It’s not for the faint of heart.
Surfers are made of tough stuff, though. Alex Gray and his ilk are surfers who storm-chase their way around Northern Minnesota’s Superior shoreline in search of the perfect wave. Did we mention they do it in sub-zero celsius temps, too?
“The worse the weather, the better the waves,” Alex Brost, of Idol Surfboards, says in this video-gone-viral. He tells us that Duluth, MN surfers look for low-pressure systems and gale warnings for optimal surfing.
While you or I might cringe at the thought of going headlong into a Superior storm front with nothing but a body suit and surf board, Brost insists that there are larger life lessons hidden in the endeavor.
“Surfing is all about relaxing in a hazardous situation,” he says. “It changes the way your mind operates, actually. There’s a certain mental fortitude that comes. You tell yourself: this is a wave, stay calm, it will pass […] It comes, it rolls you around, and then you keep going.”
The video, titled Superior Surf, was done by PranaLens (Minneapolis-based Alison Rogers) and sparked the interest of surfing fanatics, outdoor enthusiasts, and curious onlookers in the last month. It was picked up and featured by BodyGlove.com, BoardersMag.com, and OutdoorsOnline.com, among others. The Minneapolis Star Tribune did an entire feature on it, interviewing the surfers on the scene at Stoney Point, MN. The video features about a dozen surfers enjoying the waves and chatting with one another in the chilly weather. Pro surfer Alex Gray makes an appearance as well, lending a bit of star power to the venture.
Preconceived NOceans is a film in progress dedicated to Great Lakes surfing culture. According to the film’s wordpress blog, the film went into editing in Spring of 2015. We can’t wait to see a final cut to give us a glimpse into the mysterious compulsion to surf the Great Lakes. (Check out the matted icicles which line wetsuits of the surfers after catching some waves!)
It’s safe to say California, Australia, and Hawaii aren’t breeding the toughest surfers – they’re right here in our own backyard.
Would you take the plunge and surf Superior? Have you already braved the wave on the North Shore? Send us your photos!
(photo credit for title image: flickr – igmaino)
The Soo Locks aren’t getting any younger, so they’re aiming to keep up with the times. This summer, they’ll be receiving a computer system upgrade.
Jim Peach, an assistant engineer at the locks, told The Detroit News that the upgrade is keeping in line with the “general direction of the industry – everything is getting more digital and automated.”
The computer upgrades are also a preventative measure to stave off failure of the aging lock system. New control panels will be installed in the lockmaster’s tower and a pier-side shelter. They’ll be funded by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ $31 million annual operating budget for the Soo Locks.
Two of the four locks are being used, and there has been rumbling in the Senate recently about refashioning one of the defunct locks into a new, 1200-ft long lane to ease strain on the Poe, the Locks’ largest and busiest lane. Concerns are mounting that a failure of the Poe, now almost 50 years old, could mean a devastating blow to North American economies. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security mounted a report which claims America would be “plunged into recession” if the Locks were to suffer major failure. The report cites up to 11 million jobs lost if such a failure should occur.
Built in 1968, the Poe Lock handles up to 70% of the marine traffic flowing through the locks annually. With aid from a small lock on the Canadian side, the MacArthur Lock, built in 1943, accommodates smaller ships and boats, fielding less traffic. The shipping season runs 10 months long, and for 19 days in the middle of last year’s season, the MacArthur lock was closed to repair a broken gate.
The need for a third functional lock became immediately apparent.
The remaining locks are either being lightly used, or closed completely. The Davis Lock, built in 1918, is rarely used because most of the Lock staff don’t know how to use it. And the Sabin Lock, built in 1919, is decommissioned. The $580 million proposal for a third, Poe-sized lock would see the Sabin widened from 80-ft to 110-ft. The Davis Lock would be filled with concrete rubble.
The benefits of a new, revamped lock are being lauded by politicians and business interests around the Great Lakes. If the Sabin is transformed, shipping traffic could potentially increase. In addition, the Poe could be closed for maintenance during shipping season without causing major shipping delays.
