Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Office of Great Lakes

Written by Caitlin Cox
Patricia Birkholz was appointed by Governor Snyder to the Office of Great Lakes. She tells Kirk Heinze about the steps the office is taking to preserve the Great Lakes.
Housed in the Department of Environmental Quality, “The office deals with all things Great Lakes,” says Birkholz, “They contain twenty percent of the world’s fresh water.”
The Office of the Great Lakes deals with several issues including: the Great Lakes Commission, the Council of Great Lakes Governors, the Asian Carp groupgreat lakes restoration money and coastal zone management.
“The Great Lakes are a great ecosystem,” says Birkholz, “The Great Lakes are important because of their interconnection with our rivers, wetlands and they’re very important to our economy.  Governor Snyder believes our natural resources can play a key role in revitalizing Michigan’s economy.”
Well-known challenges the department faces are the battle with invasive species such as Asian Carp and the request for diversion from surrounding states, which Birkholz says is, “something that our office takes seriously.”
The Office of the Great Lakes is pushing for permanent separation between the Mississippi River and the Great Lakes.  The current barriers are good and help but are small and incremental.
Also challenging the department is the issue of water diversion, which, Birkholz says is about,  “Making sure that we look at the amount of water other states take and is it truly a rate that they need. Also, how much will be returned to the basin and are they providing conservation measures.”
The Office of Great Lakes exists primarily for the restoration and preservation of the ecosystem.  But Birkholz adds that we can all be better stewards of our Great Lakes by being more aware in our daily lives.
“My tip for everyone is to wash off all equipment when you’re transferring your belongings from one body of water to another. Invasive species attach themselves to anything whether it’s the side of a boat or children’s beach toys,” says Birkholz
“I get chills when I think about how beautiful the Great Lakes are and how important it is to preserve them for future generations.”
Click here to hear Birkholz's Greening of the Great Lakes conversation with Kirk Heinze.  Greening of the Great Lakes airs Sunday evenings at 9 on News/Talk 760 WJR and Friday evenings at 7 on MSU's Impact Radio.
Please "like" Greening of the Great Lakes on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act.

By Superior Telegram
The Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative is pleased the United States Congress passed and President Obama signed into law the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act.
WIIN includes many provisions that are critically important to the Great Lakes. It includes authorization of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative for five years at $300 million per year, provides support for shipping, addresses the algal bloom problem, allocates funding to solve the drinking water crisis in Flint, Mich., and strengthens programs to improve fish and wildlife in the Great Lakes.
"The passage of this law is critically important to the future of the tremendous freshwater resource we share between Canada and the United States and to our communities, and ensures that the momentum developed over the past five years in protecting and restoring the resource will be maintained," Mayor Paul Dyster of Niagara Falls, current vice chairman of the Cities Initiative.
"Many of our member cities have received funding under GLRI, which has allowed them to complete restoration projects that otherwise would not have been possible," said David Ullrich, Cities Initiative executive director. "These projects contribute to the economic well- being and quality of life in our communities, and make them more attractive for locating a new business and as a destination for visitors."
The actions by this Congress and the president are essential to the future of many programs that are important to the Great Lakes, and it will be important for the next Congress to fund these programs at levels that will ensure their success.
The legislation includes the following Great Lakes provisions:
* Authorizes the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, a successful and popular program that is helping states and local communities clean up degraded toxic hotspots, restore habitat for fish and wildlife, thwart Asian carp and other invasive species, and prevent polluted runoff across the eight-state Great Lakes region.
* Makes permanent the allocation of priority funds from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund for the Great Lakes Navigation System, sets a minimum appropriations level from the fund and requires the Army Corps of Engineers to complete guidance on managing the Great Lakes as a single, comprehensive navigation system.
* Establishes a Great Lakes Harmful Algal Bloom coordinator to work with federal, state and local agencies to coordinate actions to address harmful algal blooms in the Great Lakes.
* Includes a variety of provisions that respond to the drinking water crisis in Flint, Mich., and support the work of states and local communities to repair, upgrade and monitor water infrastructure.
* Reauthorizes and strengthens the Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife Restoration Act and the Great Lakes Fishery and Ecosystem Restoration Program, which support fish and wildlife restoration, conservation and management projects in the Great Lakes region.
The Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative is a binational coalition of 127 mayors representing over 17 million people, that works to advance the protection and restoration of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River. For more information, go to

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Ice Starting to Form on Lake Michigan

Ice is starting to form along the shore of Lake Michigan.  Pictured is the beach at Grand Haven, Michigan.  Ice formation here usually starts on Thanksgiving, but due to the warmth of the water, the ice is late this year, but now it has started to form with the colder weather.  Read about ice formation in my book, The Dynamic Great Lakes available at, and many other bookstores such as the Bookman in Grand Haven, Schuler Books and Music etc.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Oil and Water Do not mix

Oil Pipelines that threaten our drinking water  click the link

An oil spill in the Straits of Mackinac would be a disaster for our fresh water and for the fish and wild life around the Great Lakes. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Living Waters

            The north woods ring—the waters gather dripping from the tops of pines, running, running, running over ancient rocks.  The veerys trill up and down the scales, the warblers chime their notes through still bare twigs and the water runs, it runs down to Lake Superior swirling downstream, plunging over waterfalls just freed from ice curtains.  Curious deer come to drink from the pool below lifting their heads, standing motionless to sense the air.  Is it bear?  Wolf? Lynx?

