Month: May 2017

City of Waukesha Statement re Great Lakes Water Withdrawal

WAUKESHA WATER STATEMENT
City Response to Eight Great Lakes Governors’ Ruling on Cities Initiative Appeal

Shawn N. Reilly, Mayor of the City of Waukesha, issued the following statement in April, 2017 regarding the Great Lakes Compact Council’s decision to reaffirm its approval for Waukesha to access Lake Michigan as its future drinking water source.

“Today was a tremendous day for the citizens of Waukesha and the future of our city,” Mayor Reilly announced.

“The decision by the Governors of all eight Great Lakes states as members of the Great Lakes Compact Council, unanimously decided to allow Lake Michigan water to be loaned to the city of Waukesha. The decision includes the provision that Waukesha will return 100 percent of the borrowed water to Lake Michigan via the Root River. The decision was based on facts, science and the Great Lakes Compact Council’s exacting standards for borrowing and returning Great Lakes water. The Compact Council made the right call last year, and unanimously affirmed that today. We appreciate their dedication in examining the facts of our application and how our circumstances are unique.

“This has been a team effort, and we wouldn’t have gotten this far without the diligence and support of the Waukesha Common Council, the Waukesha Water Utility Commission and utility staff, as well as the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Their hard work resulted in the 3,000-page application that proved our case to the other states and provinces that Lake Michigan water is our only reasonable alternative.

“Today’s decision is another step toward providing the 71,000 residents of Waukesha with a clean, reliable and sustainable drinking water source.

“We hope those who filed this appeal will end their opposition and join us in creating a world-class water program that will not only serve our community well into the next century but also be the standard for sustainability and protecting our Great Lakes while improving the quality of the Root River.”
# # #

Media Contact:
Dan Duchniak, P.E.
Waukesha Water Utility

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May 5th Lighthouse Dinner Supports Superior’s Heritage

Porphry Island Harbour
The harbour at Porphry Island. (Photo: J. Bailey/infosuperior.com)
The charitable, non-profit organization Canadian Lighthouses of Lake Superior is working to restore, preserve and maintain three of the many lighthouses on Lake Superior. These include Porprhy Island Light,  Shaganash Island Light (Number 10) and Trowbridge Island Light.

 

This year, once again, the group will be hosting an annual fundraising dinner with the theme, “What’s Happening at the Lighthouse?” The event runs May 5th from 6 to 11 p.m at the Prince Arthur Hotel in Thunder Bay. The evening features a buffet dinner,  informative talks, short films, auction items and door prizes. Tickets are $50 dollars per person and are available at the Prince Arthur Hotel front desk or from one of the organization’s directors.

 

Porphry Island Lighthouse is a magical destination – by any standard. When the wind is blowing and you walk out to the helicopter pad at the southwest tip of the island you can feel this magic. The view is stunning and a vast expanse of Lake Superior stretches south to Passage Island and Isle Royale in Michigan and west to Thunder Cape and Pie Island in Ontario. In a southwest breeze  waves roll over 300 km./186 mi. due southwest from Duluth, with no obstruction.

 

Trowbridge Island Lighthouse is located approximately 45 km./27 mi. east of the City of Thunder Bay near the tip of the Black Bay Peninsula.
Lighthouse Map
Lighthouse Map
Last season, funds raised helped to provide better docking at Porphyry Island Lighthouse. The harbour at Porphry Island now has excellent, well maintained docks, though limited in size. The Thunder Bay Yacht Club has contributed finances and manpower to upgrade these docks. Visual navigation aids assist sail and power boats proceeding to the docks. Porphry harbour is also an excellent, sheltered retreat for kayakers.
Porphry Island Lighthouse
Porphry Island Lighthouse. (Photo: J. Bailey/infosuperior.com)
Canadian Lighthouses of Lake Superior Inc. continues to make changes to amenities to provide destinations to people travelling Lake Superior. For people wanting to hear more good news, there will be an announcement at the dinner by Parks Canada on several upgrades to area lighthouse destinations. Last year, with the help of the Thunder Bay Yacht Club and Ontario’s Great Lakes Guardian Community Fund, conservation work and facility upgrades were completed. This year, a day dock will be constructed for Trowbridge Island. Trowbridge has no harbour and is more difficult to access.
Cars on Porphry Island.
Cars on Porphry Island. These vehicles were once used by lighthouse keepers to travel between Porphry’s harbour and the light, a distance of 1.3 km. or just under 1 mi. (Photo: J. Bailey/infosuperior.com)
If you don’t have a boat, Canadian Lighthouses of Lake Superior offers transportation to Porphry Island as well as accommodation on the island. Find out more here.

 

Links:

 

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What Did The Great Lakes Look Like Before Environmental Regulations?

