would be completely unfit in cold, dilute, deep Lake Michigan,&rdquo; said Russell Cuhel, a senior scientist with the <a href="http://www4.uwm.edu/freshwater/">Great Lakes WATER Institute</a>. To reproduce, carp need access to rivers where there is an amply flowing water column to help disperse their eggs. That isn&rsquo;t common in most of the Great Lakes, but some places, including Lake Erie and the Detroit River, could provide the right conditions.</p><p>The sea lamprey, another invasive species that decimated the Lake Trout population, shares an Achilles heel with Asian carp. Like the carp, lamprey head upstream to breed. To control their spread, the Great Lakes Fishery Commission applies specialized poisons that kill young lampreys in streambeds before they reach open water and mature. It&rsquo;s possible that if carp do establish themselves in the Great Lakes, a similar strategy could control their population. But it&rsquo;s no sure bet.</p><p>&ldquo;Invasive species never do what we expect them to do,&rdquo; Chadderton said. &ldquo;They&rsquo;re opportunistic. That&rsquo;s why they&rsquo;re good invaders.&rdquo;</p><p>At any rate the jury is still out on whether carp could flourish in the unfamiliar Great Lakes ecosystem. Unlike carp, the wildly successful quagga and zebra mussels, which first <a href="http://www.wbez.org/frontandcenter/2011-07-11/battle-over-ballast-waters-88934">arrived as stowaways in ship ballast tanks</a>, breed where they live and are capable of producing 1 million eggs per year. In many areas of the Great Lakes they now blanket the lake floor, and have become by far the most dominant species by biomass in Lake Michigan.</p><p>Those mussels have devoured much of the available phytoplankton &mdash; the same food source carp depend on &mdash; posing another challenge for the new invader. Research suggests that carp might be able to survive on other food sources, however, including mussel feces. And even minor competition from the voracious carp, which can eat up to one fifth of their body weight in plankton each day, could place further pressure on young walleye and other sport fish that also eat plankton in their larval stage.</p><p>While the lamprey and the equally disruptive alewife entered the Lakes on their own volition, they are the exception to the rule. <a href="http://www.annualreviews.org/eprint/RVivFUwWAidsIA7P6zAV/full/10.1146/annurev-marine-120710-100952">Recent research published by Cuhel and Carmen Aguilar in the <em>Annual Review of Marine Science</em></a> found few of the <a href="http://www.annualreviews.org/doi/suppl/10.1146/annurev-marine-120710-100952/suppl_file/ma.05.cuhel.supmat.pdf">many invaders since 1936</a> established themselves by swimming into the Lakes. Most were unintentionally transported or released.</p><p>&ldquo;It only takes one idiot to infect a location with an exotic [species],&rdquo; Cuhel said. &ldquo;One fisherman with a bait bucket can be worse than river flow.&rdquo;</p><p>Cuhel won&rsquo;t weigh in on policy or engineering proposals to physically separate the Great Lakes and Mississippi basins, or treat locks with chemicals that could clear out carp and other invasive species before they enter Lake Michigan. But others have called <a href="http://www.wbez.org/content/electric-barrier-last-line-against-invasive-species">expensive efforts to keep out invaders</a> a foolhardy investment.</p><p>There are dozens of species in the Great Lakes basin that don&rsquo;t currently exist in the Mississippi, and nearly a dozen more vice versa. Aquatic invasive species protections could defend those populations from cross-contamination. What&rsquo;s more, environmental agencies already spend hundreds of millions of dollars each year managing algal blooms, sea lamprey and mussels. That makes an economic argument for prevention measures, Chadderton said, even if the carp don&rsquo;t turn out to be good colonizers of most Great Lakes waters.</p><p>&ldquo;The trouble with any invasion is that there will always be evidence on both sides. So do you let the experiment run?&rdquo; Chadderton said. &ldquo;The most prudent management option is to prevent establishment.