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Great Lakes Now Presents

Episode 1018: River Influence

The health of the Great Lakes is inextricably linked to the health of the rivers that feed them. In northern Minnesota, one river faces environmental threats from a proposed mine. In Michigan, a second river is unleashed when aging hydroelectric dams are removed. In Indiana, a third river is protected from invasive Asian carp, which have infested rivers further south.

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River Influence – Episode 1018

The health of the Great Lakes is inextricably linked to the health of the rivers that feed them. In northern Minnesota, one river faces environmental threats from a proposed mine. In Michigan, a second river is unleashed when aging hydroelectric dams are removed. In Indiana, a third river is protected from invasive Asian carp, which have infested rivers further south. 

WHERE WE TAKE YOU IN SEPTEMBER



 

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Premiered on DPTV

Tuesday, September 29 at 7:30 PM

STATIONS CARRYING THE SERIES


DPTV
Detroit, Michigan

WEAO
Akron, Ohio

WNEO-TV
Alliance, Ohio

WCML-TV
Alpena, Michigan

WDCP-TV
Bad Axe, Michigan

BCTV
Bay County, Michigan

WBGU-TV
Bowling Green, Ohio

WNED-TV
Buffalo, New York

WCMV-TV
Cadillac, Michigan

WTTW-TV
Chicago, Illinois

WVIZ-TV
Cleveland, Ohio

WKAR-TV
East Lansing, Michigan

WQLN-TV
Erie, Pennsylvania

WCMZ-TV
Flint, Michigan

WGVU-TV
Grand Rapids, Michigan

WGVK-TV
Kalamazoo, Michigan

WNMU-TV
Marquette, Michigan

WMVS-TV
Milwaukee, Wisconsin

WCMU-TV
Mount Pleasant Michigan

WNIT-TV
South Bend, Indiana

WCNY-TV
Syracuse, New York

WGTE-TV
Toledo, Ohio

WDCQ-TV
University Center, Michigan

WNPI-TV
Watertown, New York for Ontario signal

WPBS-TV
Watertown, New York for U.S. signal

In the Month of September on Great Lakes Now

Click the tabs to read descriptions of each feature in Episode 1018.

Photo courtesy Lakeland PBS

Watch The Feature

Conflicted Over Copper

SEGMENT 1 | Duluth, Minnesota and Chicago, Illinois

Upstream of Duluth along the St. Louis River is the Mesabi Range — one of Minnesota’s legendary iron ranges. The region’s mining once employed thousands of people, but employment in mining has dwindled over the years. 

Now, though, a proposed copper mine called NorthMet promises to revive a shuttered taconite mine and create jobs in a region that needs them. But opponents say the effort also poses threats to the environment. 

Mine supporters say we need copper and other metals the mine will produce for products we all use every day. But will mine waste pollute the groundwater? 

And is the mine’s tailings pond a disaster waiting to happen? 

Lawsuits have the project on hold, and the issue will soon come before the state’s Supreme Court. If NorthMet moves forward, more new mines could follow.

This report was made possible in part by the Fund for Environmental Journalism of the Society of Environmental Journalists. SEJ credits The Hewlett Foundation, The Wilderness Society, The Pew Charitable Trust, and individual donors for supporting this project.

Here is Lorraine Boissoneault’s Great Lakes Now work in the “Conflicted Over Copper” series:

Twin Cities PBS explored what’s at stake in the Twin Metals project in a documentary. Watch it HERE.

Damming Decisions

SEGMENT 2 | Traverse City, Michigan

Four dams were built along the Boardman River in Northwest Michigan to generate hydroelectric power for Traverse City. 

But by 2004 they were no longer economically viable. A decision was made to remove three of the dams and renovate the last one in downtown Traverse City. 

Now the removal of the dams has changed the nature of the river and allowed native fish to return. 

But as the river is being returned to its natural state, the challenge has been keeping invasive species out. The answer is a state-of-the-art research facility called Fish Pass that will use a collection of technologies to determine which fish can go through.  

As the first project of its kind, Fish Pass is a decade-long effort that will begin this fall and is expected to serve as a model program for other programs across the world.  Part of the project includes additional amenities at the Union Street Dam in downtown Traverse City, including a pedestrian bridge, rain gardens, kayak and canoe portages and special areas for educational programs. 

Dam removal in the Pacific Northwest is covered in the PBS documentary series “The Age of Nature.” For more information about that series, click HERE

“The Age of Nature” will air on PBS stations at 10 p.m. ET on Wednesdays, Oct. 14, 21 and 28, 2020.

Photo courtesy of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

 

Watch The Feature

Carp Advance

SEGMENT 3 | Kentucky Lake, Camden, Tennessee; Fort Wayne, Indiana, Brandon Road Lock & Dam, Illinois; Empire, Michigan

Since their introduction decades ago, invasive Asian carp have infested rivers and lakes around the United States. 

They’ve been kept out of the Great Lakes — so far. 

Some steps have been taken to protect the lakes system, but many believe that more effective policies — and more substantial barriers — are needed to keep the fish from spreading and to reduce the numbers where they’re already established.

This segment was produced in partnership with the National Wildlife Federation, which is exploring the issue of Asian carp in a documentary film. 

Where are Asian carp in the Great Lakes Region? Learn more HERE in an earlier Great Lakes Now segment.

Can you tell the difference between the types of carp? Learn more in a previous Great Lakes Now video HERE.

Here is other Great Lakes Now work on Asian carp:

In her “previous life” as a writer at Detroit’s Metro Times newspaper, GLN Program Director Sandra Svoboda once ate some Asian carp. Read about that HERE.

A probable ablation spherule micrometeorite that NASA scientist Marc Fries believes has a good chance of being from the 2017 meteorite fall. (Photo courtesy of Adler Planetarium)

Watch The Feature

Lake Michigan Meteorite – UPDATE

SEGMENT 4: Chicago, Illinois

In the “Finding Impacts” episode, produced in December 2019, Great Lakes Now reported about the search for a meteorite that crashed into Lake Michigan two years earlier.

The Adler Planetarium in Chicago launched The Aquarius Project, a teen-driven program with the ambitious goal of recovering meteorite fragments from the bottom of Lake Michigan. Scientists and researchers from NASA and Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium and Field Museum of Natural History got involved, and the teens designed, built, tested, and deployed the world’s first underwater meteorite recovery sled.

After a lot of analysis, the team members reported this month that they found something.

Read Great Lakes Now’s article about the discoveries:

One Old, One New: Teen project finds meteorite fragments in Lake Michigan

Here are more Great Lakes Now stories about meteorites:

  • Click through this interactive timeline to learn more about meteorites that have fallen into the Great Lakes.
  • Learn more about The Aquarius Project in this interview with Chris Bresky HERE.

Videos from Episode 1018

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Previous Episodes

Featured Articles

The Age of Nature: Humanity’s relationship with nature in the Great Lakes region and beyond
- by Natasha Blakely

What are the modern issues affecting nature and what are humans doing about them?

Fall Brawl: Sheffield Lake fishing derby inspires intense angling
- by James Proffitt

The fishing derby started with 50 people 10 years ago. Participants number more than 12,000 this year.

Dave Spangler: Lake Erie loses tireless full-time advocate
- by James Proffitt

The Oak Harbor charter captain was a major force in many circles.

Legal Fees: Toledo residents to pay for LEBOR challenger Drewes Farms
- by James Proffitt

A legal bill from LEBOR challenger Drewes Farms presented to city officials in April was originally about $293,000.

Digital Credits
The Great Lakes Now Series is produced by Rob Green and Sandra Svoboda.