Port of Cleveland, 1968
Junk is used to build a breakwall in Cleveland, Ohio on Lake Erie, 1968 (Photo: Alfred Eisenstaedt)

Recent media articles have focused on news about potential reductions to Great Lakes environmental restoration and protection programs. In light of such news, it is interesting to look back to a time of reduced or non-existent environmental regulations. A photo essay in Time magazine shows us just what it was like.

The Time Magazine article profiles disturbing photos taken by photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt showing the Great Lakes in 1968. When the photos were taken, environmental laws did exist, but their was no special legislation respecting the Great Lakes. View all of the photos here…

Environmental legislation for Great Lakes restoration and protection evolved over a substantial period of time and is still evolving.  The Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1948 was the first U.S. major law in place to address water pollution. In 1972 this legislation was amended and became the Clean Water Act.

President Richard Nixon and Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau
President Richard Nixon and Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau complete signing of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, 1972.

On the Great Lakes, a separate piece of legislation was implemented, namely the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement of 1972, aimed at coordinating actions of Canada and the United States, “to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Waters of the Great Lakes.” The Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement was most recently amended in 2012 to better address the current situation on the Great Lakes. Objectives fall into ten distinct categories or “annexes.”

  1. Areas of Concern
  2. Lakewide Management
  3. Chemicals of Mutual Concern
  4. Nutrients
  5. Discharges from Vessels
  6. Aquatic Invasive Species
  7. Habitats and Species
  8. Groundwater
  9. Climate Change Impacts
  10. Science

On the Canadian side, Water Quality Agreement objectives are addressed through the Canada – Ontario Agreement on Great Lakes Water Quality and Ecosystem Health which dates from 1994.  The Agreement outlines how the governments of Canada and Ontario will cooperate to restore, protect and conserve the Great Lakes basin ecosystem. Environment and Climate Change Canada, the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry all cooperate to implement Canada – Ontario Agreement goals.

On the U.S. side, the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative was launched in 2010 to address issues in Great Lakes Areas of Concern, prevent invasive species, reduce nutrient runoff resulting in harmful algal blooms and restore habitat to protect native species. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency works in cooperation with state level environmental agency counterparts in every state bordering the Great Lakes to achieve Great Lakes Restoration Initiative goals. View Great Lakes Restoration Initiative projects on a map here.

On Lake Superior, cooperative work or partnership aimed at Lake Superior restoration and protection is carried out through the U.S. EPA, Environment and Climate Change Canada and their state and provincial counterparts. Goals are laid out in the the Lake Superior Lakewide Action and Management Plan 2015-2019. Current goals include:

  1. Maintain deepwater and offshore waters in good ecological condition.
  2. Maintain nearshore zone and reefs in good ecological condition.
  3. Maintain embayments and inshore areas in good ecological condition.
  4. Maintain coastal wetlands in good ecological condition.
  5. Maintain islands in good ecological condition.
  6. Maintain coastal terrestrial habitats in good ecological condition.
  7. Maintain tributaries and watersheds in good ecological condition.
  8. Achieve zero release (from within the Lake Superior basin) of nine persistent bioaccumulative toxic substances.
  9. Protect the Lake Superior basin from contamination resulting from additional substances of concern.

As laid out in the 2016 Progress Report of the Parties, Great Lakes restoration efforts to date show substantial progress, including:

  • Moving forward with the “Randle Reef” project to cleanup contaminated sediment in Hamilton Harbour
  • Completion of a sediment remediation project for mercury contaminated sediment in Peninsula Harbour at Marathon, Ontario
  • Addressing all environmental impairments listed in the Remedial Action Plan for Nipigon Bay
  • Developing a Lakewide Action and Management Plan for Lake Superior
  • Implementing several Great Lakes invasive species prevention and control measures
  • Addressing environmental impairments such that several locations have been removed from the list of  Great Lakes Areas of Concern (recent examples include: Presque Isle, Pensylvania; Deer Lake, Michigan;White Lake Michigan)

Many Great Lakes environmental challenges remain, including the problem of nutrient runoff and harmful algae blooms in Lake Erie. Public support will likely be a vital component for progress in resolving complex Great Lakes environmental challenges, well into the future.

 

 

 

 

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Statistics Show Spike in Lake Superior Drownings

Remote Controlled Life-saving Device
Launching a remote controlled life-saving device.

During the summer of 2016, anyone frequenting the waters of Lake Superior, especially swimmers, noticed the warm water temperatures. If the lack of ice on Superior has anything to do with upcoming summer water temperatures, 2017 could also see warm water.

In 2016, there were stretches of warm weather and water when sailors, fisher people, paddlers and motorboaters, who might normally be reluctant to enter the lake, all took a dip. That included swimiming at urban beaches but also in remote locations out on the open lake, whether an island, a provincial, state or national park, or some of the beautiful sandspits at river and stream mouths which dot remote locations on Superior. Water levels are also up across the entire Great Lakes, bringing wave energy closer to shore and unsuspecting waders or swimmers.