The Detroit News provided an infographic to give readers an impression of the Soo Locks’ history and proposed future.
Every Tuesday, we focus on Superior Environment stories. This article is part of a month-long focus on microplastics and their impact. Join us on May 3rd, 7pm-9pm at the Lake Helen Community Hall for an information session and discussion on microplastics issue. Click here for meeting details.
Last week, Nipigon-area resident Chuck Hutterli spoke with the InfoSuperior Team about plastic ‘nurdle’ pellets washing up on the shores of his Lake Superior home. Hutterli had reached out to us in early 2016, hoping to bring attention to the issue. Backed by fellow members of a new Nipigon-based environmental group, he’ll be bringing it up as a major concern at the group’s first meeting on May 3rd.
Leading into the meeting, Hutterli’s issue has gained traction with local media outlets. CBC Superior Morning picked up the story and interviewed Hutterli about the nurdles issue this morning. Click here for his conversation with Superior Morning host Lisa Laco.
CBC Superior Morning also featured a web post online to accompany the interview. Click here to read more.
Hutterli’s story has also been picked up on social media. University of Wisconsin Sea Grant, Canadian Geographers, Eco Strategy, and Coastal Centre retweeted CBC’s story, bringing the issue to broader audiences lakewide.
To see InfoSuperior’s breaking news post about the nurdles, with accompanying video and pictures, click here.
On April 21st, the 2008 Great Lakes Compact was put to its first official test in Chicago, IL.
Representatives of governors from 8 Great Lakes states, as well as representatives from Canadian provinces Ontario and Quebec, convened in Chicago to decide on the fate of the city of Waukesha’s bid to divert 38 million litres per day of water from the Great Lakes. The Wisconsin city is making the request because its own water resources have been contaminated with radium. If the diversion were to be approved, it would be precedent-setting for other similar requests.
If even one governor vetoes the proposal, it will be defeated. A unanimous vote is required to accept the proposal. Ontario and Quebec were not given a vote in the decision, but its politicians and constituents were invited to give feedback and recommendations. Public commentary by members of the public on either side of the border was open until mid-March. An environmental coalition called Protect Our Great Lakes noted 98 per cent of 11,000 comments oppose the diversion.
The London Free Press spoke with Jennifer Caddick of the Alliance for the Great Lakes about the different facets of Waukesha’s request vis-a-vis the Great Lakes Compact.
“Compact lays out a pretty high bar for a diversion request,” she said. Communities may gain permission to use lake water only as a last resort.
She said compelling reasons to reject the plan includes an engineering firm’s independent analysis Waukesha has a viable alternative, and can safely treat its water for less money.
However, reports which trickled in after the meetings suggest that officials are looking at scaling back the scope Waukesha’s request, rather than denying it completely.
The Milwaukee-Wisconson Journal Sentinel reported that some of the surrounding county communities originally included in Waukesha’s proposal were cut. “Waukesha’s plan to pump up to an average of 10.1 million gallons a day by midcentury will be trimmed to an average of 8.2 million gallons a day after the Great Lakes officials removed portions of three neighboring communities from a future water service area to receive lake water, as a condition of the regional group’s acceptance of the request. Portions of the towns of Delafield and Genesee and generally the southern half of the Town of Waukesha were taken out of the water service area previously delineated by the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission.”
Officials included only Waukesha proper, within existing city and town limits, and part of the City of Pewaukee included under an existing border agreement. A revised service map for the area will be redistributed on April 27th.
Michigan Radio asked Peter Annin with the Mary Griggs Burke Center for Freshwater Innovation at Northland College what the outcome looks like after the initial talks last week. He told them that right now, it looks like Waukesha is headed for approval; however, he cautioned that the vote could turn on a dime.
“All it takes is one [Great Lakes] governor to veto the application, but there’s no sense at this stage that Waukesha’s application is going to be vetoed. But you never know until these documents go back to the governor’s offices, and everyone pours over them as we head to the final stretch,” Annin said.
Major dates to watch for new developments are:
- April 27th – Revised service map will be distributed including the communities to officially be considered for receiving Great Lakes water.
