Pipelines, Plastics and Parks
The fight over an oil-and-gas pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac went to the courts, and microplastics were detected in waters around the region. The newest U.S. National Park on Lake Michigan’s shoreline means increased visitors but not necessarily more protection against erosion, contaminants and native plant loss. Learn more about all these threats to our freshwater system in the fourth episode of the Great Lakes Now monthly show.
WHERE WE TAKE YOU THIS MONTH
Watch Live on DPTV
Tuesday, July 30 at 7:30 PM
STATIONS CARRYING THE SERIES
Buffalo, New York
Grand Rapids, Michigan
Mount Pleasant, Michigan
South Bend-Elkhart, Indiana
Syracuse, New York
Watertown, New York
This Month on Great Lakes Now
Click the tabs to read descriptions of each feature in Episode 1004.
Enbridge Line 5 Update
SEGMENT 1 | STRAITS OF MACKINAC
The oil-and-gas pipeline remains in the Straits of Mackinac. It’s helping meet some energy needs but also continuing to pose environmental risks if there is damage to it.
As Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder left office at the start of the year, the state had a deal with Enbridge Inc. for construction of a tunnel that would contain a replacement pipeline for the aging Line 5.
Now, a new group of Michigan politicians and the Canadian company are doing battle on multiple legal fronts, leaving the future of the tunnel uncertain and the risk of a spill still fully up for debate.
In a lawsuit, Enbridge seeks to enforce the tunnel agreement, but Michigan’s new Attorney General, Dana Nessel, wants that dismissed. And in another suit, Nessel filed to have the existing line shut down as soon as residents could have an alternative plan for their propane supplies that currently are delivered through the pipeline.
“The final say in all this is really up to the judges,” says Cheyna Roth, a Lansing-based Michigan Public Radio Network reporter.”
For a full history of Enbridge Line 5, watch Great Lakes Now’s Emmy Award-winning documentary “Beneath the Surface.”
Microplastics in the Lakes
SEGMENT 2 | ROCHESTER, NY & ERIE, PA
Researchers in New York have been looking into plastics pollution in the Great Lakes as they try to grasp the scope and look for possible solutions.
Plastics pollution in the ocean has been the source of numerous studies and campaigns. Plastics pollution in the Great Lakes, on the other hand, has not been researched as much. And microplastics in the Great Lakes has been even less studied.
Researchers in New York are working to change that.
“What we have discovered over the last seven years is how prevalent they are,” said Sherri Mason, sustainability coordinator for Penn State Behrend, one of the first scientists to research the problem in the Great Lakes. “One plastic bag can form trillions of microplastics as it sheds in the environment.”
These microplastics — pieces of plastic smaller than 5 millimeters — end up in the water we drink, in the beer we brew, in the soil we walk on and even the air we breathe.
“We cannot recycle ourselves out of the situation,” Mason said. “The solution to this is reduction… If we use less plastic, we find less plastic in the environment, it’s that simple.”
Read about research being done into washing machine filters that could prevent microfibers, a form of microplastic, from draining into the Great Lakes.
Learn about Michigan’s legislative back-and-forth on banning plastic bags.
The Newest National Park
SEGMENT 3 | SHORES OF LAKE MICHIGAN, INDIANA
As the Indiana Dunes area transitions from National Lakeshore to National Park, more visitors are enjoying its beaches and trails. Environmental threats may be increasing too.
To the staff — those khaki-clad park rangers in the iconic Smokey-the-Bear-type hats — the change didn’t mean much. Renaming the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore to National Park did not mean more funding, administrative changes nor greater environmental protections.
But then the people came.
“We didn’t really realize how important it was going to be to the public, the higher profile, the number of people who are coming here,” says Bruce Rowe, park public information officer. “Literally the day that the change happened we started getting emails and phone calls from all over the country.”
Increased visitors could mean increased environmental threats, for example when people veer from the prescribed trails and trample grasses holding the sands in place. But park staff say they are working to minimize the threats from people — along with other potential dangers to the park’s ecosystem like invasive species of plants, industrial pollutants and increased lake levels.
The Great Lakes National Park Service sites have been seeing increased tourism.
Think you know your national parks? Take our quiz about sites in the U.S. and Canada.
What do you know about Great Lakes parks and other national sites? Take our quiz about the region’s parks.
Videos from Episode 1004Subscribe on YouTube
Michigan’s two U.S. senators and advocates from local watershed protection organizations share strategies for successful Great Lakes Restoration Initiative projects.
The National Park Service says three consecutive days of tests have been positive, including two days with no detection of cyanide.
While Great Lakes water levels have started to decline, the U.S. Army Corps warns that the late August through December storm season remains a hazard.
Flooding Frustrations: As Plan 2014 comes under fire, resident complaints lead to early review of water level regulation plan
As local residents and business owners blame the International Joint Commission’s Plan 2014 for extensive flooding around the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario, the IJC looks into an early review of the plan.
Conflicted: Chicago’s plans for a lakefront “urban oasis” didn’t include a concert venue or Hamilton exhibit
On Chicago’s Northerly Island, a conflict exists between urban developments and nature, and the supporters of each.
Rights of Nature: Gaining traction around the world while facing serious opposition almost everywhere
Rights of Nature, while still struggling to get a foothold in the U.S. and Great Lakes area, has been gaining popularity much quicker overseas.
Some beaches are closed along Lake Michigan in northwestern Indiana after authorities say a chemical spill into the Little Calumet River caused fish to die in the area.
The Great Lakes Now Series is produced by Rob Green and Sandra Svoboda.