Thursday, October 23, 2008
As the result of a hot, dry summer and a shortage of precipitation to collect for three consecutive years, White Bear Lake is at its lowest water level since 1991.
Continually expanding shorelines and an increase of shallow spots in the lake have sparked some concern from the public. However, many with knowledge of the lake and its history see no reason to hit the panic button quite yet. Mike Parenteau, a White Bear Lake Conservation District board member, said the depth of the lake often fluctuates, and this year’s drop could be part of a natural cycle.
“When the lake gets low, people automatically assume something is wrong,” he said. “And that’s not always the case.”
Just the same, there can be some justifiable causes for concern associated with the low water in the lake, Parenteau said. For example, when the water level in a lake decreases it means weeds have a greater chance of thriving because of more direct exposure to sunlight. Also, he said, shallow water can be hazardous to the boating community because a standard route can become more difficult to navigate without damaging the vessel. As a result of the shallow water, five additional buoys were placed at the lake this year.
Greg Kruse, the supervisor of water monitoring and surveys for the DNR Division of Waters, said because White Bear Lake is a landlocked basin it’s more likely to have dramatic depth change than a lake with a drainage system. And while many Minnesota lakes have a shortage of water this year, it’s bodies of water such as White Bear Lake and Medicine Lake in Hennepin County that will be impacted the most from climate change, as opposed to those with an active outlet, Kruse said.
As of Oct. 16, the depth of White Bear Lake was 921.32 feet above sea level. That is nearly five inches lower than it measured during August, and close to eight inches lower than it was at this time last year.
The lowest depth on record came in February of 1991 when the lake measured in at 919.89 feet above sea level. The average depth for White Bear Lake is 923.42 feet above sea level.
In the years following the low-water marks of the late ’80s and early ’90s, White Bear Lake steadily returned to its normal fill. In fact, for most of the ’90s the water level in the lake was well above average. Parenteau said it’s possible, even likely, that a similar cycle will be filling the lake in upcoming years.
“The lake goes up and down,” he said. more
Federal government and Wisconsin state funds will be pooled to underwrite a $22 million project that will clean up contaminated sediment in the Kinnickinnic River that runs through Milwaukee.
The river will be cleaned up using $14.3 million from the Great Lakes Legacy Act fund and $7.7 million from the state of Wisconsin.
Sometimes called Milwaukee's forgotten river, it is the smallest of three primary rivers that flow into Milwaukee Harbor, yet is the most urbanized and densely populated.
The project area, part of the Milwaukee Estuary Area of Concern, is a 2,000-foot long and 200-foot wide section located between KK Avenue, the downstream limit, and Becher Street, the upstream limit.
The immediate area draining to the Milwaukee Estuary AOC encompasses about 2.6 percent of the Milwaukee River Basin, including lands that drain directly to the AOC through storm sewers and combined sewer systems.
The Area of Concern acts as both a source of pollution to Lake Michigan and as a sink for pollutants generated throughout the watershed, so water quality is affected by pollution sources associated with land use from the entire Milwaukee River drainage basin.
The project calls for the removal of about 170,000 cubic yards of sediment contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls and polyaromatic hydrocarbons. The removal will be conducted between Becher Street and Kinnickinnic Avenue on the south side of Milwaukee.
The project will result in the removal of about 1,200 pounds of PCBs and 13,000 pounds of PAHs, according to the EPA.
The Great Lakes Legacy Act was enacted in 2002 as a tool to accelerate the pace of sediment remediation within the Great Lakes Areas of Concern. One of the goals of the law is to help restore beneficial uses to polluted sections in the Great Lakes AOCs. Beneficial use impairments include restrictions on dredging, loss of fish and wildlife habitat and activities such as fishing and boating.
"The Legacy Act is crucial to the restoration of the national treasure that we have right here on our doorstep - the Great Lakes," said newly appointed U.S. EPA Region 5 Regional Administrator Lynn Buhl, announcing the project's funding arrangements.
She was joined in Milwaukee by Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.
"Once it's completed, the Kinnickinnic River Legacy Act cleanup will contribute significantly to the ultimate goal of getting the Milwaukee Estuary Area of Concern off the list of contaminated sites around the Great Lakes," Buhl said.