- May 2nd – Officials from the eight states and two provinces conference call to review changes made to the city’s request
- May 10th and 11th – Officials will reconvene in Chicago to hear recommendations from the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Water Resources Regional Body
- June – Great Lakes Governors will provide their decision to the public
Photo is credited to Don Behm of the Miwaukee Wisconsin Journal Sentinel.
Is there anything more iconic for shore dwellers than the reassuring beacon from a majestic lighthouse?
Today’s Superior Social post is bringing you good news from the Canadian Lighthouses of Lake Superior. The group released its Spring 2016 newsletter recently and they’ve got plenty of good news and upcoming events for lighthouse lovers of all kinds.
Here are the highlights:
Artist in Residence
As part of a volunteer effort, the group is aiming to start an Artist in Residence program at Porphyry this summer. The position will provide studio space for a winning artist to hone and develop their craft in a tranquil, remote setting which enhances focus and creativity. Who wouldn’t want to listen to Lake Superior lapping against the shore while creating their next masterpiece?
Polyphory Lighthouse is about 15km east of Silver Islet, on Black Bay. The artist will be mostly alone in the remote setting, but will be asked occasionally to run workshops and show their work to visitors. The volunteers are hoping that the artist will draw inspiration from the setting, and create a work which will inspire others to visit the area as a summertime travel destination.
According to the newsletter, Polyphory will be undergoing some new updates during this summer as well, including more on-site staff, a Gallery Exhibition, more Interpretation Signage, WiFi and better docking facilities for members.
The official call is as follows: “The Artist in Residence (AIR) program will operate for 1-2 weeks at Porphyry Island Lighthouse located 15km east of Silver Islet, on Black Bay. The AIR program allows a sponsored artist to; practice their art, share their art with visitors, sell their work, and donate a piece of art to be used for future lighthouse fundraising. The chosen artist will be provided with: transportation to and from the island, living accommodations and studio/gallery space. Check out our website clls.ca for further information. An online application form is available. If you know of a corporate sponsor that’s interested, tell us!”
Annual Fundraising Dinner
At the Prince Arthur Hotel on May 6th, the CLLS will be “bringing together friends, families, sailors, boaters, and a few people from the port” for their Annual Fundraising Dinner. Your ticket will include: a six-course meal, a talk from guest speaker Lee Radzak ofSpilt Rock Lighthouse, an art auction, and some light entertainment. Tickets are $50.00 and there will be door prizes. You can purchase them online at www.clls.ca, or in person at the Prince Arthur Hotel.
Annual Lighthouse Clean Up Event
The CLLS newsletter makes reference to an annual lighthouse clean up coming up on June 11th. Volunteers are invited to help keep the Polyphory site clean and beautiful for visitors. According to their website, this includes “painting, cutting back trails, clearing brush, and doing minor repairs.” If you are interest in volunteering then please email us and they will provide you with more information.
CLLS Membership Drive
May is Membership month for the Canadian Lighthouses of Lake Superior, and they’re inviting lighthouse enthusiasts and marine adventurers to sign up for another year of lighthouse fun. Included in membership fees are quarterly news letters, event days, reduced fees for guest house rental, and invitations to lighthouse activities.
Taken from the group’s website, here are a few more events to keep an eye out for!
Lighthouse Radio Contest- Magic 99.9 & Country 105
Being launched at the beginning of the summer will be the Lighthouse Destination Getaway that is being offered by Magic 99.9 and Country 105. This content will include transportation, to and from Porphyry Island Lighthouse, use of the guest house for two days, fishing, hiking and relaxing are all part of the program. Check in later for further details on when the contest is taking place.
Superior North Shore Regatta- SUNORA (July 23-30, 2016)
The annual regatta hosted by the Thunder Bay Yacht Club attracts a dozen or more sail boats and the occasions power boater. Starting in Thunder Bay, the group will sail to Rossport over several days, and return to spend a night at Porphyry Island Lights July 29. Join them by searching them out on Facebook.
