Great Lakes Today

New Art Show Chronicles Lake Erie's Icy Winter

Feb 6, 2018
photo of Waiting for a Break

At this time of year, we tend to turn away from the Great Lakes, counting down the days until we can swim, fish, or go boating. But a new show at a Cleveland art gallery looks at Lake Erie from a perspective we rarely see – the icy one.

During the summer, Lake Erie’s western basin is full of boaters and tourists, especially near the islands that lie west of Cleveland. But come winter, the lake is empty, still, and sometimes frozen.

This is the drive behind Julia Christensen’s newest art project, Waiting for a Break

Manufacturer Sees Growth in Great Lakes Shipping

Feb 5, 2018
satellite photo of port of Toledo

Construction will soon begin on a new iron plant in Toledo.  The Port Authority there says it’s a big step in the right direction for Great Lakes shipping.

Cleveland Cliffs – an iron ore manufacturer -- opening the plant, the first of its kind in the Great Lakes.  It produces hot briquetted iron, using new technology.  The iron will then travel to steelmaking companies in Ohio and Indiana.

photo of algae bloom in Maumee Bay State Park

This year included a few threats to Great Lakes health -- an above average algae bloom and an Asian carp sighting. But a financial threat also loomed over the lakes this year.

The year kicked off with a lot of uncertainty; with a new president, it was unclear whether funding dedicated to the Great Lakes would continue. And by May, the Trump administration made its message clear by zeroing out the $300 million used to clean up pollution, restore wetlands and other projects.  His budget also would have cut funds for research and conservation in other agencies.

photo of Lake Erie public art exhibit in Public Square

On the Great Lakes, boat and ship traffic is slowing down for the winter.  Meanwhile, in Cleveland, residents have a chance to watch Lake Erie change as ice builds up -- and breaks up.

It’s part of an unusual public art exhibit called Waiting for a Break, by Ohio artist Julia Christensen. 

On a large screen downtown, six live video feeds show different spots along Lake Erie. One shows waves lapping over rocks, others show a remote island and a nearby bay.

Satellite image of the Great Lakes

Over the years, pollution has been seen as a big threat to fish in the Great Lakes. Now, a data scientist says that might not always be the case.

University of Minnesota research associate Katya Kovalenko examined data from lakes Superior, Michigan and Huron. And she plotted it on a map highlighting all the places hurt by human activity --- with problems like poor water quality, nitrogen and other pollutants.

Great Lakes Commission Takes Aim at Sewage Overflows

Nov 27, 2017
Satellite image of the Great Lakes

A new collaboration between the Great Lakes Commission and Lawrence Technological University in Michigan takes aim at sewer overflows that are polluting the Great Lakes.

Sewer overflows -- sometimes millions of gallons -- plague many cities in the Great Lakes region. The biggest cities, like Chicago, Toronto and Detroit, all have that problem. And in Niagara Falls, N.Y., heavy rains caused severe overflows that discolored the Niagara River this summer.

photo of The Anthony Wayne

Ohio’s oldest shipwreck could be joining the National Register of Historic Places. Recommended by the state’s historic preservation board this month, the Anthony Wayne would be the first shipwreck in Ohio waters to receive the designation. Great Lakes Today’s Elizabeth Miller has details.

In 1850, the Anthony Wayne, a steamer, sank after an explosion, killing all of its passengers. The ship sank about seven miles northwest of Vermillion, west of Cleveland.


Next month, environmentalists from across the region will meet to discuss their biggest challenges in cleaning up  and protecting the Great Lakes.

Restoring wetlands, fish success stories, and the relationship between wildlife and microplastics will all be discussed at the conference hosted by the National Wildlife Federation’s Healing Our Waters Coalition.

photo of grass carp

Researchers recently announced the discovery of over 7,000 grass carp eggs in a Lake Erie tributary.  The good news? This isn’t the Asian carp species we’re trying to prevent from entering the Great Lakes.  The bad news? grass carp pose a different threat. 

photo of Lake Erie

Water levels in Lake Erie this summer are much higher than last year, and that’s beginning to cause problems. 

By this time of year, Lake Erie usually reaches its peak water level, beginning a seasonal decline with drier conditions.  

But this year has been a rare one -- Lake Erie was about 20 inches above its long term precipitation average. Lake levels of all five Great Lakes are higher this year than they were a year ago.  

With intermittent storms forecast for the next week, Lake Erie may be closer to reaching record highs.

Canada-United States Collaboration for Great Lakes Water Quality

A new report on the health of the Great Lakes shows a grim outlook for Lake Erie.

The Canada-United States Collaboration for Great Lakes Water Quality says Lake Erie’s general health is in poor and deteriorating -- due to problems like harmful algae blooms.

photo of flooded gas dock

A new forecast of water levels across the Great Lakes could be bad news for those seeking relief from flooding.