The U.S.-Canada Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement identified contaminated sediment as a major obstacle to restoring beneficial uses in the AOCs. more
A Great Lakes shipping company is adding capacity to its fleet through the reactivation of a cargo ship that has been in long-term lay-up since 1981 — and Bay Shipbuilding in Sturgeon Bay is expected to do the work to get it back into service.
Late this summer, Ohio-based Interlake Steamship Co. announced its intention to modify the John Sherwin, turning it into a self-unloading ship and giving the 806-foot-long freighter new engines with lower emissions.
"We had a customer who wanted some more capacity brought on-line and we're able to do that with the Sherwin," said Interlake president Mark Barker. "It's nice to get her going. She's a good ship and it's always nice when you can add capacity and grow the fleet."
The Sherwin was built in 1958 and was lengthened by 96 feet in 1973, according to information from Interlake. The vessel had been in long-term lay-up in Superior since 1981, but was moved to Chicago in 2006 where it was used for grain storage.
In August the Sherwin was towed to Sturgeon Bay.
"The interesting thing for us is the market allowed this to happen," said Patrick O'Hern, vice president and general manager of Bay Shipbuilding Co. in Sturgeon Bay.
O'Hern said the Sherwin project is divided into several phases including: more
In 2006, property owners on this St. Joseph Island lake first noticed the appearance of blue-green algae.
And, in 2007, it was still there.
So, the 26 property owners there have banded together to study the situation and implement ways to stop the problem.
The group first met last April.
"And, from that day on, we have never stopped working on and making plans for steps to put a stop to the problem," said Sheri Minardi, one of the group's organizers.
"The fact that every property owners on the lake has joined in the fight to get rid of the problem is helping to make a difference.
"For instance, the problem this year, when we formed a committee to take action, has not been as bad as in the previous two years since it was spotted."
Doris Fratesi, another committee organizer, said it is against the law for a municipality to hand out names and addresses of property owners.
"So, we printed up a notice of a meeting that we were organizing and we had these invitations delivered to every property on the lake by using all-terrain vehicles," Fratesi added.
"And, we started making all property owners aware of the problem we faced, and the dangers it could pose if we didn't start to take action immediately."
Minardi and Fratesi contend what goes into the waters is causing the problem in the 128-acre lake.
"Reducing the amount of nutrients that wash into our lake will eventually reduce the frequency and intensity of blue-green algae blooms," Minard said.
The Twin Lakes Green Committee says its strength is that members are fighting the problem together, not going off in different directions.
The fact that the algae was not as bad this year could mean the group is on the right track.
"We, as humans, create the problem," Minardi said.
"Putting fertilizers on lawns that wash into the water is a real problem."
But the biggest wrench is the introduction of phosphates into the water.
"When we use laundry detergents in our washers, the water goes into the septic systems," Minardi said.
"But we have all learned that when the waters drain into the lake, despite going through the filtering system offered by a septic system, it does not remove the phosphates.
"They are carried through the system and enter the lake with the water runoff from the washing machines."
Fratesi said that another major problem stems from people using the lake to bathe. more
State and local officials are banding together to make people more aware of potentially dangerous waters on Lake Superior. Danielle Kaeding reports about the meeting in Bayfield.
Wisconsin Sea Grant and Coastal Management officials are getting together with folks from the National Park Service and friends of the Apostle Islands. They’re developing a real-time wave climate observation system to inform lake enthusiasts about wave conditions. Wisconsin Coastal Management Program Manager Mike Friise says the project will help kayakers make more informed decisions when heading out to explore the sea caves.
“It has been a hazardous spot for folks because they can put in at Meyers Beach Road on seemingly very calm, very flat water. They come around where the sea caves are and conditions can be completely different.”
Friise says officials are examining the feasibility of the project and how it can be used in other locations.
“There would be an observation buoy off the sea caves and then there would be a monitor at Meyers Beach Road or more likely at the Apostle Islands headquarters to give folks who are stopping there an idea of what the wave conditions will be like.” more
What does mercury reduction, record-breaking pollution prevention programs and the use of Riparian Buffers have in common?
They are all initiatives the City of Marquette has done to help protect and restore our Great Lakes.
The city is one of two recipients in the U.P. to receive the Michigan Great Lakes Keeper Award from the office of the Great Lakes.
But the award would of been hard to obtain without the help of Northern Initiatives and the Superior Watershed Partnership.
