Great Lakes Today

Huge pot farm coming to Great Lakes region

May 29, 2018

Take a drive through the picturesque landscape of Niagara on the Lake and you’ll see acres of vineyards, farms and wineries.

You’ll also find a greenhouse with one of the largest marijuana farms in the world. And if you’re standing close enough -- just a few yards away from the building -- you can smell weed.

Inside the greenhouse, a tour is starting. We get a peek at the growing room.  Hundreds of lush green plants, in pots, lined up in rows under very bright growing lights. Large fans positioned near the ceiling.

Congress Saves Great Lakes Funding

Mar 22, 2018
NPR.org / NPR

Federal funding for the Great Lakes has survived again thanks to Congress.  This is the second time the Trump Administration proposed a big cut to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. Congress restored it in full – $300 million a year.

Since 2009, the initiative has funded thousands of projects that help the Great Lakes by cleaning up pollution, combating invasive species, and protecting wetlands. And it has received support from Democrats and Republicans in Congress.

NASA

As Great Lakes advocates lobby Congress this week, a new report details how the federal government and states plan to fight algae blooms in Lake Erie.

The U.S. EPA’s plan targets phosphorus, the main cause of the blooms.  It summarizes agendas from Michigan, Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Released Monday, the budget outline reduces Great Lakes funding by 90 percent -- to just $30 million.  The money is used for projects like cleaning up pollution, protecting wildlife and rebuilding wetlands.

Last year, Trump zeroed out Great Lakes restoration funding in his proposed budget -- but Republicans and Democrats in Congress came together to restore the money.

Great Lakes Today

Part 3 in a series on environmental justice issues in the Great Lakes region.

At the Six Nations of the Grand River reserve, about 10 men are gathered in a classroom in the Haudenosaunee community center.  The older men are teaching younger ones some traditions – on this day, they’re learning about a funeral ritual.  But soon, Leroy Hill shifts the conversation to a new topic – water.

Congressman Peter Visclosky's office

Today:   We revisit our conversation about the South Shore Leadership Center's upcoming "Vision Project" delving into northwest Indiana issues and ways to deal with them.  The "Project's" task this time is on tourism.  Lakeshore Public Radio's Sharon Jackson reports on gasoline prices and why they're so high this year compared to 2017. 

Part 2 in a series on environmental justice issues in the Great Lakes region.

At a pediatric clinic located in one of the poorest sections of Buffalo, 7-year-old asthmatic Victor Small sits with his mother Laticka.

The hood on his winter coat is pulled over his head, and as he fidgets with his black skeleton gloves, he begins to talk about what it’s like when he has trouble breathing.

“There’s something is wrong with my smelling,” he says. 

Bill Nehez / CSU Cleveland Memory Project

Part 1 in a series on environmental justice issues in the Great Lakes region.

Would you want an industrial waste dump near your house? Probably not. But across the country, environmental hazards like waste dumps tend to be located near minority communities.

Marion Motley Playfields is a park on Cleveland’s east side. Named for a local pro football star, it has grassy fields, baseball diamonds and hills.

NASA

In 2017, President Trump proposed cutting $300 million for Great Lakes projects. That money stayed in the federal budget, but as a new year begins, environmental advocates have lots of concerns – including cuts to the EPA. 

Groups throughout the region plan to take the fate of the Great Lakes into their own hands in 2018.

This means working with communities on climate change and collaborating to clean up polluted waters.

NOAA GLERL

Over the past two winters, there wasn’t much ice cover on the Great Lakes. That changed with this month’s deep freeze.

Frigid temperatures have frozen more than 40 percent of Lake Erie’s surface, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration or NOAA.  Scientists there predict ice cover could jump to almost 90 percent by Sunday.

This time last year, ice barely covered 2 percent of the lake.

US Drug Enfocement Administration

As America confronts the opioid crisis, environmental scientists are warning about a related problem. Chemicals from pain-killers and other drugs often end up in lakes and rivers, creating what some scientists say could be a deadly cocktail for fish and other wildlife.

“What we use in our everyday lives goes down the drain and ends up somewhere, it just does," says Emma Rosi, an aquatic ecosystem ecologist at the Cary Institute in New York.

Brian Forist / Old Lighthouse Museum/Michigan City Historical Society, Inc.

Over the past two winters, the Great Lakes have had a below-average ice cover. And that’s expected to continue this year.

One of ice climatologist Jia Wang’s biggest jobs is the annual ice cover prediction for the Great Lakes.  He’s with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration office in Michigan, which tracks ice cover throughout the winter.

This year, he expects the five lakes to have a 44% ice cover. That’s down from the historical average of 55%.

Payne Horning / Great Lakes Today

At the Novelis plant in New York, machines are preparing aluminum rolls for manufacturing.

The Oswego Co. plant processes the metal for companies like Ford, Toyota and General Motors. Novelis’ president of North American operations, Marco Palmieri, says most of its aluminum comes from Canada.

"Any change in the regulations there may cause a significant impact, not only to Novelis and Oswego, but also to the aluminum industry in the U.S," he says.

Elizabeth Miller / ideastream

There are thousands of islands in the Great Lakes – most of them small and only suitable for wildlife.  But a few have people living there year-round, and there is a burgeoning plan to create an islands coalition.