Related September, 2016 Infosuperior article: Great Swimming Small Part of Larger Temperature Trend

Accordingly, drownings on Lake Superior saw a 350% increase from 2015 to 2016, going from 2 in 2015 to 9 in 2016. Across the entire Great Lakes there was a 78% spike.

Drowning awareness needs to become part of Great Lakes culture; this according to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue ProjectStatistics from the organization show there were 99 Great Lakes drownings in 2016. The deadly count runs as follows:

  • Lake Michigan – 46, (plus 6 listed in critical condition)
  • Lake Erie – 19
  • Lake Ontario – 13
  • Lake Huron – 12
  • Lake Superior – 9
  • Total – 99

There have been approximately 551 Great Lakes drownings since 2010.

Life saving statistics show that rip currents are a common denominator in over half of all Great Lakes drownings.  The course of events starts with a swimmer becoming caught in a rip current. Rescuers from shore cannot see the current, and unless they are wearing life jackets, can become victims themselves. As a victim gets carried further and further from shore, risk for rescuers and victims alike is increased, inch by inch, foot by foot, meter by meter. Especially  in the cold waters of Superior.

Furthermore, rip currents often occur (counter intuitively) when large waves are pounding up on a beach. It is dangerous to enter the water in such conditions, let alone carry out a rescue. Throwing something like a life ring, upwind and against the waves, in such conditions, is almost a waste of time. Entering the water for a rescue may become a compounding factor in a deadly, downward spiral. The situation can become extremely disturbing if no additional help is available and the only alternative is to stay on shore and watch as someone drowns.

What if rescuers didn’t have to enter the water?

There is hope. Michigan Technological University (MTU) students (Houghton, Michigan) are working on a cheap and affordable method whereby rescuers may not have to enter the water. What they are developing is basically a remote controlled life ring, or drone,  that could be kept at swimming beaches, on board vessels for man overboard situations or in emergancy response vehicles for cases involving potential drownings.

MTU students call the device a Nautical Emergency Rescue Drone, or NERD. After two 2016 drownings off Little Presque Isle in Lake Superior last summer, the Keewenaw Bay Indian Community purchased two of the units. At this point, they may be the only such devices on the Great Lakes.

Use of the remote controlled life saving device was demonstrated at the April 21st and 22nd, Sheboygan, Wisconsin water safety conference of the Great Lakes Water Safety Consortium. The Consortium is an umbrella group for water safety on the U.S. side. The organization brings together first responders, meteoroligists, research scientists, park rangers and lifeguards, among others. A key objective is to connect people interested in water safety and to endevour to maximize collective knowledge.  Members of the organization include NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Minnesota Sea Grant and every other state Sea Grant organization around the Great Lakes, the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, several universities, the Michigan Lighthouse Conservancy, the National Lifeguard and Lifesaving Society and many other groups.

Life saving drones are not likely to solve the issue of drownings on the Great Lakes, although they may help. Prevention and education are by far the most important aspects of work to eliminate drownings.

Top tips from the Sheboygan conference follow:

  • Water safety is not common sense. It must be learned.
  • Drowning is a neglected public health epidemic. Globally, 40 persons drown per hour on average. In the United States 10 persons drown per day.
  • Great Lakes drownings were up 78% last year.
  • The Great Lakes are a fantastic asset to residents and visitors. We don’t mean to scare people away but we want them to be aware.
  • It’s not just about the numbers. It’s about people’s lives.
  • Megan Dodson at the National Weather Service maintains a database of Great Lakes drowning fatalities and rescues. [The preceeding link is an extremely informative set of information about Lake Superior drownings, rip currents and their formation, associated weather, etc.]
  • Rip currents are an especially dangerous occurrence on the Great Lakes. They are difficult to see and are usually 50 to 100 feet wide. Rip current speeds are generally 1 mph/1.6 km/hr to 5 mph/8.02 km./hr.
  • The Great Lakes sometimes experience seiches, also known as a meteosunami. These are caused by air pressure disturbances often associated with fast-moving weather systems such as squall lines. Seiches can intensify and complicate rip currents, making them even more unpredictable and dangerous.
Swimming at Neys
Swimming at Neys Provincial Park, Lake Superior. (Photo: J. Bailey/infosuperior.com)

The prevalence of rip currents is well documented on Superior. At the vast Neys Provincial Park beach on the Canadian side, large waves  pounding the beach also prevent return of this huge volume of water back to the open lake. Instead, a fast-paced current often runs parallel to the shore towards the Little Pic River, seeking release by way of the river current punching out into the lake. A few steps out from the beach is a deeper section of water, perhaps 50 ft/15 m. wide, in effect a trough scoured by the current and running parallel to the shore.  Waders and swimmers can feel the current running past them as they cross the trough, after which the water becomes shallower again. Drownings have ocurred here, especially near the river mouth where rip current and river current combine. Add in fluke conditions, like a heavy rain storm with high river flow, large waves coming ashore and perhaps a seiche associated with an intense low pressure system and a very unpredictable, dangerous situation can develop. Neys is a beautiful beach, totally open to the south and southwest, sometimes with huge waves. The fetch to the south is some 250 km./155 mi. Swimmers love it but people have died there.