&rdquo;</p></p> Thu, 11 Apr 2013 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-04/asian-carp-might-have-entered-lakes-so-what-106613 New study finds Asian carp DNA in Chicago waterways http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-04/new-study-finds-asian-carp-dna-chicago-waterways-106520 <p><p><a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/farmdog/6257877889/" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/asian%20carp%20by%20jeremy%20m%20farmer.jpg" style="height: 407px; width: 610px;" title="(Jeremy Farmer via Flickr)" /></a></p><p>The advance of the so-called <a href="http://www.wbez.org/tags/asian-carp">Asian carp</a> (the term can refer to many species of carp, but in Illinois it typically refers to bighead carp and silver carp) has long prompted <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/bez/2012-08/ecomyths-asian-carps-destructive-impact-ecosystem-101816">worries that the fish will wreck the Great Lakes ecosystem</a>, including its $7 billion fishery. Its impending arrival has even energized debate over whether to spend billions physically separating Chicago waterways from Lake Michigan.</p><p>The carp&rsquo;s march up the Mississippi River basin <a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/news/scientists-find-asian-carp-lake-calumet">even surmounted electric barriers</a> set up by the Army Corps of Engineers to keep them out of the Great Lakes area. A&nbsp;<a href="http://www.nrcresearchpress.com/doi/abs/10.1139/cjfas-2012-0478">new study in the <em>Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences</em></a> affirms that if the fish haven&rsquo;t reached the Great Lakes yet, they&rsquo;re very close.</p><p>In 2010 fisherman hauled a 20-pound bighead carp out of Lake Calumet, and before that carp were found in the western basin of Lake Erie &mdash; the same locations where the researchers found carp environmental DNA, or eDNA. Fish shed tiny bits of tissue as they swim, which become diffuse genetic evidence of their presence. The eDNA can&rsquo;t say how many fish are in the area, or when they were there.</p><p>Scientists had already found carp eDNA in Lake Michigan, but chalked it up to contact with contaminated fishing gear or bird feces. The new report has raised eyebrows because, as the authors put it, &ldquo;we remain convinced that the most likely source of Asian carp DNA is live fish.&rdquo;</p><p>eDNA monitoring of invasive species is a relatively new technology. It <a href="http://www.startribune.com/local/minneapolis/201454551.html?refer=y">can produce murky results</a>, as in Minnesota where it may have misidentified carp DNA in the St. Croix river.</p><p>The new study was authored by researchers at the University of Notre Dame, the Nature Conservancy and Central Michigan University, and calls for a larger surveillance program across the Great Lakes basin.</p><p>Carp are abundant below the electric barriers near Chicago, can eat up to 20 percent of their body weight per day in plankton &mdash; a food source already under considerable pressure from <a href="http://www.wbez.org/frontandcenter/2011-07-11/battle-over-ballast-waters-88934">invasive quagga and zebra mussels</a> &mdash;&nbsp;and are known for leaping out of the water when agitated. But the carp remain elusive where their eDNA has been found, despite all the scrutiny from anxious fishermen and ecologists. Still, the latest findings are likely to reignite debate about whether the current defenses are enough.</p><p>The Army Corps of Engineers is studying the issue, and will release a report later this year.</p><p><em>Chris Bentley writes about the environment. Follow him on Twitter at <a href="https://twitter.com/Cementley" target="_blank">@Cementley</a>.</em></p></p> Fri, 05 Apr 2013 16:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-04/new-study-finds-asian-carp-dna-chicago-waterways-106520 Grand Calumet River delivers toxic load to Lake Michigan http://www.wbez.org/news/grand-calumet-river-delivers-toxic-load-lake-michigan-105165 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/The-Grand-Calumet-by-Lloyd-DeGrane.jpg" style="height: 412px; width: 620px;" title="The Grand Calumet River in Northwest Indiana. (Lloyd DeGrane)" />The Grand Calumet River system winds for 13 miles through a Northwest Indiana industrial landscape that could almost be described as post-apocalyptic.</p><p>Alongside the several branches of the slow-moving waterway, a steel mill, gypsum plant and other heavy industry spew plumes of steam into the air while vines and shrubs grow inside vacant crumbling brick buildings.&nbsp; A fragment of the partially demolished Cline Avenue bridge still stands, twisted rebar and chunks of concrete hanging from each end. A rusty abandoned motorboat bobs half-sunken next to a soiled brown floating absorbent boom.