Porphyry Island Pan-Superior Rendezvous-TBYC (Aug. 13-14)
Our annual Pan Superior Rendezvous bring boaters from around the lake to share in the beauty of the Island. BBQ Bonfire, hikes, and tours available on this day. Book the date and let us know if you have any questions.
Looking to translate your love of the Great Lakes into constructive, real world experience?
Parks Canada, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and Great Lakes Commission want to help you with that.
All three organizations have current job openings. See below for listings. Best of luck to applicants!
1. Parks Canada position available: Interpretation Officer/Coordinator II
Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area
PM-02 May 16, 2016 – March 3, 2017 (seasonal indeterminate)
$54,543 to $58,764 (currently under review)
Bilingual – Imperative
Closing date: 20 April 2016 – 23:59, Pacific Time
2. Parks Canada position available: Visitor Experience Product Development Officer IV
Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area
May 2, 2016 – October 31, 2016 (with possibility of extension)
$63,861 to $69,006 (currently under review)
Closing date: 21 April 2016 – 23:59, Pacific Time
- Research and writing to prepare reports, fact sheets, articles, memos, web pages, and social media communications;
- Analyzing, aggregating and delivering data and information that support water quality projects;
- Assisting with the establishment and ongoing operation of project teams (e.g., planning and organizing conference calls, in-person and online meetings; summarizing and reporting out on discussions; working with managers to ensure appropriate follow up);
- Staying abreast of science, policy, tools and techniques to augment contributions to individual project teams and the GLC’s water quality program overall;
- Seeking opportunities to enhance the GLC’s water quality work.
Note the close date: Thursday, April 29, 2016
New Detroit District Career Opportunity!
Job Title: Structural Iron Worker
SERIES & GRADE: WY-3801-10
Job Announcement Number: SWGJ163224721675046
SALARY RANGE: $28.53 to $33.30 / Per Hour
OPEN PERIOD Thursday 4/14/2016 to Friday 4/29/2016
POSITION INFORMATION: Full Time – Permanent
DUTY LOCATIONS: Sainte Marie, MI
WHO MAY APPLY: Government Employees and U.S. Citizens
Every Tuesday, we focus on Superior Environment stories. This article is part of a month-long focus on microplastics and their impact. Join us on May 3rd, 7pm-9pm at the Lake Helen Community Hall for an information session and discussion on microplastics issues. Click here for meeting details.
What’s a nurdle? Glad you asked.
Nurdles are a pre-production plastic pellet about 1 to 5mm in diameter, and they’re on the North Shore’s doorstep.
The InfoSuperior Team learned of nurdles washing up on Lake Superior’s North Shore from a Nipigon Bay resident, Chuck Hutterli. He contacted our office at Lakehead University with pictures from a recent cleanup he had done on the beach in front of his home. Hutterli and his wife Danielle live some 45 minutes outside of Nipigon, residing directly on Lake Superior’s North Shore.
After a recent storm, Hutterli invited us to see the nurdles for ourselves. When we showed up, we could see sizeable groups of the microplastics washed up on a stretch of shoreline about a kilometre in length.
Hutterli says the beads are coming from a train derailment 8 years ago. In January 2008, a CP Rail train was derailed around Rossport and two of the boxcars slid directly into Lake Superior.
Hutterli told us the nurdles wash up on shore consistently, showing up in droves after large storms pass through the region. He spends days cleaning them up, sometimes spending up to 10 hours sifting through sand and lake debris armed with only an innovative, home-made aluminum sifting shovel and garbage bags.
He’s not alone in his effort, though. Considering the enormous scope of the issue, he says CP Rail “has done a reasonably good job” with clean up. CP Rail representatives have cited figures of up to 2 million dollars spent on clean up to date. The company conducted most of the clean up in 2008 in response to the incident, and continues to respond to calls for clean up, including a recent remedial action on April 4th, 2016.
“They took 65 bags, about 35 pounds each [on April 4th],” says Hutterli. “But we had a storm after that, and [the beads] are right back here again.”