Year-round island communities like the one at Put-in-Bay on Lake Erie’s South Bass Island face challenges we don’t have here on the mainland.  Peter Huston works for Put-in-Bay’s Chamber of Commerce.  “It’s being able to have a reasonable year-round economy, transportation, food,” says Huston.

Payne Horning

Two replica Christopher Columbus ships are sailing across the Great Lakes this summer, offering visitors a chance to learn about the famous explorer's voyages. But some say the ships only tell half of a story.

Aboard the Pinta replica in Oswego, N.Y., harbor, tour guide Collin Foster lectured a group of students last weekend about Columbus and his famous voyages. "It was 33 days to cross the Atlantic Ocean, everybody has to remember that,” he said.

File Photo / WRVO

Historically high water levels on the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River are presenting the shipping industry with both challenges and opportunities. 

Bruce Burrows, president of the binational Chamber of Marine Commerce, says $50 million in economic activity is generated each day on the St. Lawrence Seaway. But that's being disrupted because a large dam is releasing record sustained outflows from Lake Ontario. 

"The output is about equivalent to four Olympic swimming pools per second of water now flowing," he says.

Elizabeth Miller / ideastream

"Anyone there? Please, tell us - we're all tired and we're all hungry. Please come back!"

Fake distress calls placed via marine radio can sound completely identical to real ones.  The Coast Guard 9th District - which covers the Great Lakes - takes every call seriously.  But the agency has noticed the number of false distress calls skyrocket this year - to more than 160 calls compared to just 55 in 2016.

The 9th District's Christopher Yaw says hoax calls can greatly deplete resources needed for real emergencies.

Elizabeth Miller / ideastream

It’s easier to get to Sheila Consaul’s lighthouse by boat than by foot.  It sits at the edge of an Ohio state park 30 miles east of Cleveland.

“Unless you have a boat, the only way to get here is to park in Mentor Headlands Beach parking lot, walk out through the dunes area to the beach itself, walk along the beach, and then you have to get up on the breakwall,” explains Consaul.

Mike Mroziak, WBFO News

The International Joint Commission isn’t a well-known group. But it has a big responsibility – helping the United States and Canada regulate the Great Lakes. New York’s Governor thinks the U.S. representatives aren’t doing a good job.

Governor Andrew Cuomo’s upset about weeks of flooding that is hurting communities on the Lake Ontario shoreline. He blames the IJC, which controls dams along the boundary waters. And he wants President Trump to replace the two U-S commissioners. One other seat is already vacant.

ANGELICA A. MORRISON

Final part of a series on President Trump's budget

On the shores of the lower Niagara River, about 10 miles from Niagara Falls, a group of biologists from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service prepare to examine the largest fish species in the Great Lakes region – the lake sturgeon.

"They were nearly wiped out, mostly due to over-fishing," says biologist Dimitry Gorsky . "We have this remnant population that survived the over-fishing and habitat destruction."

Ben Thorp

Part 4 in a series about President Trump's budget

Thousands of dams have been built across the Great Lakes region -- but many are old and in danger of collapsing. In Michigan, conservation groups and state agencies are pooling resources to remove or repair dams before it’s too late. 

Michigan has about 2,600 dams. Most were built decades ago to generate electricity, control floods and create lakes for recreation.

Elizabeth Miller / ideastream

Part 3 in a series about President Trump's budget

A lot of attention has been focused on President Donald Trump's proposal to eliminate funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which doles out 300 million dollars a year for different projects.  But there are some other cuts in Trump’s “skinny budget” that would affect the region, including the National Sea Grant program .

Three months ago, Dr. Chris Winslow became director of Ohio Sea Grant, after holding the position on an interim basis.

Star Plaza Theatre

Today: a conversation with Speros Batistatos, President and CEO of the South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority, on some summertime "stay-cation" ideas  -- making short trips to places here in northwest Indiana -- and his thoughts on the decision to close and demolish the Star Plaza Theatre after its final performances in December. 

Chuck Quirmbach

Part 2 in a series on President Trump's budget

President Donald Trump ’s 2018 budget plan eliminates $300 million in funding to restore the Great Lakes. The plan has sparked concerns among environmentalists, because a lot of that money is being spent to protect the lakes from a voracious fish known as the Asian carp.

Derek Montgomery / MPR News

Part 1 of a series on President Trump's budget

Long-standing plans to clean up the headwaters of Lake Superior have been thrown into doubt by Trump administration budget priorities.

Federal officials have been working for years to address a century's worth of industrial pollution in more than 40 areas around the Great Lakes.

The St. Louis River estuary, which flows past Duluth, Minn., into Lake Superior, is the second largest of those projects. But the money has been zeroed out in the president's 2018 budget plan.

File Photo / WBFO

Mayors across the region, in both Canada and the U.S., are banding together against climate change.

Members of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative are gathering this week in Montreal for an annual meeting.

They announced their plan to move forward with their support of the Paris Climate Agreement. Their move comes in response to President Donald Trump's withdrawal from the agreement.

The mayors also say they’ll push for U.S. funding of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which was eliminated from Trump’s budget plan.