</p><p>The Grand Calumet has long been known as one of the nation&rsquo;s most polluted rivers. It is one of 43 federal Areas of Concern targeted for remediation in the Great Lakes region. For many decades before the 1972 Clean Water Act, countless industries dumped contaminated waste into the river with abandon.&nbsp; Gary, East Chicago and Hammond discharge untreated sewage and storm water into it.</p><p>The Grand Calumet consists of two forks that join and empty into Lake Michigan via the Indiana Harbor and Ship Canal and Indiana Harbor, in East Chicago. Though the land right around the river mouth is not open to the public, local residents fish, swim, boat and wade at nearby beaches, harbors and weedy access points.</p><p>The Grand Calumet&rsquo;s impact on this near shore area is hard to quantify given the way contaminants disperse quickly in Lake Michigan. But experts with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Indiana Department of Environmental Management say the river surely harms near shore lake water quality and habitat as it empties one billion gallons of water into Lake Michigan each day.</p><p>That flow includes material from overflowing sewers during heavy rains, contaminated sediment pulled from the river bottom, industrial run-off and contaminated groundwater.</p><p>Daunting as this toxic brew may sound, the Grand Calumet is getting cleaned up. Hence the near shore area of Lake Michigan should reap significant environmental and ecological benefits as well.</p><p>State and federal environmental officials are about halfway through a massive project to remove contaminated sediment and restore wetlands. And the state environmental agency is working with municipalities to reduce sewage overflow during rains.</p><h2><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Calumet-Industrial-Canal-by-Lloyd-DeGrane.jpg" style="width: 350px; float: right; height: 232px;" title="The Calumet Industrial Canal. (Lloyd DeGrane)" /><strong>A legacy of contamination</strong></h2><p>The Grand Calumet was &ldquo;originally mostly a slowly meandering wetland complex,&rdquo; said Jim Smith, an Indiana state natural resource damage coordinator. But with widespread dredging, channelizing, damming and the building of the Indiana Harbor and Ship Canal which makes up the final stretch into the lake, &ldquo;the flow regime of the river has changed.&rdquo;</p><p>Today, in fact, municipal and industrial effluent makes up 90 percent of the river&rsquo;s flow.</p><p>&ldquo;There were industries from meatpacking to lumber to brickmaking and metal shops on the west branch to the big steel mills and the petroleum industry,&rdquo; Smith noted. &ldquo;Pipelines and everything came through this area. Also the municipalities developed their sewers going directly into the river. There was domestic contamination from human origin to organic stuff from the petroleum industry and steelmaking.</p><p>&ldquo;The river was the disposal point for years.&rdquo;</p><p>The river&rsquo;s sediment contains harmful metals and carcinogenic compounds including polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and heavy metals like mercury, cadmium, chromium and lead from the decades of industrial dumping. A&nbsp; 2000 study prepared for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service found serious concerns and impacts from contaminated sediment in the Grand Calumet.</p><p>The river is also contaminated by leaching and run-off from nearby waste disposal sites and contaminated groundwater, according to the Areas of Concern website.&nbsp; It is even harmed by atmospheric deposition of contaminants from fossil fuel burning and waste incineration.</p><p>There are more than 460 underground storage tanks containing chemical and petroleum waste products in the area, the website says, and at least 150 leaking tank reports have been filed with the county.</p><p>&ldquo;The contaminants we&rsquo;re talking about affect organisms and can directly or indirectly affect the food chain,&rdquo; said Scott Ireland, U.S. EPA special assistant for the senior adviser to the administrator on the Great Lakes. &ldquo;They could wipe out the benthic community, so fish are not able to eat, or fish eat (benthic organisms) and are contaminated; then the contamination will enter the food chain. If humans eat the fish, they are taking up those contaminants as well.&rdquo;</p><p><em><a href="http://greatlakesecho.org" target="_blank">Great Lakes Echo</a> is a project of the <a href="http://ej.msu.edu/index2.php" target="_blank">Knight Center for Environmental Journalism</a> at Michigan State University.