While he appreciates CP Rail’s efforts, he admits he is still frustrated after seeing the nurdles continuously wash up on shore. It’s hard to keep up, especially after a storm. “When we get these [beads] in wind rows, they’re fairly easy to pick up,” he says. “But if a week or two passes and people are walking on them, they get disturbed. They become even more difficult to pick up.”
“I’d like to know where they’re vectoring in from,” he says.
He’s not alone in wondering. People along the North Shore have been puzzling over the pellets for years. Hutterli tells us they’ve shown up in Sault Ste. Marie, Pancake Bay, and Rossport. Last fall, Northern Hoot profiled similar concerns by Jeremy Frech, a kayaker who found the pellets on six beaches between Sault Ste. Marie, ON and Wawa, ON, all consistent in colour and size. They also spoke with Dr. Patricia Corcoran, Associate Professor with the Department of Earth Sciences at Western University, who has been studying the beads and their source since 2009.
In August 2015, a reporter from SooToday.com spoke to Kate Jordan, a Ministry of Environment and Climate Change rep, about potential impacts on wildlife since the accident. Jordan said that “Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry fish sampling has not turned up any accumulations of the beads in Lake Superior fish, nor of damage to birds or bird habitat.”
Hutterli is part of an burgeoning environmental group in Nipigon, and the nurdles are a topic that will be tabled at their first meeting. The group aims to share existing knowledge about the nurdles, engage in productive discussion about their impact, and explore collaborative solutions for clean up efforts going forward.
Anyone is welcome to the meeting. It will be held at 7pm on May 3rd, at Lake Helen Community Centre, just outside of Nipigon. Admission is free, and light refreshments will be served. If you can’t attend, join the meeting via livestream at www.infosuperior.com.
Opposition is mounting against two aging Enbridge pipelines which run below the Makinac Bridge, and idle chat is now formal complaint.
Last Wednesday, Senator Rick Jones introduced a measure to shut down Enbridge’s twin pipelines, known collectively as Line 5. Now 62 years old, Line 5 was the subject of a short documentary film by Motherboard, a branch of Vice News launched in 2009. “The Dirty Secret at the Bottom of the Great Lakes: Oil and Water” has been viewed over 400,000 times at this writing. The film presents issues surrounding the pipeline, and explores potential environmental impact on the Great Lakes regions if a rupture were to happen. We provided a write up and link to the film here.
Jones’ measure, Senate Bill 880, aims to completely stop the flow of crude oil from Alberta oil fields to Sarnia, Ontario. More than 500,000 barrels of oil and liquid petroleum product flows through the pipeline daily.
According to a release on Sen. Jones’ website, Bill 880 will, if passed, “amend the Great Lakes Submerged Lands Act to stop future pipelines from running through the Great Lakes. It would also require operators of current oil pipelines to undergo a full risk analysis by a qualified independent third party and turn it into the state. If the preliminary analysis concludes that risks are high, the pipeline would be shut down immediately.”
Also last Wednesday, The Detroit News reports that groups collectively opposed to the pipelines sent a letter to top Michigan officials, including Governor Rick Snyder, urging them to end the 60-year-old easement which allows Enbridge to run the pipelines through the Makinac Strait. An umbrella organization called Oil & Water Don’t Mix submitted the letter on behalf of environmental groups and regional conservancies.
The Oil & Water Don’t Mix group believes that Enbridge is in violation of the easement. To support their claim, they state a number of alleged violations, including violations relating to:
- an inadequate indemnity policy
- not maintaining adequate thickness of pipeline walls
- pipeline curvature requirements
- lack of a proper oil spill response plan
When The Detroit News asked Enbridge for comment, representative Ryan Duffy said that the group’s claims were “scare tactics and fear-mongering.”
Duffy told the Detroit News in an email response that:“Enbridge takes very seriously its commitment to safety and environmental protection [. . .] To be clear, we are in full compliance with all state and federal regulations, and with the easement requirements for the Straits of Mackinac Crossing. … Line 5 has safely delivered critical energy supplies needed by the people of Michigan for more than 60 years, and we applaud the State for following a detailed and informed process to assess the issues that have been raised.”