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
Have a question about the Great Lakes or life in the region?
Ask Great Lakes Now, and if we can answer it, we might loop it into our coverage so others can learn too.Submit Your Question
Premiered on DPTV
Tuesday, September 29 at 7:30 PM
STATIONS CARRYING THE SERIES
Bad Axe, Michigan
Bay County, Michigan
Bowling Green, Ohio
Buffalo, New York
East Lansing, Michigan
Grand Rapids, Michigan
Mount Pleasant Michigan
South Bend, Indiana
Syracuse, New York
University Center, Michigan
Watertown, New York for Ontario signal
Watertown, New York for U.S. signal
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:
- Conflicted Over Copper: How the Mining Industry Developed Around Lake Superior
- Conflicted Over Copper: PolyMet copper-nickel mine has been trapped in litigation
- Conflicted Over Copper: Technological advances clash with environmental concerns in Twin Metals case
Twin Cities PBS explored what’s at stake in the Twin Metals project in a documentary. Watch it HERE.
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.
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:
- State Struggle: Budget shortfalls stall Asian carp plan, put cleanups at risk
- Study links Asian carp with Mississippi River fish drop
- Asian carp caught in southwest Minnesota
- Divide: Federal agencies, advocates differ on Asian carp strategy
- Study: Asian carp could find plenty of food in the Great Lakes
- Book Club: New book about Asian carp chronicles history, future
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.
Lake Michigan Meteorite – UPDATE
SEGMENT 4: Chicago, Illinois
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:
Here are more Great Lakes Now stories about meteorites:
Videos from Episode 1018Subscribe on YouTube
Tracking wolves and moose on Isle Royale, and piloting Great Lakes freighters.
Mountain biking Great Lakes trails and the U.S. Supreme Court’s impact on wetlands.
Rock hunting along Great Lakes shorelines and Niagara farmers adapt to water scarcity.
An encore presentation of stories about eFoiling, water infrastructure, and The Catch.
A community fights for a cleaner future, creatively tackling food waste, and The Catch.
Breaking down an old Great Lakes freighter and feeding a giant freighter’s crew.
Climate change impacts maple syrup and a Toronto company’s push toward renewable power.
Citizen scientists chart the night sky, measure the health of a river and The Catch.
Ice climbing in northern Michigan and a controversial wind energy project on Lake Erie.
A high-tech solution for sewage and recovering WWII aircraft from Lake Michigan.
The science of shrinking ice coverage, Great Lakes ice fishing and skating on wild ice.
Seeking a small, venomous catfish, highlighting a Great Lakes docuseries and “The Catch.”
Exploring a debate over Great Lakes land use, eFoiling on Lake Huron, and The Catch.
In October 1960, Prince Akihito of Japan visited Chicago for 21 hours. Chicago’s mayor presented the prince with a diplomatic gift: 18 bluegill. What happened next would change the underwater world of Japan forever.
Chevron and two utilities are building big methane biodigesters on the state’s largest dairies.
The city’s nearly 400,000 pipes wouldn’t have to be fully removed for nearly 30 years after the rest of the nation.
Southwest Detroit has long been known for its heavy industry. In recent years, neighborhoods have teamed up with Marathon Petroleum Corporation’s Detroit refinery to strengthen and revitalize these communities, including a plan to create some much-needed green space.
The Great Lakes Now Series is produced by Rob Green and Sandra Svoboda.