At the beginning of the month, the US Army Corps of Engineers puts out a six month forecast for how high or low the lake levels are expected to be.

Lake Erie algae bloom

The more rain we have in the spring, the bigger the Lake Erie algae bloom in the summer. And it’s been a wet spring. 

Algae blooms in western Lake Erie are primarily due to fertilizer chemicals running off farm land. Some blooms can become toxic, shutting down beaches or sickening people and pets.

Rain helps phosphorus migrate from farms to the lake through rivers including the Maumee in western Ohio – and tracking from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, can predict the size of an algae bloom.

photo of Great Lakes

The Great Lakes have dodged a federal funding cut that would have eliminated 50 million dollars dedicated to restoration efforts for this year.

The Great Lakes have dodged a federal funding cut that would have eliminated 50 million dollars dedicated to restoration efforts for this year.

The Trump Administration’s 2018 budget outline completely removes 300 million dollars annually for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. The Administration also hoped to cut 50 million dollars from this year’s funding.

photo of pills

The DEA's National Prescription Drug Take Back Day is set for Saturday. Great Lakes Today's Angelica Morrison explains how disposing of prescription drugs properly can help wildlife. 

A Q&A with Great Lakes Book Author Dan Egan

Mar 31, 2017
photo of Dan Egan

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter Dan Egan has covered Great Lakes issues for 15 years.  This month, he released his first book, "The Death and Life of the Great Lakes," an in-depth biography of the lakes – from the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway to current issues with harmful algae blooms and invasive species. 

We talked to Egan about the book and his thoughts on the role it can play in 2017.

photo of Great Lakes

Aging infrastructure in the Great Lakes region affects the availability of safe drinking water and the ability of ships to navigate the lakes. President Trump campaigned on improving the country’s infrastructure, and one organization wants the needs of the Great Lakes at the top of the administration’s list.

How Minimal Ice Cover Could Harm The Great Lakes

Feb 14, 2017
photo of Great Lakes ice coverage from 1973-2016

Last week, 15 percent of the Great Lakes was covered in ice. That’s the highest level of ice cover recorded so far this winter and far less than the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s 64 percent prediction.

A lack of ice could have lasting implications for this year and beyond.

The Unusual Commute of Students on Lake Erie

Feb 12, 2017
photo of plane

For children on one island in western Lake Erie, getting to school means getting on something other than a school bus.

For Max and Lucy Schneider, the commute to Put-in-Bay School on South Bass Island starts with a take-off.

“I wake up in the morning, and then to get to school I go on a plane, and then I take a taxi to get here,” says Lucy Schneider, an eighth-grader who enjoys cheerleading and art class. Her brother Max is a high school sophomore who’s involved with the basketball team and robotics club.

IJC logo
International Joint Commission

The International Joint Commission released its draft progress report Wednesday morning, calling for aggressive action by the U.S. and Canada to protect the Great Lakes.

"Microfibers" and "Microplastics" Pose Threat to the Great Lakes

Jan 5, 2017
photo of microplastics

The United States and Canada are moving to ban microbeads -- the tiny plastic bits in toothpaste and facewash that are big water polluters. Now scientists are focusing on a similar problem -- and it’s lurking in your laundry hamper.

When you do laundry, take a look at the tags on your clothes. You’ll find that most shirts and pants have some synthetic material -- like polyester, nylon or spandex. Every time you wash them, tiny plastic fibers go down the drain.

How Climate Change is Already Impacting The Great Lakes

Jan 3, 2017
photo of Gill Creek
Angelica Morrison / GREAT LAKES TODAY

Climate change is an issue of concern for many around the world. Scientists say that in the Great Lakes region, evidence of the change can be seen every day.

The Great Lakes Integrated Sciences and Assessments Center in Michigan specializes in climate change information specific to this area. Researcher Laura Briley says one sure sign of regional climate change can be found in the water.

photo of wrapped gifts

The holiday season can be a happy time for many. But it also can create problems for the environment. Angelica Morrison from Great Lakes Today explains how you can have an environmentally-friendly holiday.

Americans generate much more trash between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day -- about 25 percent more. That’s according to the Vanderbilt University Guide on Sustainability.

photo of Put-In-Bay flag

On the small islands in the Great Lakes, ferry service is shutting down and tourism is grinding to a halt. Elizabeth Miller of Great Lakes Today was on South Bass Island in Western Lake Erie in the days before its ferries stopped running.

For most of the year, two ferries serve the village of Put-In-Bay, which sits on an island in Lake Erie. But in winter, ferry service stops and residents face a quieter, more isolated, lifestyle.

photo of the Moses Saunders Dam from the American side

Water levels in Lake Ontario have been regulated since the 1950s, and a new plan was announced Thursday. Not everyone is happy about it.


The plan is called Plan 2014, and it's designed to create more fluctuation between the lake's highs and lows. As water levels go up and down, coastal wetlands will flood and dry out more frequently.