            Sun dapples down through bare forest trees—sun streams, the ground steams, wet leaves tilt insisting on light, thrust new spikes.  Water flows through mobile root hairs, roots, stems, vaporizes into air.

Wild geese weave the wind, skid along black marsh water among tangles of cat tail.  Further downstream waves curl onto a rock shore polishing stones to oval and the small stones roll chinking and chunking.  They assume their flat round shapes over years of grinding, finding their ease in the wave rhythms, rolling rolling, rolling.  White caps bubble foam and the jade water is a dancing goddess in the middle distance between shore and horizon.

Children arrive to pick up fossils of ancient coral and to find stones to skip on a quiet day.  They chase sea gulls and try to become airborne by leaping and spreading their arms.  Cormorants and sooty terns rise and cleave the air.  The red cheeked kids leap in the early spring breezes, their knuckles chapped.  What do they care?

The bones of whales and sailors roll in the currents—some finding their way out to sea, some becoming, becoming, becoming a diatom’s shining, becoming the bones of an emerald shiner, becoming limestone shale in the loving exchange between the living and the living.  The islands of Lake Superior bear greenstones and jewel like snakes.  Sturgeon and trout spawn leaving pearls and coral in the crevices of rocks.  A moose stands chin deep in and island lake.  The islands of Lake Superior are quiet, remote and cold,  littered with bones.

Curled underground, water drawn up through squeaky pumps splashes into enamel buckets—water clear and cold and tasting of iron.  The iron flows through the veins of the moose and in the red cheeked children.

Loons quiver their greetings and as twilight falls, bullfrogs groan their love songs—they bellow all night long.  I lay awake listening to the water lapping the night and its creatures.
                                                                   --Barbara Spring

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Pacific Salmon in the Great Lakes


   Pacific Salmon Spawning
Lattices of salmon ribs litter the banks of a stream. On cold autumn nights, frost flowers bloom reflecting star light. The stream babbles and unintelligible song as it rushes westward. It is the salmons’ place to be born, to spawn; it is their place to disintegrate and die. Salmon are anadromous fish, fish evolved to follow an elegant rhythm of always returning to their birth stream to spawn after maturing in a saltwater or sweet water seas.
For male and female salmon alike, the imprint of place is their obsession. As smolts they burst from their transparent eggs still wearing a yolk sac on their bulging bellies. Like their ancient ancestors who breathed glacial melt water through their gills, the newborns streak down stream to the freedom of the great inland sweet water seas known as the Great Lakes. In jade green waters they feed their voracious dream until their bodies grow heavy with it—until they resemble silver purses stuffed with treasure: slick coral beads and pearly white milt.
Summer sun dazzles down through the thermoclines—the layers of warm, cool, cold water—where it enters through the fishes’ pineal eyes—triangles on top of their heads—giving them sure knowledge of their place in the larger scheme of things. They bide their time drifting in schools, fanning their tails in repose, gorging on small fish. They dream of their place where clear water chortles over quartz and granite under shifting shadows of white pine and tamarack. It is their place and as their urgent need to return gathers force under a moon that grows heavy on the horizon, a moon the color of salmon eggs, a moon that must change to bone white, the salmon mill about in the harbor.
The fishes’ bellies grow heavy as the harvest moon. The dream becomes reality as celestial cues, the sun, the moon, the stars enter each cellule and each dancing atom of their bodies. Then they begin. The fish return to their stream and nothing will stop them: they ignore hunger, snares, treble hooks. On their silvery sides their lateral lines carry everything they need to know; their maps and compasses embedded in the circuitry of their bodies…the hereditary wisdom of their species carried in a network of circuits from pineal to tail. It is a sure knowledge of the west Michigan river system linked to the Great Lakes, or in other places, other river systems and other fresh or salt water oceans. It is also the wisdom of the constellations and the way their light glaces from silvery skinned fish, sparkling a wisdom older than mankind. To a salmon obsessed with its sense of place, failure means nothing. They defy high dams, leaping, leaping, leaping again and again until they hurl themselves over the top.
Home at last, the female hollows out a nest on the stream bed with her tail then cascades hundreds of coral bead like eggs into it. The male waits driving away his rivals with fierce charges. It is time. The male salmon releases a small galaxy of milt that will begin the life/death cycle again. Male and female have spent their silver purses in the stream. They are finished. In the next few days their flesh will fall away while they linger, easy prey for the raccoons, bears, ospreys and eagles. With their bones picked clean and their young curled in sleep on the stream bed, the transformation begins again. An osprey shadow glides over the shining stream. The sun rises as the moon glows faintly in the West.

Saturday, November 5, 2016