The 1,000-Mile Great Lakes Adventures

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

More Legal Action to Stop the Asian Carp

Michigan was the first state to initiate legal action to stop the Asian carp from reaching Lake Michigan. Now, Wisconsin joins the battle. Since there are several agencies responsible for maintaining and overseeing the waterways that connect Lake Michigan to the Mississippi River system, legal action may be the only way to prevent this invasive species from entering the lake. The various agencies seem to be playing the 'it's not our responsibility' game and pointing fingers at each other.

The following is from today's

Wisconsin will join Michigan’s fight to stop Asian carp

Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen said he will join the state of Michigan’s efforts to keep the Asian carp from reaching Lake Michigan.
“I am currently preparing Wisconsin’s response to the United States Supreme Court supporting Michigan’s filing in this matter,” Van Hollen said in a statement. “I remain deeply concerned about this matter and intend to present the best case to protect Lake Michigan and those of us who rely upon and cherish this resource.”
The deadline to file with the U.S. Supreme Court is Thursday, Dec. 31.
“We are going to be making our filing early this afternoon,” said Bill Cosh, communications officer for the Wisconsin Attorney General’s office.
Michigan is seeking an injunction from the Supreme Court to close the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal to keep the Asian carp from reaching the great lakes. Experts fear the non-native Asian Carp would devastate the ecosystem of the Great Lakes and destroy native fish populations in the lakes.
Minnesota and Ohio have also filed suit to the U.S. Supreme Court seeking legal means to stop the spread of the Asian carp.
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett sent a letter to Van Hollen this week urging him to join with Michigan.
“I believe that we have reached the point where it is imperative to close waterways in Illinois to prevent the introduction of Asian carp in the Great Lakes,” Barrett said. “Asian Carp pose an economic and ecological threat to the entire Great Lakes, and their entry into Lake Michigan would cause irreparable harm to not only the Great Lakes, but also to Wisconsin’s rivers and lakes.”

Research and Notes

I made reference to the research I've been doing while I write the account of my Lake Trek. Well, I've been reading everything I could get my hands on for the last year or so about the Great Lakes and, specifically, Lake Michigan. I thought I'd show you the books that are threatening to push me out of my small home office.

The work of Jerry Dennis and the photographs of Ken Scott have inspired me to try to fully convey the beauty and scale of the Leelanau Peninsula area. I've read histories of the cities, both small and large, along the lakeshore. And I've collected books about all sorts of Great Lake topics: geology, history, culture, toxic sites, ship wrecks, car ferries, water use issues, travel guides, environment, ecosystems, etc.

I've also enjoyed reading how other writers have tackled the 'adventure memoir' (if there is such a category). Peter Jenkins' A WALK ACROSS AMERICA has been inspirational. And I recently discovered the British writer Robert Macfarlane and his gorgeous book THE WILD PLACES which chronicles his exploration of the remaining wild parts of Great Britain.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Revisiting the Lake Trek

I've been going through the thousands (yes, thousands) of photos I took while on my 1,000 Mile Walk on the Beach. And I'm beginning to assemble them into videos so that you can experience the Lake Trek with me.

I'm hard at work on the book about my adventure, doing research, rewriting, more research, looking over my copious notes, rewriting. I promise it will be a fun read and that you'll learn things you never knew about Lake Michigan (just as I did while walking around it).

'My Lake' is how I've come to think about the lake. I feel more protective of it, more connected to it, like I've recorded it in my body by spending this year walking entirely around it. 'Our Lake' is how we should all feel about Lake Michigan.

Here is the first video. It is of Segment 1 of the Lake Trek, Chicago to New Buffalo, Michigan. I walked this segment alone from March 16-20. It is the most heavily industrialized part of the lake, so there were long stretches where I was forced inland to get around steel mills, container ports, and other industry. I've included shots along the lakeshore here.

Note: You may want to press the 'play' button, then pause it and let it completely load before resuming play. This will allow it to play smoothly.

Walk with me:

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Handfuls of Lake Michigan

All along Lake Michigan's shoreline, when I found interesting things I would scoop up a handful and take a photo.

Here are just a few of these handfuls, shells and rocks and tumbled slag, found in various spots along the lakeshore.

The first photo is a mix of rocks and shells (both the invasive zebra mussel and native snail shells).

The second photo is unmistakably zebra mussels found near Cross Village on the NW of Michigan's lower peninsula. It was here that I came across the largest deposit of these shells, a windrow deposited by wind and wave that stretched for over 50 feet along the shore.

The next photo is of the colorful tumbled slag cast off from the iron smelting operation in the town of Fayette which operated for over 20 years in the later part of the 19th century. This site is on the Garden Peninsula in Michigan's UP.

The next photo is of a handful of tumbled slate found south of Michigan's Fisherman's Island State Park. This was the only place along the lakeshore where I came across this unusual stone in this quantity. There were walls of the shale, sometimes with tiny waterfalls cascading down the face.