</em></p></p> Sat, 26 Jan 2013 10:06:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/grand-calumet-river-delivers-toxic-load-lake-michigan-105165 The Grand Calumet River’s road to recovery http://www.wbez.org/news/grand-calumet-river%E2%80%99s-road-recovery-105164 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Swimmers-at-Calumet-Park-in-Chicago-not-far-from-where-the-Grand-Calumet-River-meets-Lake-Michigan.-Photo-by-Lloyd-DeGrane..jpg" style="width: 620px;" title="Swimmers at Chicago’s Calumet Park near where the Grand Calumet River enters Lake Michigan. (Lloyd DeGrane)" />The sediment on the bottom of the Grand Calumet River in Northwest Indiana provides a toxic record of the region&rsquo;s history going back more than a century.</p><p>It is full of chemicals, heavy metals and other contaminants from steel-making, oil refining, waste incineration, smelting and other heavy industry that laid the economic and social foundation of the area.</p><p>But federal and state officials are now in the midst of a multi-million dollar project to clean up the sediment and the river as a whole.</p><p>Since the 1972 Clean Water Act drastically reduced industrial discharges into waterways, once the legacy sediment is removed there will be relatively little industrial pollution in the future, said Scott Ireland, special assistant for the senior adviser to the administrator on the Great Lake for the&nbsp; U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.</p><p>Dredging&nbsp; started in 2009. About 750,000 cubic yards of sediment two to three feet deep have been removed along a 2.5 mile stretch of river.&nbsp; The dredged area was then covered with a reactive barrier, composed of either organoclay mixed with sand or an activated carbon mat. These specialized materials help filter and contain toxic substances from the underlying sediments.</p><p>&ldquo;Our capping and dredging will sequester or isolate contaminated sediments that have been there for almost 100 years, reducing the total amount of contaminants going into the Great Lakes,&rdquo; said Jim Smith, a coordinator of the natural resources damages department for the Indiana Department of Environmental Management. &ldquo;How much it will reduce it we really don&rsquo;t know &ndash; there will be some interesting monitoring done over the next few years.&rdquo;</p><h2><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/The-Calumet-River-enters-Lake-Michigan-by-Lloyd-DeGrane.jpg" style="width: 350px; float: right;" title="The Grand Calumet River enters Lake Michigan. (Lloyd DeGrane)" /><strong>Addressing combined sewer overflows</strong></h2><p>Overflowing sewers that pour into the river and then Lake Michigan&nbsp; contain E. coli bacteria and other germs as well as oil, grease and detritus picked up by storm water running off industrial and municipal areas. In 2011, Hammond, Gary and East Chicago released 1.2 billion gallons, 126 million gallons and 304 million gallons, respectively, of stormwater contaminated with sewage into the Grand Calumet waterway, according to Indiana officials.<br />But the state is working with those cities to curb these combined sewer overflows, including by separating the sewers that carry storm water from sanitary sewers (for human waste.)</p><p>East Chicago already is implementing an approved plan. Hammond and Gary are developing their plans &ndash; two of the last four municipalities in a statewide sewer improvement program involving 108 cities and towns and 10 separate consent decrees.</p><p>East Chicago&rsquo;s $20.8 million plan promises that only rains heavier than a relatively rare &ldquo;10-year, one-hour&rdquo; storm will cause sewer overflows into the Grand Calumet.</p><p>There are different techniques cities use to address the problem.</p><p>&ldquo;You might increase the size of wastewater treatment capacity, to accept and treat more of the flow,&rdquo; said Paul Higginbotham, branch chief over Indiana&rsquo;s office of water quality permits.&nbsp; &ldquo;You can also take out bottlenecks within the collection system &ndash; so you can get flow to the treatment plant versus overflow into the outfall&hellip;</p><p>&ldquo;Also, bigger communities can add wet weather treatment systems, like basins for the overflow where it&rsquo;s treated before it&rsquo;s discharged.&rdquo;</p><h2><strong>Restoring wetlands</strong></h2><p>State and federal officials have restored about 37 acres of wetlands that had been seriously degraded by contaminated floodwaters from the river over the years and choked with invasive phragmites. They removed the sediment in the wetlands and replaced it with clean sand. And they replaced phragmites with native vegetation.