A similar situation prevails at Park Point on the U.S. side at Duluth. This is the huge sand spit peninsula which forms the border between the open lake and Duluth’s inner harbour, the St. Louis River estuary. The beach on the outer side of the spit is comprised of beautiful sand and has massive  “fetch” for waves rolling across Superior (the first obstruction is Isle Royale 250 km./155 mi. to the northeast).  Swimmers love it. The site has great potential for rip currents and in fact Minnesota Sea Grant calls it one of the most likely places on Superior for rip currents to happen, noting the same scouring of the sand along the shore by currents as at Neys.

Minnesota Sea Grant’s site explaining rip currents and providing information specific to Park Point is accessible here.

A warning system from the Duluth National Weather Service is in place at Park Point and is calculated through wind speed, wave height and direction. Flags at four locations indicate rip current risk with green indicating low risk, yellow for moderate risk and red for high risk.

An overview of news stories and incidents at Park Point is provided here.

It’s a while yet before summer but many will be putting boats in the water over the next few weeks. We may not be able to see the seiche, or the rip currents, but the lake is often moving. To everyone around Superior – stay aware and stay safe.

 

 

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Boatnerd

The Federal Danube, an ocean going vessel.
The Federal Danube, an ocean going vessel visiting Thunder Bay this spring.

A quick look shows that approximately 20 Great Lakes and ocean-going commercial vessels are plying the waters of Superior as this article is written. In fact the “Federal Danube” is just about to enter the Port of Thunder Bay. All of this information is available through Infosuperior’s Lake Shipping tool which shows every commercial vessel on Lake Superior, it’s name and where it is heading.

Infosuperior Lake Shipping Tool

For some people, viewing the huge commercial vessels of Lake Superior and the Great Lakes is a passion. There are Facebook groups devoted to this passtime – “Fans of Great Lakes Ships”, and all manner of sites where Great Lakes boatnerds get their fix, like Boatnerd.com. This latter site includes specifics on Great Lakes vessels, including where they were built, when they were built and myriad other facts. The site includes a comprehensive set of photos and information about Great Lakes shipping, including tugs and workboats, the Great Lakes commercial fleet, even fishing tugs.

Spring ship movement on the Great Lakes means we are one step closer to summer but it is also a cornerstone of the Great Lakes economy and demonstrates the link between the the inland seas and the oceans of the world. Cleveland.com has provided a quick spring fix for boatnerds. Their April 20th article is entitled, “See 20 monster boats of the Great Lakes in gorgeous photos.”

Check out the Cleveland.com article and some great photos of the lake boats:

See 20 monster boats of the Great Lakes in gorgeous photos.

 

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For the Earth and Water Walk 2017

Again, the Nookmisag Melvina & Lee are praying and walking for the healing of the Water. We are blessed today (April 27, 2017) by all the snow — in Bergland, Michigan. (Source: For the Earth and Water Walk 2017)

Beginning in the wee morning hours of April 20th from Spirit Mountain – Duluth, Minnesota Anishnaabe grandmother and respected elder Josephine Mandamin began another of her epic walks for nibi (water) around the Great Lakes.

Josephine, and those who accompany her, will be carrying a copper pot that has been dipped into the waters of Lake Superior. For the most part it will be the women walkers who will carry the water – with men travelling alongside carrying the Eagle Staff and serving as guides and protectors. The Water Walks are based on Anishinaabe ceremonial water teachings and are a walk to honour the water spirits so there will be healthy rivers, lakes and oceans for generations to come.

When they are walking for the water the women are in an Anishinaabe Ceremony from the beginning of the day until the end. They will be moving like water, continuously all day long, until they reach their destination. In addition to the water, they will also be carrying tobacco to offer to any flowing streams or rivers they may cross, and to honour any animals they may pass along the way. These women will be making offerings for the water, singing water songs, and making petitions for the water to be pure, clean and to continuously flow.

As this is an Anishinaabe Ceremony, those who wish to join the walk are asked to respect the territory and protocol of the walk. More information about the walk can be found on their website at www.motherearthwaterwalk.com or their Facebook Group: For the Earth and Water Walk 2017.

A live map (updated in 10-minute intervals) showing the location of the walkers is also available.

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