I've been asked several times about the place to find the most colorful stones along the lake. This last handful is from the beach in the city of Charlevoix. For variety of color and the fact that all the stone had been so delightfully tumbled, I'd rate this beach among the best for interesting rocks.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Wild Side of the Lake

We've had a couple of big snowstorms
already this winter, and when that first 'lake effect' snow flies, I'm reminded of how the lake influences our weather and precipitation. I also think back to the first day I hiked with my son, Lucas, and how a storm had the lake all wild and riled with huge waves and howling wind. This was back in early April.

The photos at the top were taken on the same stretch of shoreline as the photo at the top of this blog. If you look closely, you'll see a vertical marker and a smaller, triangular one on the beach. These markers show just how far the lake was pushed up on the shoreline this day.

This was -- no contest -- the toughest day I hiked on the Lake Trek. Headwinds were sustained at 35mph and gusted to much stronger. We only did 5 miles that day, but it felt like 25.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Lighthouse Museum

When I signed up to be a volunteer at the Grand Traverse Lighthouse, I knew there would be a variety of tasks we volunteers would handle from running the gift shop on the weekend, to helping to winterize the lighthouse and out buildings. One thing I didn't expect, though, was to have the opportunity to help set up a display for the museum.

The museum is in the process of dedicating a room to the McCormick family who tended the light from 1922 to 1938. This family had eleven kids, two of whom still live in northern Michigan.

One of the kids, Doug (who himself would later be a lighthouse keeper), has donated many artifacts for the museum. Among them is is dress Coast Guard uniform complete with sword (held by volunteer, Bonnie, in photo above). Doug's unit was mobilized to the Pacific theater of war during WWII, and Doug was at the Battle of Guadalcanal.

Volunteer John Reynolds (below) spent several days in the basement workshop of the lighthouse custom building a beautiful wood case to house and protect the uniform. I had the privilege of dressing the manequin.

It was fascinating to actually touch some of the history of this lighthouse, to listen to director Stef Staley talk about her vision for this room, and to feel a connection between the lighthouse's past and its future visitors.

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Asian Carp -- closer to the lake than previously thought

One Asian carp was found in the area that was treated with Rotenone (a fish poison).

The connection between Lake Michigan and the Mississippi River system is manmade. It is the Sanitary and Ship Canal and it was dug in the 1890s. We are able to disconnect these two water systems. Shipping commodities around the Chicago area would have to be modified a bit, but most of the shipping within the canal systems does NOT go out into the lake anyway.

Even a temporary closure of the canals would be wise in order to determine how well the electric barriers are working and how they can be optimized or augmented with other barriers.

Here is a list of the decision makers in this battle:

Illinois Department of Natural Resources

For questions about Rotenone application
Stacey Solano (217) 299-3733
Chris McCloud (217) 299-7128

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
For questions about the electric barriers/maintenance
Lynne Whelan (312) 846-5330

U.S. Coast Guard
For questions about the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal closure
Lt. Dave French (216) 902-6021

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
For questions about the impact of Asian carp on the Great Lakes
Anne Rowan (312) 353-9391
Phillippa Cannon (312) 353-6218 (773) 271-3370 (cell)

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
For questions about the impact of Asian carp on the Great Lakes
Ashley P. Spratt (612) 713-5314

Carp on Foodista

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Asian Carp Get Closer to Lake Michigan

We have a rare opportunity here. In the past, we haven't learned about new invasive species in the Great Lakes until it has established itself and, usually, destabilized the ecosystem even further. With the Asian Carp (which is making its way toward Lake Michigan via the Sanitary and Ship Canal), we have a window of time in which to take action to prevent their arrival in the lake.

There are currently two electric barriers in the canal to stop the fish from reaching the lake, but there is concern that they may not be entirely effective. Recent testing of the canal water was positive for the asian carp DNA. This means that the fish are closer to the lake than previously thought.

(Photo: The Calumet River flowing into Lake Michigan)

The decisive step of poisoning a stretch of the canal to kill all fish there is happening today. This will allow maintenance to be done on the electric barriers and also allow researchers to find out if any of the carp have reached the barriers. Read about it in the Detroit Free Press article. This is not a permanent fix for the problem, though, and flooding of the Des Plaines River could sweep the fish past the electric barriers.

Shipping in the Great Lakes is a multi-billion dollar industry. It is this industry that has transported the majority of the invasive species (from around the world) to the Great Lakes. The zebra mussel (from the Caspian Sea), the quagga mussel (from the Ukraine), and the round goby (from Europe) all hitched rides in the ballast water of ships from fresh water ports around the world and were then dumped into our lakes. How costly is it to treat ballast water so that nothing survives from these far off ports to attack our lakes? Certainly nowhere near the billions of dollars that just these three invasive species have cost the Great Lakes.

There are two major ports on the south end of the lake. I walked by both of them. Ocean going vessels can dock here, then barges take goods inland via canals and rivers to the Mississippi. This is a multi-billion dollar industry. How costly, really, would it be to seal off the canals permanently and transport cargo a short way overland to nearby rivers that connect to the Mississippi? It can't be as costly as turning our lakes over to these voracious, invasive fish.