</p><p>In all, about 100 acres of wetland will be restored. It provides habitat for migratory birds and fish, improving the overall ecological health of the surrounding area. The wetlands also help prevent nutrient pollution and other contaminated runoff into Lake Michigan, as storm water&nbsp; filters through the wetlands before seeping into the lake.</p><p>The sediment clean up and wetland restoration are funded by the Great Lakes Legacy Act, a law meant to deal with contaminated sediment from years past. The Grand Calumet project so far has cost $72 million, about 65 percent of it federal money under the Legacy Act, which is part of the larger Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.</p><p>Another $75 million is needed to complete the project. Securing the full funding in the near future could be difficult given the federal budget crisis which is likely to mean moderate or even severe cuts to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.</p><p>State officials will closely monitoring the project for the next 40 years, repairing the cap on the river bottom if needed and continuing to remove invasive species and plant native species as necessary.</p><p>Under a consent decree with U.S. Steel, Higginbotham said, starting next year there will also be monitoring done on five miles of the east branch of the Grand Calumet, including a site in the middle portion of the Indiana Harbor which is at the river&rsquo;s mouth into Lake Michigan.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;ll be looking at fish populations, fish tissue contaminant concentrations, sediment contaminant concentrations, water quality, general parameters, chemical parameters, macro-benthic populations, sediment toxicity,&rdquo; said Smith.</p><p>Once the sewer, sediment removal and wetland work is done, the officials said, the river should be safer and more attractive for boaters. The beaches of Lake Michigan will become healthier for people and wildlife.</p><p>The Areas of Concern website notes that the Grand Calumet once supported &ldquo;highly diverse, globally unique fish and wildlife communities,&rdquo; and despite all the abuse &ldquo;remnants of this diversity&rdquo; still remain.</p><p>Theoretically it could be revived. Then ideally a paddling trip down the Grand Calumet into Lake Michigan will provide a view of both the area&rsquo;s proud industrial history and the way a battered ecosystem can be nursed back to health.</p><p><em><a href="http://greatlakesecho.org" target="_blank">Great Lakes Echo</a> is a project of the <a href="http://ej.msu.edu/index2.php" target="_blank">Knight Center for Environmental Journalism</a> at Michigan State University.</em></p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Sat, 26 Jan 2013 09:52:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/grand-calumet-river%E2%80%99s-road-recovery-105164 New potentially toxic algae turns up on Great Lakes beach http://www.wbez.org/news/new-potentially-toxic-algae-turns-great-lakes-beach-104540 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/LyngbaHand.jpg" style="float: right; height: 225px; width: 300px;" title="An algae that is potentially toxic has shown up on a Michigan beach at Lake St. Clair.(Vijay Kannappan)" />A new species is apparently making its way onto Great Lakes beaches, and it is potentially toxic.</div><p>Native to the southeastern United States, it is a blue-green algae, or cyanobacteria, called Lyngbya wollei.&nbsp; It was first found in the Great Lakes region in the St. Lawrence Seaway in 2005. Then it was spotted in Lake Erie in 2006.</p><p>Now it has been identified at Lake St. Clair Metropark north of Detroit, according to Wayne State University ecologist Donna Kashian.</p><p>Her research paper on the finding is under review for publication in an upcoming issue of the <a href="http://www.iaglr.org/jglr/journal.php" target="_blank">Journal of Great Lakes Research</a>.</p><p>Kashia first spotted the cyanobacteria in 2009 while documenting vegetation prior to an effort to remove an invasive shoreline weed from the park.</p><p>&ldquo;Once we got there, it became obvious there was this other stuff all over the beach,&rdquo; she said. She immediately recognized it as a type of Lyngbya. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s very distinctive. It washes up in balls, like pebbles. If you took coarse hair and rubbed it like Play-Doh between your hands into a ball and dyed it green, that&rsquo;s exactly what it looks like.