"Well, I think its great that the City of Marquette recieved this award. We've recognized them for a lot of their Great Lakes work in the past, but this is coming from the state, recognizing them as a model city for Great Lakes protection," said SWP Execvutive Director, Carl Lindquist.
This is the first year for the Great Lakes Keeper Award, and officials are hoping more individuals and organizations will work toward receiving it in the future. more
Even as his family’s cattle farm has grown to nearly 700 acres, second-generation cattle farmer Charles McCain said it’s always been his intention to remain a good steward of the land.
To accomplish that goal, McCain and his wife, Patricia, recently enrolled 342 acres, or slightly more than half of their Albion farm, in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wetlands Reserve Program. By doing that, the McCains have created a permanent easement that will ensure the viability and protection of the natural wetlands on their property.
They’ve also marked a national achievement: Their enrollment in the program means landowners across the county have officially enrolled more than 2 million acres in the wetlands reserve program.
Federal Agriculture Undersecretary of Natural Resources and Environment Mark Rey and state agriculture and conservation officials visited the McCain farm Tuesday to announce and celebrate the milestone.
On the local level, the wetlands reserve designation means optimum habitats for wildlife on and around the property, which runs adjacent to the biologically-diverse Conneaut Creek not far from the French Creek and Lake Erie watersheds.
Simply stated, one thing “it means for this particular area is better duck hunting and steelhead fishing,” Rey said in an interview.
That’s because all forms of wildlife flourish when the vitality of their natural habitats is protected and enhanced, officials said.
Wetlands are biologically diverse and dynamic ecosystems that support diverse populations of wildlife, plants and fish. They supply life-sustaining habitat for hundreds of species, including many of the nation’s endangered and threatened species; provide protective buffers for towns and cities against floods and storm surges by absorbing excess water; and also buffer coastal areas from erosion.
Often called “nature’s sponges,” wetlands help protect water quality by filtering out pollutants. They also offer aesthetic and recreational opportunities, officials said.
But when efforts are undertaken to re-convert former crop lands or other types of properties back into natural wetlands, the initial result is often a disrupted, cratered landscape that looks like it may have been bombed, said J. Carl Pelino, a Meadville-based district conservationist for the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.
Add some water into those holes, however, “and the first frog shows up,” he said.
Add a little more, and wading birds — bound to be regular visitors — start appearing. more
The Niagara waterway allows massive vessels - some more than two football fields long - to move between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. Such a voyage is otherwise impossible because of a little obstacle: the gushing cataracts of Niagara Falls.
While the eight locks along the 43.5-kilometre canal are an impressive feat of engineering that allow cargo ships to ascend and descend about 100 metres without negotiating any rapids, some people stop to watch for more poetic reasons.
"It's real relaxing. Being on the water, watching the slow movement of the ships, hearing the (water)," says Bill Vanderdrift of Peterborough, Ont., as he snaps a shot of an oncoming hauler.
"It's quite fascinating."
Many come to watch at the Welland Canals Centre, tucked on the eastern edge of St. Catharines. The site attracts about 150,000 visitors a year, many from far-flung locales (the guest book earlier this month boasted signatures from Halifax to Holland to Harrisburg, S.D.).
It's also a draw for locals.
Some couples are regulars, grabbing a coffee and staking out a spot to watch the ships - lakers hauling staples such as wheat, coal and salt - come in. Years ago, children used to wait eagerly on the banks, hoping crew members would toss them coins from foreign lands.
Lock 3 is 261.8 metres long. It takes some 93 million litres of water to raise or lower a ship some 14.2 metres.
The effect is impressive.
"It's like an apartment building growing up in front of you," says Ron Green, a retiree from Grimsby, Ont. He's visited Lock 3 a handful of times before and on this day has brought his grandson along.
"It's fun," Green says of watching the ships. "Especially (watching) the big ones."
Indeed, the massive freighters are a sight to behold. Visitors can call ahead to find out the schedule.
On this day, the 222.5-metre-long CSL Tadoussac rolled through at 9:15 a.m. The Sichem Mumbai - 128.6 metres in length - is due at 10:15 a.m and the Atlantic Erie, which stretches 224.5 metres, at 11:20 a.m.
Visits to the viewing deck are free, but Lock 3 is also the site of the St. Catharines Museum, which chronicles the history of the area. Nearby there's also the Ontario Lacrosse Hall of Fame which delves into the history of Canada's original national game. more