&rdquo;</p><p>In 2010, she and several other researchers separately determined it was Lyngbya wollei, the same organism that has plagued waters in the southeastern United States for decades. It forms thick, nuisance blooms and releases toxins that can cause skin, oral and gastrointestinal inflammation.</p><p>Kashian suspects that the cyanobacteria entered the Great Lakes system by hitchhiking on the hulls of boats.</p><p>She has seen Lyngbya wollei at the park every year since her initialdiscovery. She noted an especially large amount in 2012, possibly due to the hot summer.</p><p>But it may have been around for some time.</p><p>For a decade or so, park staff have seen what is presumed to be the same cyanobacteria on the beach, although they never identified it, said Paul Muelle, chief of natural resources for the Huron Clinton Metroparks, which includes the Lake St. Clair park.</p><p>&ldquo;We get some (every year), but since we clean the beach on a daily basis during the use season, it really hasn&rsquo;t been a huge problem there,&rdquo; he said. Because other weeds make up the bulk of the daily beach grooming, pinpointing the cost for removal of the cyanobacteria is difficult. Nonetheless, using information from Muelle, Kashian estimated that the park&rsquo;s tab for removal of Lyngbya was about $10,000 in 2010.</p><p>&ldquo;Where we are noticing it more is in the natural areas where we don&rsquo;t do active management,&rdquo; Muelle said. He described mats of Lyngbya wollei that extend &ldquo;40-50 feet wide,&rdquo; in the area of the park near Point Rosa Marsh.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/LyngbaBeach-copy-copy.jpg" style="height: 225px; width: 300px; float: left;" title="An algae that is potentially toxic has shown up on a Michigan beach at Lake St. Clair. (Vijay Kannappan)" />&ldquo;And it&rsquo;s deep,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;We had grass growing on the top of it. It looks like solid ground and I tried to walk out there, but you could go up to your waist in gook. It was pretty excessive.&rdquo;</div><p>One concern is that Lyngbya will spread to other areas, particularly to shallow-water areas such as parts of Saginaw Bay and to inland lakes, Kashian said. The other concern is that it will produce toxins.</p><p>&ldquo;It absolutely could become toxic here, but we don&rsquo;t know enough about it,&rdquo; Kashian said. She noted that even with the blooms of Microcystis, a different type of cyanobacteria that has been heavily studied, scientists still don&rsquo;t know why only some blooms are toxic.</p><p>&ldquo;They don&rsquo;t know what triggers it to start producing toxins, and we know even less about Lyngbya than Microcystis,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>While Lyngbya wollei typically carries a toxin in the southern United States, the Lake Erie sample was not toxic. Kashian&rsquo;s funding didn&rsquo;t cover toxicity research. Instead, she investigated if the cyanobacteria at the park harbor E. coli bacteria, a bacteria that often prompts beach closings.</p><p>&ldquo;We found very high levels of bacteria in these mats,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s a problem because it&rsquo;s all over the beach, and if you have a lot of bacteria and kids play on it, they can potentially get sick. In addition, if you have large deposits on the shore and there&rsquo;s wave action, bacteria could actually be transported back into the lake and that could contribute to beach closures.&rdquo;</p><p>The mats also disrupt water flow into and out of Point Rosa Marsh, Muelle said. Marsh-restoration is under way and the removal of the Lyngbya mats is part of that effort. At the swimming beach, &ldquo;the question is how do we manage this,&rdquo; Muelle said. &ldquo;If there are problems, obviously we&rsquo;re concerned about public contact.&rdquo;</p><p>Kashian added, &ldquo;It&rsquo;s definitely an invasive, nuisance species worth watching, because it hasn&rsquo;t been documented in the Great Lakes before the first sightings in the St. Lawrence.&rdquo;</p><p><em><a href="http://greatlakesecho.org/" target="_blank">Great Lakes Echo</a> is a project of the <a href="http://ej.msu.edu/index2.php" target="_blank">Knight Center for Environmental Journalism</a> at Michigan State University. </em></p></p> Sun, 23 Dec 2012 15:42:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/new-potentially-toxic-algae-turns-great-lakes-beach-104540